Monday, September 05, 2011

The Ghosts of Marceline: The Midget Autopia

It was a somewhat haunting experience, to say the least.

My son and I arrived in Marceline, Missouri early on a Tuesday morning in the midst of an unrelenting thunderstorm.  It served to make this very small and quiet Midwest town even quieter.  We had some time to kill before the Walt Disney Hometown Museum opened, so we decided to drive to the south end of town and see the Walt Disney Municipal Park.  There we would find the remains of an early Disneyland attraction: the Midget Autopia.
A postcard of the Midget Autopia at Disneyland

The park seemed a quiet place, regardless of the poor weather.  It appeared as an almost forgotten area.  The nearby swimming pool was drained and apparently retired.  Playground equipment looked old and unmaintained.  I wondered if the park was more the destination of visiting Disney enthusiasts than Marceline residents.

The Midget Autopia was donated to Marceline during the summer of 1966.  The attraction had been removed from Disneyland when Tomorrowland received its famous makeover in the late 1960s.  It opened for the younger residents of Marceline following a dedication ceremony on July 3, 1966.  A faded and weather-stained dedication plaque remains:
Relocated from the Magic Kingdom of Disneyland as a gift to the children of this community from Marceline's favorite sons Walt and Roy Disney.  Accepted in appreciation July 1966 Mayor C. A. Young
It presents a mystery for the uninitiated; no sign remains of the former attraction, and it is not identified by name on the plaque.
What is left of the Midget Autopia lies now in stark contrast to the flash and flair we have come to associate with Disney entertainment.  Forgive the cliche, but it was indeed part of a much simpler time, especially in relation to the Disney Company and the corporate behemoth it has now evolved into.  A simple queue, cement tracks, a tunnel and overpass, and very sincere words on a small standing monument are what remains to remind us of this once bright moment in  both Disney history and the chronicles of Marceline.


Chris said...

Was there a track in the Marceline version? I don't understand how it worked (while it still did). Also, what happened to the cars?

Jeffrey Pepper said...


Evidence of the steel track can still be found in the cement "road" of the attraction. One of the cars has been restored and is on display in the nearby Walt Disney Hometown Museum.

Kelly Hoffman said...

We were there on Saturday, also gloomy. But I found the Yogi Bear decor at the old Autotopia to be the most curious thing. They say the original cars plain wore-out, they still have them, but will require extensive restoration at great cost.

Scott Ladewig said...

Popular place; we were there on Friday (which was a beautiful albeit hot day). With the museum still a work-in-progress as they indicate, restoring the cars is going to be pretty far down the list of projects. At least they still have them to be restored.

Rocky Mountain Disniac said...

Very interesting article. It's sad to see how run down it all looks. How big is the park? Is the whole area neglected as well? It kind of sounds like it since you mentioned the abandoned pool as well.

Jeffrey Pepper said...

The park is quite large with a lake and other facilities. It is not in any way abandoned; but the area in which the Autopia is located appears to be little used. According to the WD Hometown Museum, the pool is typically open during the summer months; we were there mid-August and the pool was drained and appeared to not have been used recently.

Donnie said...

it was pouring when I was there too!