Fan Film, Fan Films

Steve Martin Broke Into Movies at Disneyland Thanks to Oldest Living Fan Film Filmmaker

steve martin disneyland dreamNow how’s that for a tabloid headline? Even stranger, it happens to be true. Well, sort of.

Robbins Barstow, who at 89 is still making amateur movies, shot a fan film in 1936 when he was 16. The story of Barstow and that flick—Tarzan and the Rocky Gorge—are covered in-depth in my book, Homemade Hollywood, but that’s not the Steve Martin film in question.

Instead, let’s fast-forward 20 years to 1956, when Barstow, now married with kids, won an all-expenses-paid family vacation from Scotch tape. The resulting epic home movie, Disneyland Dream, covered the entire journey from beginning to end, complete with droll commentary and some amazing visuals of what the park looked like back when it had only been around for one year. The flick is so fascinating that it was admitted into the National Film Registry this past December—and that’s where Steve Martin comes in.

It turns out that the genius from Shop Girl, Roxanne, The Man With Two Brains and one of my all-time favorite flicks, the sorely underrated Grand Canyon, is a bit of a…well, as he put it, a “Disneyland junkie.” Martin apparently found out about Disneyland Dream from the National Film Registery announcement, and watched online (you can too, HERE). Before you can say “Back in bowl,” he fired off an email to Barstow, which resulted in some back and forth; here’s the play-by-play from the Hartford Courant:

“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.”

Robbins BarstowBarstow, 89, wrote back to Martin: “Frankly, if you had not identified the spot, we never would have guessed from that split-second shot of a black top hat at the bottom of the screen, that the small figure wearing it, with a vest and striped shirt, moving from left to right, holding a guidebook, was Steve Martin!

“You must possess both very sharp eyes and a large, high-definition screen to have picked up that scene, taken just as we are starting to enter the Disneyland Park through the passageway under the railroad track. I missed it, but my wife Meg thought she glimpsed a top hat, so we replayed that bit several times, and we are now convinced that it must have been you wearing it.”

Martin replied: “I knew exactly where to look in the shot to see myself, as that is the specific location I worked for several years.”

Martin was full of praise for Barstow’s film. Barstow and Martin agreed to exchange gifts: Martin will send Barstow a signed copy of his memoir, Born Standing Up, and Barstow will send Martin a signed DVD of “Disneyland Dream.”

So apparently Barstow, the one-time fan filmmaker, is the first “director” to have captured Martin on film. If you want to find Steve Martin, follow the link and watch til the 20:20 mark to spot that wild and crazy guy hard at work. Or you can look at the photo below.

steve martin disneyland dream 2

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One Response to “Steve Martin Broke Into Movies at Disneyland Thanks to Oldest Living Fan Film Filmmaker”

  1. Hangin’ with Tarzan | CliveYoung.Com
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