Home movie of contest-winning family vacation to Disneyland in 1956

Dan "Ride Theory" Howland sends in a link to a stupendous Internet Archive video entitled "Disneyland Dream," noting: "This would be interesting if it were merely a 1956 home movie of Disneyland, but it becomes great when the skinny, dorky, goofy dad (think Dennis the Menace's pop) not only documents the actual trip, but shows us how they got there -- by winning a Scotch Tape vacation contest. Highlights: the family's matching 1950's 'Wild West' fringe jackets with their names stitched between the shoulders, and the kids repeated insistence they have to change hats to enter different parts of the park."

Every second of this footage is pure gold, from the cornball jokes, the lingering shots of the "tickertape parade" the suburban Connecticut neighbors throw as the family gets into their gigantic land-yacht to drive to the airstrip, the runway footage from Idlewild, and the trips around Pasadena, Knott's Berry Farm and Universal Studios in 1956. The humor is pure "dad" -- loving and corny and just right.

In July 1956, the five-member Barstow family of Wethersfield, Connecticut, won a free trip to newly-opened Disneyland in Anaheim, California, in a nationwide contest. This 30-minute amateur documentary film tells the fabulous story of their fun-filled, dream-come-true, family travel adventure, filmed on the scene at Walt Disney's "Magic Kingdom" by Robbins Barstow.
Link (Thanks, Dan!)


  1. So much fun!!

    Amazing how 50 years ago seems like a completely different country and people.

    Here’s to nerdy dads around the world!

  2. Absolutely beautiful! Dad was certainly a genius to produce this in 1956, update it in 1995, and upload it to archive.org.

    Where are they now? How about a follow-up on the Barstow children? I’m curious to learn how this family fared in life.

  3. Robbins Barstow is one of my heroes, and I’m honored to know him and his wife, Meg. He has gradually been uploading all of his “Barstow Travel Adventures,” but I’d also recommend his 1936 adventure drama “Tarzan and the Rocky Gorge,” which he made when he was 16. It is available online as well as on the DVD “Living Room Cinema, Films from Home Movie Day, Vol. 1,” with Robbins’s own commentary.

  4. I, also, am among the many who are proud to call Robbins Barstow a friend. It should be noted that the Barstow family films are not only posted on the Internet Archive, they’re part of the Library of Congress’s collection of historic motion pictures. Robbins is an inspiration to many, having been a social activist, conservationist, and filmmaker for going on seven decades now–if we were all his kind of “corny,” the world would be a better place.

  5. ‘Amazing how 50 years ago seems like a completely different country and people.’

    There’s not that much difference, really. Now take it 50 years the other way, from ’56 to 1906, you’d have a helluva difference!

  6. As others have stated this is pure gold. This is what filmmaking is all about. I think anyone interested in Americana or just pop culture and travel will find this to be a very sweet and enduring film.

  7. Love this!! Your charming folksy voice and humor actually remind me of those film shorts Disney used to show on Sunday nights.

    I loved seeing your children’s faces when entering Disneyland. They were completely and innocently in awe. Not one cynical sneer in the bunch!

    Well, thanks for sharing this, Mr. Barstow. You seem like a wonderfully fun and adventurous father.

    Hey, will you adopt me?

  8. Also, I want to comment on the “corny” comment –

    I’ll take sweet and “corny” over cynical, snarky and trying-too-hard to be cool anytime.

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