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Film / Disneyland Dream

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Disneyland Dream is a 1956 home movie featuring the Barstow family of Weathersfield, Connecticut, filmed by family patriarch Robbins Barstow (1919-2010). Robbins Barstow had been an amateur movie-maker since he received his first home movie camera at the age of ten and was a member of the Amateur Cinema League. In 1956 the Barstow family—Robbins, wife Meg, and their children Mary, David, and Daniel—were one of 25 families that won free trips to Disneyland in a contest sponsored by 3M, makers of Scotch tape. Robbins documented his family's vacation and edited it into a 34-minute home movie. The film starts with the Barstows making their submissions to the contest, then receiving word that they had won the prize, then flying cross-country in propeller planes to Los Angeles, where they hit some of the tourist destinations of the L.A. area before visiting Disneyland, which, at the time the Barstows visited, had only been open for a year and still wasn't fully completed.


The film was shot by Barstow on his 16mm home-movie camera. In 1995 he had it transferred to VHS and added a running narration. Disneyland Dream was selected in 2008 for preservation in the National Film Registry as a "priceless and authentic record of time and place." It is one of only a few amateur films on the Registry, along with Multiple SIDosis and the Zapruder Film. The film is in the Public Domain and can be viewed here.



  • Amusement Park: Besides Disneyland, the Barstows also visited Knott's Berry Farm, which is older than Disneyland and in fact is the oldest of all the amusement parks in southern California.
  • Beach Episode: The Barstows take the ferry to Catalina Island and swim on the beach.
  • The Cameo: At about the 20:20 mark, as the Barstows are entering Disneyland, a child can be seen crossing from left to right at the bottom of the frame, wearing a top hat and a black vest, holding out some sort of papers. That child is... wait for it... none other than Steve Martin, then 11 years old and working his first job, which was selling programs and souvenirs at Disneyland.
  • Disney Theme Parks: Look! They had the teacup ride back then!
  • Documentary: A home movie, actually, but doubling as a pretty nifty record of how Disneyland looked when it was brand new. Robbins Barstow did not simply record a lot of raw footage, but edited it into a pretty sophisticated short film.
  • Fainting: All the Barstows theatrically faint away upon receiving the telegram telling them they'd won the contest, except for little 4-year-old Dan Barstow, who does a somersault.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Maybe a cross-country free vacation wasn't so mundane for a middle-class family in 1956. But the film still smacks of this, especially the opening title card describing "The Fantastic, Real-Life, Dream-Come-True Adventure of the Barstow Family of Weatherfield, Connecticut."
  • Narrator: Originally a silent film; narration by Robbins Barstow added in 1995. It can be conjectured that having personally narrated the film for 40 years gave him a lot of opportunity to fine-tune and codify his script.
  • Nuclear Family: Mom, Dad, and three fresh-faced, happy children, all going to an amusement park.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Disneyland and theme parks like it have so often been satirized that it's a little startling to see a wholly unironic portrayal of a visit there.
  • Slogans: Dan's trip-winning slogan for Scotch tape is a masterpiece of Beige Prose.
    Dan: I like ‘Scotch’ brand cellophane tape because when some things tear then I can just use it.
  • Standard '50s Father: Robbins Barstow, taking his family to Disneyland, toting his home movie camera along. (Surely nothing is more Standard '50s Father than Dad giving his son a crew cut.)
  • Stop Motion: Used for the final "The End" title card, which appears as a roll of Scotch tape unwinding over a poster.
  • Sugar Bowl: Disneyland. As it was meant to be.
    Robbins Barstow: For our particular family at that particular time, we agreed with Walt Disney that this was the happiest place on earth.
  • Title Drop: As the film ends, Robbins Barstow speaks of "this marvelous Disneyland dream."
  • Visual Pun: The narration says that Danny Barstow was "head over heels" upon getting the news that they'd won, as Danny does a somersault on the lawn.