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New York Times columnist Frank Rich based his Christmas column “Who Killed the Disneyland Dream?” around Robbins Barstow’s Disneyland Dream, using it as a symbolic representation of American middle class life in the 1950s.

Source: New York Times


Robbins Barstow’s family has written to say that Robbins died at his home in Wethersfield, Connecticut on Sunday, two weeks after his 91st birthday.

Robbins joined the Amateur Cinema League in the 1930s and made one of his most famous films (and one of the very first fan films), Tarzan and the Rocky Gorge in 1936. His other masterpiece, 1956’s Disneyland Dream, about winning a trip with his family to the newly-opened Disneyland park, was named to the National Film Registry in 2008.

One of the most unique things about Robbins was the way in which he kept his films alive for decades after their creation. He edited his 16mm films then transferred them to video at the Wethersfield public access TV station (which he helped to create), adding his own narration. He distributed his films first on VHS, then DVD, and then finally on the Internet Archive. After learning about he leaped into digital realm with both feet, and uploaded nearly all of “Barstow Travel Adventure” films. He then eagerly watched as their popularity took off among the younger generations. Disneyland Dream and Tarzan and the Rocky Gorge both went viral, and currently have 76,000 and 151,000 downloads respectively. Last year he also  began selling Disneyland Dream through Amazon’s DVD-R program.

Although the film world got to know Robbins through his movies, he also worked as the director of professional development for the Connecticut Educational Association. He was also a founder of the Cetacean Society International, and many of his Barstow Travel Adventures as well as the 1970s sequel to Tarzan and the Rocky Gorge focused on his love for the great whales.

The Barstow family has asked that in lieu of flowers, checks be made out to:

CSI (Barstow Fund)
Mrs. Barbara Kilpatrick
15 Wood Pond Rd.
West Hartford, CT 06107

See also the excellent essay on Robbins and Disneyland Dream from Daniel Eagan’s “America’s Film Legacy”

2008 Home Movie Day PSA, featuring Robbins:

Remix of Family Camping Through 48 States – Part I by Captive Wild Woman

Since Home & Amateur has practically become the unofficial Robbins Barstow blog, we are pleased to report that Robbins sends word that for the first time ever his award winning film Disneyland Dream is available for sale on DVD-R directly from Amazon.  The DVD includes the film classic as well as a 20 minute special feature “The Making of Disneyland Dream.”


Cory Doctorow’s BoingBoing post about the release.

The new book America’s Film Legacy: The Authoritative Guide to the Landmark Movies in the National Film Registry by Daniel Eagan includes essays on the first 500 films named to the National Film Registry. Publisher 33 1/3 included the essay about Robbins Barstow’s Disneyland Dream in its entirety on its blog.

Susan Dunne of the Hartford Courant reports on a coincidental meeting in Robbins Barstow’s “Disneyland Dream.”

Robbins Barstow of Wethersfield, who last week learned a home movie he made in 1956 has been admitted into the National Film Registry, has gained a new pen pal as a result of the honor.

After the news hit that “Disneyland Dream,” filmed on a family vacation to Anaheim, Calif., had been chosen for preservation, Barstow received an e-mail from actor and comedian Steve Martin.

Martin, a self-described “Disneyland junkie,” wrote (reprinted with permission from Martin): “At age eleven I worked at Disneyland. I sold guidebooks at the park from 1956 to about 1958. I am as positive as one can be that I appear about 20:20 into your film, low in the frame, dressed in a top hat, vest, and striped pink shirt, moving from left to right, holding a guidebook out for sale.”

Source: Hartford Courant

Congratulations to Robbins Barstow, whose 1956 film “Disneyland Dream” was named to the National Film Registry today.

After a long life of filmmaking, Robbins has become good friends with the amateur film preservation community through his tireless advocacy of amateur filmmaking and his attendance at archival film conferences and symposia.  He then became an Internet sensation when the public discovered his films online.

Robbins Barstow, photo by M.J. Fiedler

Robbins Barstow, photo by M.J. Fiedler

From the Library of Congress’s press release:

Disneyland Dream (1956)
The Barstow family films a memorable home movie of their trip to Disneyland.  Robbins and Meg Barstow, along with their children Mary, David and Daniel were among 25 families who won a free trip to the newly opened Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., as part of  a ‘Scotch Brand Cellophane Tape’ contest sponsored by 3M.  Through vivid color and droll narration (“The landscape was very different from back home in Connecticut”), we see a fantastic historical snapshot of Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Catalina Island, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios and Disneyland in mid-1956.  Home movies have assumed a rapidly increasing importance in American cultural studies as they provide a priceless and authentic record of time and place.

The film, along with 15 other Barstow Travel Adventure titles, is available for viewing and downloading at the Internet Archive.

Previous Robbins Barstow posts:

In His Own Words

Meet Robbins Barstow