The Magic of Norton Disney World

One summer’s day seventy years ago, the great Walt Disney visited a tiny Lincolnshire village 17 miles from my home where he created a secret portal that would magically transport people to his Disney World theme park in America. Okay, so maybe not all of that is true… but remarkably some of it is.

True story time: Last month I realised a lifelong dream when my wife took me to Disney World in Florida (it coincided with me turning 40… yay!). I found it a pretty surreal experience being there, this place that, as a kid, I could only dream about visiting.

Cinderella's Castle of Magic Kingdom

Norton Disney or Walt Disney World. Can you guess which one?

When my brothers and I were young, our aunt and uncle once gave us this VHS tape that was essentially a publicity video of all the attractions of Disney World. They’d visited Disney World themselves (they’re American, so it was a tad easier to get to than it is for us). I don’t know how many times I watched that video, but I was completely enthralled, vicariously enjoying attractions such as the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, the Haunted Mansion, even the animatronics of the Hall of Presidents.

Walt Disney World VHS

A Dream Called Walt Disney World, PAL version

The video incorporated some archive footage of Walt Disney talking about how the idea for Disneyland came to him as he was sitting in a park eating peanuts (that detail always stuck out in my mind for some bizarre reason). Even though I was enthralled by the magic of Disney like every other kid, I think that video was the first time that I’d actually seen Walt Disney himself. It had never occurred to me who the man behind Walt Disney was. ‘Walt Disney’ seemed to mean something much bigger than one man.

As the years went by, the dream of going there myself inevitably began to fade, so last month it really was like reanimating a forgotten childhood dream as a world-weary adult, and as I wandered around the park and kept seeing the various attractions in Magic Kingdom I would keep thinking back to the footage I’d seen of them in this vintage video, unlocking these deep childhood memories. While I was over there, I had a dig around YouTube and found someone had uploaded this particular video if you fancy seeing it.

Freeze! It’s the FBI! Put down the camera and obey the copyright!

Since I’ve been back, I dug out my copy of the video (it survived the great VHS tape cull of 2007, naturally) – coincidentally my aunt was over from America and her eyes lit up in surprise when I showed it to her. My brother reminded me that it was a Christmas present, circa late 80s / early 90s. Watching it back, I love how US videos start with this stern FBI warning. I imagine the feds will bust down my door now for illegally copying even this warning sign (presumably the guy who put the whole thing on YouTube is on Death Row now). My cousin and I once made our own comedy film with this very premise… but that’s another story.

Fancy a swim?

While we were over in Florida, we spent a day at Magic Kingdom and a day at Hollywood Studios, which, as an adult, held an even greater pull for me with the new Galaxy’s Edge area that has been created there. I think if it was 30-year-younger me visiting, I would have happily also spent a day at Epcot and other places like Universal Studios. My sensory capacity threshold as a 40-year-old is definitely a lot lower, however, and so we also spent slower paced days visiting the beach and checking out the Florida wildlife (we even found some alligators!)

Galaxy's Edge in Disney World

Right before I took the Millennium Falcon for a spin

The cool thing about Galaxy’s Edge is that it’s a really immersive experience and you feel like you’re walking around a Star Wars world. So the filmmaker in me couldn’t help but get creative and I found myself putting the camera in my wife’s hands and getting her to film me being daft again as we made another offbeat video.

 

Another Magical Adventure

Remember the New York video? The tiny Lincolnshire hamlet that shares a name with an American metropolis? I thought it was time for another one of those. There’s no villages around me with the name of Orlando, or Galaxy’s Edge, or Hollywood Studios, but there is a quaint little place 17 miles away called Norton Disney which just happens to be the ancestral home of the Disney family. So that’s the particular Lincolnshire village where I had my next magical adventure…

 

As I started making this video, it reminded me of a story I’d once read where Walt Disney himself had popped in to this very Lincolnshire village one day back in the summer of 1949. He was there to research his ancestry, and as I re-familiarised myself with the story, I became quite fascinated by it. One photo of the event shows him standing by a road sign which also happened to have my home town of Sleaford on it. Somehow those two things just don’t go together, but with Disney of course, anything is possible…

Walt Disney in Norton Disney

In the very spot where Walt Disney crouched 70 years earlier

So I’ve also started making a new video about this fascinating little story, along with my friend Dan Sumpton (he’s the librarian in the phone box) as we try and find the very spots where Walt Disney once stood exactly 70 years ago. Stay tuned for that.

Alas, a busy guy like Walt Disney didn’t stay long that day in Norton Disney. He wrote in his diary that he had to ‘pop off again’, hence my final line in my video.

2 thoughts on “The Magic of Norton Disney World

  1. Jacqueline Hosking

    Hi Richard, loving your blog, also thanks again for (ages ago) getting “Shadows” back on Amazon!) Still watch it, my husband thinks I’m abit weird but hey-ho! Not really caring! Wondering if + when you’ll be getting some more rad stuff on with Chris Clark ( by the way we both love the basil brush and the Christmas song! It gets abit boring when you live in Hayle, Cornwall as a 48 year old missing life in good ole’ Bath, Somerset, Us film buffs need abit more off the cuff (not middle of the road !) Entertaining!!!😁 Anyway, please enlighten me and give me something to look forward to because I know you will! (No Pressure!!!) Take care, warmest regards, Jax. X

    Reply
    1. Richard Dutton

      Hey there Jacqueline, lovely to hear from you! And great to know that Shadows still has a fan somewhere 🙂 Chris and I, along with another offbeat filmmaker friend did start production on another film, our follow up to Shadows, but alas life got in the way and then the whole coronavirus thing really halted any idea of continuing with it, so I’m not sure we’ll be able to make anything of what we shot. Here is a little test / teaser video to give you an idea of what we had in the works https://youtu.be/PsHxGijTTx0
      So yeah, sadly we don’t really have any film projects on the go at the moment, however we have been getting together recently to work on a TV series outline. This is something we’ll need the stars to align before it comes into production, so keep your fingers crossed for us 🙂
      Cornwall can’t be a bad part of the country to live. All those pasties and fishermen singers and clotted cream. Take care and all the best. Rich x

      Reply

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