by Chris Houston | Linn County Leader
December 15. 2014 10:31AM
Peter Whitehead, Ted Parkes and Ted’s son Chris had driven from their home just outside Toronto, Canada to EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) near Orlando, Florida where Chris had been asked to be one of the Disney theme park’s cultural ambassadors. On their way back, Chris suggested, “Why don’t we go to Marceline?!” In his effort to become more familiar with all things Disney, Chris had happened upon the boyhood home that Walt memorialized in Disneyland.
Walt Disney Hometown Museum Curator Kaye Malins (left) chats with Canadian videographers Ted Parkes (foreground) and Peter Whitehead during their visit to the museum last week. They are pictured viewing a letter Walt Disney penned to his sister Ruth. The filmmakers were in Marceline interviewing residents to preserve their memories of Disney for posterity.
On their way back from tomorrow four months ago, two Canadian filmmakers decided to take a detour to yesterday.
Peter Whitehead, Ted Parkes and Ted’s son Chris had driven from their home just outside Toronto, Canada to EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) near Orlando, Florida where Chris had been asked to be one of the Disney theme park’s cultural ambassadors. On their way back, Chris suggested, “Why don’t we go to Marceline?!” In his effort to become more familiar with all things Disney, Chris had happened upon the boyhood home that Walt memorialized in Disneyland. His enthusiasm was evidently contagious as the trio gladly went over 700 miles out of their way to see firsthand the place the famed animator regarded as home. It was, to quote Walt Disney Hometown Museum Curator Kaye Malins, “serendipity,” a stroke of good fortune that will eventually have many beneficiaries.
Elaborating about the Canadian filmmakers’ initial impression of the Disney Hometown Museum, and what will materialize as a result, Malins shares, “They were enchanted by the Museum, Marceline, and our unique Disney story. Peter wanted to help us. Being a partner in a film production company, he of course, thought of telling our story on film…A few months later, here we are in the first stages of production.”
And Ted came along for more than just the ride. “I feel so fulfilled by…sharing [these] stories that need to be told,” declares the more reserved half of Beech Island Films duo.
Ted Parkes and Peter Whitehead founded Beech Island Films in 2008 as a documentary diversion from their advertising background that “brings to life unique, intimate, uplifting and motivating stories that deserve to be shared on a larger scale.” And—as the pair of videographers have come to appreciate even more since touring Marceline’s signature archive of some of Walt’s most personal reflections—you can’t get much bigger than Disney.
Peter, a script writer who freely admits his long-standing love affair with the English language, feels a sense of urgency after returning to Marceline last week and visiting Walt Disney Elementary School: “I hated to see students walking on Disney’s image,” he shares. “People here are almost too close to the forest to see the trees…Walt trumpeted his experiences in Marceline; he loved this town…This place could be forgotten if we don’t do something.”
The cinematic ‘something’ Peter and Ted brought together is the product of a three-day, 36-interview marathon. It’s an extended conversation with Marceline residents, folks willing to share their memories on camera to help create a living history of Walt Disney and the house that Burlington Northern built. But unlike those of us who viewed the prototypical animator from afar, the local residents featured in Walt’s Marceline will reminisce from the stage they shared with him, if only for a day.