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Did Walt Disney visit Adams Farm?

June 19, 2012

In the Spring 2009 Friends of Adams Farm newsletter, Friends of Adams Farm Associate Member Ed Sugrue speculated that Walt Disney may have been a frequent visitor to the land now known as Adams Farm in North Walpole. Personally, I think this is highly unlikely, but it is indeed a fact that Disney frequently visited a friend in nearby Medfield, right near the Walpole town line, and it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that he may have walked around in the Adams Farm area. At the time, it was privately owned. I’m sharing Sugrue’s piece below (see newsletter in pdf):

Have you ever experienced an inexplicable flash of deja vu while watching a scene of a pleasant, forested glade in “Bambi”? How about in “The Sword in the Stone”? Or “The Jungle Book”? Or what about “Sleeping Beauty”? Well, if you haven’t . . . perhaps you should!

Walt Disney himself may very well have walked, at one time, along the trails of Adams Farm. I can’t make this statement with absolute certainty, and it may never be possible to do so, but there is ample reason to advance this tantalizing notion. It’s entirely possible that things he saw in these woods may have influenced Disney. Perhaps, indeed, some of the trees still living today at Adams Farm, or some parts of the meadow in the midst of the forest, had an impact upon Disney’s mental images of the scenes he created in his animated features. For details . . . read on!

Walt Disney was a friend of a man named Justin Dart and with Dart’s wife, the 1930’s actress Jane Bryan. The Dart family lived at Holiday Farm in Medfield, on Elm Street between the grounds of Wheelock Elementary School and Adams Farm. If you examine this area on Google Maps, you can see that it’s about a five-minute stroll from Adams Farm.

Disney would occasionally fly in and land his private plane at the Darts’ private airstrip. Today, this airstrip has been converted into some of the soccer fields behind Wheelock School. I haven’t been able to ascertain the precise years when Disney might have done this. As near as I can tell, it was somewhere between the years 1940 and 1961. My best educated guess leads me to lean toward the earlier part of this period. The films he made during or after this period could have been influenced by his experiences at Adams Farm. Sadly, this rules out “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Fantasia”. But all the films mentioned in the paragraph above, and many more, are fair game for speculation!

We know that Disney felt at least a certain amount of inspiration from his relaxing sojourns in our neck of the woods. His famous “Flubber” movies, such as “The Absent-Minded Professor” and “Son of Flubber”, were set at “Medfield College”. Similarly, several early Kurt Russell films, also by Disney, were set in those same putative hallowed halls of higher learning. Medfield College does not really exist, but it is widely acknowledged to be named after Medfield, Massachusetts.

Now, if Walt Disney felt sufficiently moved by the pleasant surroundings of Medfield to name one of his most oft-revisited settings after it, then . . . “What if,” we may ask, “he had also walked in the forest adjacent to his friends’ home?” What if, in other words, he had visited Adams Farm itself?

In all likelihood, this hypothetical connection between scenes in Disney films and Adams Farm doesn’t exist. Yet, it remains a possibility! If you happen to harbor a love of flights of fancy, perhaps you should indulge it for a moment while walking at Adams Farm. As you look at the trees with their gnarled old roots, the vernal pools in the green depths of the forest, the rabbits, the deer, and even the skunks, perhaps you could spend a moment of whimsy speculating about who else may have once wandered here, as he gathered up the lifetime of experiences which eventually coalesced into such characters as Thumper, Bambi, and even Flower the skunk. Who, indeed, may have once been inspired by the quiet beauty of the Farm?

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