Thursday, June 23, 2022

Between Books- A Portrait of Walt Disney World

Book cover for A Portrait of Walt Disney showing a horse drawn Cinderella style carriage being driven around the hub in front of Cinderella castle.



50 years of joy at the Walt Disney World Resort have arrived! And how do we celebrate? A Between Book of course is the best way to party! And when we say Between Book, we mean a massive, big, back-breaking, coffee table book.

A Portrait of Walt Disney World: 50 Years of the Most Magical Place on Earth by Kevin M. Kern, Tim O’Day, and Steven Vagnini is a massive coffee table book highlighting 50 years of magic. The text opens with the expected historical path with the authors outlining the origin, development, and construction of the Magic Kingdom Park in Florida. This history is followed by themes. For example, the first theme, nostalgia shows how the entire resort encapsulates the ideal of the past as the authors walk through Main Street U.S.A., the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Liberty Square, the Haunted Mansion, Hollywood Boulevard and other attractions and locations which fit the theme. The text is illustrated with gorgeous color photos and concept art. Other themes which follow this pattern include fantasy, discovery, tomorrow, and reflections. The book concludes with a chapter that provides detail around the 50th anniversary celebration.

Overall, the book is brilliantly illustrated and visually enjoyable to dive into. The accompanying text fits the images well and is well-written. The piece that took me the most to adapt to was the themes. When you have read as many Between Books as us, do we not all expect that they will walk park-to-park and then land-by-land in each chapter? But here the themes transition from park to attraction to resort hotel to attraction again. So the reader must come to learn to follow the theme and not the geographical area as they proceed through the book. It is also very large, and expensive, so I do not suggest attempting to read the book all in one sitting…especially if it is sitting on your lap. This offering is also long-term going to be a collectors item and not something for your friend who is just showing a passing interest in the park, especially due to the large price point especially for periods where it may be out of print.

A Portrait of Walt Disney World: 50 Years of the Most Magical Place on Earth can help all of us park fans celebrate the park no matter how Between a visit we truly are. It is visually pleasing and can help us connect to the Florida Project no matter where we are. We just have to be willing to pay a fee which is closer to a one-day ticket than we may guess.  



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Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Between Books - Imagineering An American Dreamscape

Book Cover for Imagineering An American Dreamscape showing a Ferris Wheel


I spend a lot of time between Disney dreaming about a good Disney Parks day. But, I have rarely explored the parks between Disneyland and Walt Disney World. And I hoped Imagineering An American Dreamscape could better inform me about regional parks and perhaps even get me excited to visit one.

Imagineering An American Dreamscape: Genesis, Evolution, and the Redemption of the American Theme Park by Barry R. Hill details the history of the American theme park from the late 19th century to the recent past. Hill describes the types of parks that existed before Disneyland, how they influenced Walt Disney’s park, and how Disneyland would then impact regional entertainment after its popularity grew. From early rides like steeplechases to high-speed roller coasters, Hill describes the economic measures needed to attract and then retain visitors to an audience familiar with larger national parks. The tale is one of copying Disney’s and other successful models, followed by a need to change due to the economics of the market. And much of this is followed by economic shifts as parks closed and consolidated as economics pressured the local park owners who could not retain growth or saw the need to add big-ticket attractions to their parks outstripped their pocketbooks.

I enjoyed Imagineering An American Dreamscape. It is well-written and engaging. It is extensively referenced, showing that Hill has deeply researched his topic. Sometimes, he does move from the historian's tone to one of nostalgia. But these tone shifts show his deep love of this topic. Hill introduced me to parks like Astroland, Great America, King’s Dominion, and so many more. He also does an excellent job of showing how regional parks like Six Flags Over Texas impacted the Disney experience today, moving from attraction tickets to a single admission.

Hill notes that the entertainment experience is becoming blurred. Regionally we may not be able to determine what is a theme park, amusement park, mall, or museum in the future. Hill shows us clearly how economic factors have impacted the history of these experiences, their need for them in our regions, and the excitement of enjoying these venues.

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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Cap's Comics - W.E.B. of Spider-Man


Comic book cover for  W.E.B. of Spider-Man showing Spider-Man swing over the W.E.B. building.

 

 

Here I sit, stuck between two Disney parks, and it has been years since I have been able to visit Orlando or Anaheim. And one of the dreams that has become a reality since my last visit to the Disneyland Resort is Avengers Campus. Yes, I want to go there! Marvel and Disney with W.E.B. of Spider-Man, which collects the five single issues of this comic title, are trying to get myself and my younger self motivated to visit the new land and WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure.


In W.E.B. of Spider-Man, writer Kevin Shinick and artist Alberto Alburquerque introduce Peter Parker to the Worldwide Engineering Brigade (W.E.B.) established by Tony Start to gather great young thinkers together to solve the world’s emerging problems. W.E.B. members include Harley Kenner from Iron Man 3, Lunella Lafayette the Moon Girl, Onome, a genius girl from Wakanda, Doreen Green the Unstoppable Squirrel Girl, and Amadeus Cho also known as Brawn. The youngsters are joined by the Spider-Bots found in the ride. The team is drawn into a battle with some familiar-faced villains attempting to steal key data from W.E.B. Peter struggles in this adventure to determine whether he or his alter ego, Spider-Man, best fits within the W.E.B. team dynamic.  


This title is for 10+. And honestly, it is for that age, and a little bit older, this best would work. As an adult, I found the lack of foreshadowing for the big bad to be a major miss. And I think for young readers, the lack of foreshadowing and general low visibility of this villain is problematic. I do not believe the ten-year-old crowd knows who the villain is and may not care about them. I think all readers needed to Scooby-Doo this where we take off the mask and yell it was you! But that is lacking. The story is what you need and expect from a comic from this age, with Alburquerque providing very professional and well-done art. I can see an 11-year-old reading this a few times before hitting the park, but it will likely never be any adult readers entry comic to the ride, where the movies should be taking that role for most of the audience.  


W.E.B. of Spider-Man is a story with a hiccup or two. But it performs as needed by creating a comic story accessible to young readers. And best of all, from a Disney synergy window, it likely will make some young people feel closer to the Spider-Man ride and the backstory and lead to pleas to get into line! 


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Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Between Books - Mary Poppins & Mary Poppins Comes Back

Book cover shwoing Mary Poppins flying with a umbrella over the city of London.

 

For years I have had a copy of Mary Poppins & Mary Poppins Comes Back by P.L. Travers sitting on my Between Books shelf, but I have never had a chance to read it.  Recently, I decided to pick it up and dive into the story that was a key Disney movie moment.  As I read through it, I realized how factual another semi-fictional Disney film actually was and the challenge this story presented. 

Mary Poppins & Mary Poppins Comes Back by P.L. Travers collects the first two books of Travers' Mary Poppins series.  The titles consist of a series of short stories detailing the interactions between the magical nanny Mary Poppins and the four, yep four, Banks children.  The characters will feel familiarish to anyone who has seen the Poppins films.  And the stories will occasionally remind one of the movies as we travel into China bowls or visit a laughing uncle.  But overall, the stories are generally not connected and provide short incidents, which are often confusing and nonsensical, with the Banks children.

When we hear the story of the Disney movie, we are told that Walt's children loved these stories.  But to be honest, I did not.  They really are confusing at times and I often feel like the characters are not that approachable.  If anything, reading through these makes it clear how factual Saving Mr. Banks is, as it would have been impossible to make a straight adaptation of this writing into an engaging movie.  In short, the Travers' stories had to be adapted, and the Sherman Brothers and Don DaGradai did an excellent job taking random stories and connecting them together.  For example, the presence of Mr. Banks is somewhat invisible in the book, and the choice to make him the antagonist helps string together a watchable movie.  Ironically, at the same time, I was reading this Between Book, I also started listening to the Sherman Brothers series on the Disney History Institute podcast which focused on the facts of Saving Mr. Banks and describes the actual adaption of the book into a movie.  

In short, I was disappointed by Mary Poppins & Mary Poppins Comes Back.  I will not read any more of the series.  it is not for me.  But I also better understand the challenge that Walt Disney and his team faced when creating a classic movie. 




This post contains affiliate links, which means that Between Disney receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Between Books - Disney World at 50

Book cover for Disney World at 50 showing the Founders Statue of Walt Disney holding Mickey Mouse's hand in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom park.

The Orlando Sentinel’s Disney World at 50: The Stories of How Walt’s Kingdom Became Magical in Orlando collects portions of the Orland Sentinel’s fifty years of reporting on the Florida vacation kingdom.   The book collects portions of articles printed in the Orlando Sentinel with tons of images from Walt Disney World.  The book covers the history of the park chronologically from the announcement for the park to the park today.  Topics covered include building the Magic Kingdom, opening day, transportation, changes in the park, and 2021 events.


The text is a pretty interesting read.  The audience gets to read historical news articles with the knowledge of today to better understand intentions and things that did not occur.  The images are very enjoyable, and coming from the newspaper's archive and not Disney’s photo collection provides many new to me images.  I do find that the page numbers are at times lost in images.  Additionally, there is a gap in the narrative.  The book jumps 24 years to the current day and the impact of the Coronavirus on the parks.  And the several pages of content do feel out of balance with other topics in the book.  Honestly, I would have found it more balanced if an event like September 11th and that park closure was included due to the impact on American society.  


The Orlando Sentinel’s Disney World at 50: The Stories of How Walt’s Kingdom Became Magical in Orlando is an interesting visual adventure.  It allows us to look back with what we know today and revisit the past.  And with images that we typically do not see in other books, readers can enjoy the 50th anniversary regardless of where we are between the parks.  




This post contains affiliate links, which means that Between Disney receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site.


Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Between Books - Claude Coats: Walt Disney’s Imagineer

Book cover showing Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle and an insert of Claude Coats at his workdesk.

 

Claude Coats: Walt Disney’s Imagineer-The Making of Disneyland From Toad Hall to the Haunted Mansion and Beyond by David Bossert is an excellent addition to the history of Disney Imagineering.  The text balances images with narratives and gives this legendary Imagineer the chronicle he deserves.


The text offers exactly as titled.  Bossert works through Coats’ career from birth to the completion of one of his most famous projects, The Haunted Mansion.  The book outlines his early career from art student to animation.  Bossert follows with discussions of his transitioning to work on Disneyland, moving beyond design to actually painting backgrounds to get the work done.  The discussion of the Grand Canyon Diorama is one of the most in-depth that I have seen.  Chapters provide details on his collaborations for the fan-beloved Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion.  But along the journey, the book includes interludes on presentations to NASA and painting for the U.S. Air Force.  The text is well-balanced with Coats’ images and text providing historical context to Coats’ work.


The text is really well done overall.  Bossert helps us understand Coats as an artist as he was someone who unlike Marc Davis did not work alone in his office.  But instead would often work outside working on models and collaborating with other artists.  Bossert frames Coats, not as someone who would be adversarial with other artists.  But instead, someone who was a team player, mentor, and project management.  Additionally, the chapter on the Air Force paintings demonstrated Coats as an artist outside of his Disney work and makes it clear that he truly was a respected Califroonaia fine artist.  The biggest gap I see in the books is a lack of discussion after the Haunted Mansion.  It would be interesting to be able to compare the frustrated Marc Davis after the Mansion with Coats and how he navigated being creative as the next generation grew into their own.  


Claude Coats: Walt Disney’s Imagineer-The Making of Disneyland From Toad Hall to the Haunted Mansion and Beyond by David Bossert is a great inclusion to the Between Books bookshelf.  It is well written and illustrated.  And it clearly left me wanting more.  Maybe we needed a two-volume set here! 



This post contains affiliate links, which means that Between Disney receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. 

Monday, January 17, 2022

Between Books - They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney's Late Golden Age The 1940's - Part Two

 

Book cover showing hippos dancing

Short Version - They Drew as They Pleased by Didier Ghez is really good.  If you like or love Disney animation and books you will want very volume.  With volume three, that summary can continue!

Long Version - They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney's Late Golden Age The 1940's - Part Two by Didier Ghez is the third volume in this art driven series.  Ghez again features treasures from Disney's story artists.  This volume focuses on members of the short lived Character Model Department in the 1940’s under the leadership of legend Joe Grant  The artists including Jack Miller, Campbell Grant, James Bodrero, and Martin Provensen may be a group that honestly are not familiar with every Disney fan.  But they were a group who contributed significantly to the look and feel of Disney features like Fantasia and animated shorts in the 1940s. 

For me, I really focused on Miller, Grant, Bodrero, and Provensen.  The Character Model Department  was only functional for a few years.  And they were often resented by their animation colleagues for their ability to play and dream.  But the group was made of high-quality artists, many of them finding their way to other commercial avenues after Disney.  And they were extremely close with Grant, Bodrero, and Provensen living together, playing together, and seeming like a real life Three Musketeers.  While there were several projects discussed, I found myself struck with the differences between Fantasia and Victory Through Air Power during World War II.  Fantasia concept art from these artists is true fine art.  But for the air power propaganda film, well there is no concept art in these brilliantly illustrated paintings.  As this Disney passion project bored them with charts and arrows and in some cases drove them one step closer to leaving the studio even joining the war effort.  Leaving the studio is a true theme as it is shocking yet again how short some of these masters’ tenure at Disney was. 

Yes, They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney's Late Golden Age The 1940's - Part Two is a volume that history loving Disney fans want and need.  Well written and beautifully illustrated it is yet another joyful read. 

This post contains affiliate links, which means that Between Disney receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site.