Thursday, September 3, 2020

Between Books - Buzz Stories at Thirty Thousand Feet

Buzz Stories at Thirty Thousand Feet by David Price AIA and Friends is a book that provides greater insight to the business practices of a Disney legend, Harrison “Buzz” Price. The book is a series of chapters written by the elder Price and his colleagues collected by his son. David Prices also adds his own chapters and insights to the mix and sums up for the reader what can be gleamed from his father’s career. The typical chapter includes a Price colleague discussing how Buzz recruited him for a project, how Buzz used his group development summits or charrettes and the impact that Price had on the author. Readers from this window get insight into the man that Price and how he impacted the themed entertainment industry often beyond his work with Disney.

Buzz Price is typically seen as a numbers man. In fact, he used numbers in the title of his own autobiography to feed into this stereotype. But what becomes clear is that Buzz went beyond the numbers. After being the guy who helped Walt Disney choose Anaheim of Disneyland, he continued his successful career on location-based projects globally. Often, he used his charrette technique, which David helps explain the origin of, which allowed him to bring together subject matter experts and the client together for a few days of intensive planning. While Buzz did his homework and knew his math, what also is clear is how he navigated relationships within these meetings. In fact, the client’s end goal often was the important starting point for where the project went. And Buzz was able to help his clients thoughtfully plan their experiences while the elder Price helped mentor the next generation of themed entertainment planners.

Buzz Stories at Thirty Thousand Feet was not fully what I expected. Different viewpoints and authors also provide an uneven experience for a reader. But at the heart of the matter is the man. And this book really is a tribute to a theme entertainment legend, and the reader can escape the numbers to see a relationally based leader who was funny and compassionate.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Mousey Movie - The Legacy of Arrow Development

The Legacy of Arrow Development is offered by American Coaster Enthusiasts for free on YouTube!

This 70 minute documentary provides an in-depth history to the creation, popularity, decline and legacy of Arrow Development and its impact on the theme park industry.  Arrow is often the unspoken of partner for Disney parks, developing Imagineering concepts into physical rides.  These legendary rides include The Matterhorn Bobsleds, it's a small world, The Flying Saucers and so many more.  It would not be an overstatement to say that the Disney parks that we know today would not look the same without the contributions of this ride engineering company.

The documentary starts with the formation of the company with veterans of the American industrial machine from World War II.  The founders lacked capital and in some cases experience, but had practical engineering knowledge and a strong work ethic.  The company built a number of offerings, but began to specialize in small amusement park attractions.  Eventually, the Karl Bacon and Ed Morgan led company caught the eye of Walt Disney, who often relied on Arrow Development to make his Imagineering visions into realities.  Arrow Development would continue to grow and would provide attractions to non-Disney parks.  And with the passing of Walt Disney, the company's use of Arrow was largely discontinued.  Arrow then serviced numerous parks, often building large and fast roller coasters.  But with the changing of leadership, numerous sales, and declining market share the Arrow name largely disappeared as the company was sold to another amusements engineering firm.

I do not really watch YouTube, and never for 70 minutes.  But The Legacy of Arrow Development is a true documentary that needs to take notice and kept my attention for the entire time.  The presentation, really highlighted why Arrow was important and how its legacy continues to this day.  Additionally, for the Disney fan that wider impact outside of the Disney parks is sufficiently felt.  And it cannot be forgotten, this is a free quality professional look into the theme park business focusing on one of the engineering pioneers of the industry.  I was worried that it would feel like a fan film.  Instead it is well-researched with interviews from those who worked for and with Arrow.  The film also looks straight on to the eventual fall of the company, with an explanation of why. 

The Legacy of Arrow Development is a Mousey Movie that Disney parks fans will want to watch.  It provides a great historical look at a Walt Disney partner and ally.  As without Arrow Development, the theme park that we have today would not exist. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Between Books - The Great Crump Presents HIs Magic

The Great Crump Presents His Magic: The Art of Rolly Crump provides a visual catalog to the Rolly Crump exhibit from the Oceanside Museum of Art in 2017-2018.  The text is short on text and heavy on images.  Other than forewords and two essays, the text is all pictures of Crump's work on glossy pages.  Other than title and  year captions, readers walk through the exhibit in a self-guided tour of Crump's paintings, sculptures and other artistic endeavors.  The concluding essays are offered by artists who reconstructed lost Crump treasures, the Gypsy Wagon and the famed Tower of the Four Winds.

The volume is a visual feast, allowing readers to walk through 60 plus years of Crump's career.  Many of the images will seem familiar to Disney fans, such as toys from it's a small world or Haunted Mansion concepts that are famed for what the Haunted Mansion could have been.  But there is much more including his Doper posters, which gave Walt Disney a chuckle, still lives and small funny sculptures.  Really funny is one of the two themes readers will follow in the catalog as Crump's work consistently shows a quirky whimsical sense of humor.  The other theme that will become obvious is that Crump has a mastery of lettering, which is visually striking and provides clear communication.

The Great Crump Presents His Magic is a visually fun volume which highlights the humorous side of Disney legend Rolly Crump.  A volume lacking words, it is often left to the reader to self examine Crump's work and legacy.  And it is surprising being a visual only book, it is not one that a reader will rush through but take the time to linger and examine.  And for someone who is Between Parks and not able to see the original exhibit, it was a chance to experience a different kind of Disney history and art.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Between Books - Maps of the Disney Parks

Maps of the Disney Parks: Charting 60 Years from California to Shanghai with text by Kevin and Susan Neary and maps curated by Vanessa Hunt lives up to the title.  This relatively brief volume is big on images and short on text.  The book groups together Disney maps largely by decade into chapters.  Each chapter is provided a small introduction which outlines developments in the parks and within the Disney Company.  This is followed by pages and pages of full-color maps with short captions.  Some of the maps are also accompanied by cutouts that enlarge sections of maps which were difficult to view in their full regular sized view.

Maps are the star of Maps of the Disney Parks.  And maps is what one gets.  There are guide maps, attraction maps and fun maps literally from around the world.  They are enjoyable to view and scan as one looks for attractions and landmarks that have evolved in the sixty plus years of Disney parks.  And they are gloriously presented in full color.  This is a very visual volume, and one should not expect an in-depth history of Disney maps or topics like fun maps.  Instead, this volume allows one to visually explore the history of the maps on one's own.

Maps of the Disney Parks is a beautiful volume of art.  As we enter a time where we can travel less and likely not be able to enjoy our favorite parks, this book provides us a vacation at home.  As more and more of us are truly now Between Disney!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Between Books - Magic Journey: My Fantastical Walt Disney Imagineering Career

Magic Journey: My Fantastical Walt Disney Imagineering Career by Kevin P. Rafferty details a Disney story of a young man who turned his back on a life in ministry and a possible animation career to become a key story writer for Walt Disney Imagineering for decades.  Rafferty's story begins with a young man who planned to become a priest.  However, his theological studies were diverted by his love of art.  Planning to become an animator, Rafferty went to art school and started a job at Disneyland.  Thoughts of Disney magic were quickly destroyed as he started his job in the dish room.  However, he persisted, showed himself to be a hard worker and was offered promotions in Food and Beverage that eventually saw him on the floor of Club 33.  With the development of Epcot, WED the future Walt Disney Imagineering began to aggressively recruit new employees which opened the door to Rafferty's entry level, and we mean entry, job at WED.  Again, Rafferty's hard work and a brief stint in marketing allowed him to move past the open door to a long-term and prolific Imagineering career.  Rafferty's numerous projects ranged from the Pan Galactic Pizza Port at Tokoyo Disneyland, the Hollywood Tower of Terror, the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Test Track, Carsland, and many many more.

Overall, I really liked Magic Journey.  Rafferty has a calm and easy to approach tone where you feel like you hear his voice and his personality.  And of Imagineers of the second generation, Rafferty comes off as the most approachable.  Additionally as someone who worked on countless projects, there is something for everyone's different Disney niches.  Rafferty also gives his readers a view of some of the non-exciting non-artistic jobs within Imagineering, ones that may not have the spotlight but are important to Imagineering's operations.  Readers also got to see Marty Sklar in a new light, as the humorous boss who often joked back and forth with Rafferty though notes and pictures.  The book is dense with every page packed with words... but Rafferty also provides numerous pictures and images to help support the reader's imagination.

Kevin Rafferty came into Imagineering at the lowest level possible.  Decades later he left as an important story writer and second generation Imagineer.  His memoir Magic Journey provides readers a detailed record of his Walt Disney Imagineering career and the projects that he worked on.  The text is sure to delight Disney parks fans as he details his work internationally with his own inside look at dining, attractions and even entire lands.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Between Books - Tales from the Haunted Mansion: Volume I The Fearsome Foursome

Tales from the Haunted Mansion: Volume I The Fearsome Foursome by Amicus Arcane sets Goosebumps style stories near Disney's Haunted Mansion.  The volume contains four scary (or five) stories based around the Fearsome Foursome, a group of four fictional tweens who love horror stories.  The tales range from the tale of a cursed baseball glove, a dare gone wrong, a sea monster in the background and the return of pets past.  All of these stories are told by Amicus Arcane to the youngsters using his volumes in the library of the Haunted Mansion after they stumbled into the happy haunt.  He promises he can beat the four at their own game in telling scary tales.

I picked up this volume and expected that the stories would be tales of familiar residents in the Haunted Mansion.  Alas, the stories are all actually about the foursome and not the hatbox ghost, Leota or even the mummies.  And for me this is likely what I found a bit lacking, along with not being a tween reader or someone who enjoyed Goosebumps as a kid.  In the end, author John Esposito provides Arcane his stories and illustrator Kelley Jones embellishes these tales with the occasional image that provides closing thoughts on chapters bringing the story out of solely the imagination.  And I assume for a tween who like Disney and scary tales this book is likely going to provide them wall to wall creeps.

Tales from the Haunted Mansion: Volume I The Fearsome Foursome by Amicus Arcane is not what I expected.  It hints at the Haunted Mansion and occasionally provides the needed reference.  While it may not be a volume that adult readers will enjoy, tween horror readers will likely find it fun as they follow tweens that have the same issues as themselves and their friends.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Between Books - Bob Gurr: Legendary Imagineer: Life and Times – Disney and Beyond

A white book cover with title and numerous Bob Gurr designed vehicles such as monorails, submarines and cars

I was super excited that Kindle Unlimited had Bob Gurr: Legendary Imagineer: Life and Times – Disney and Beyond as a title I could check out as part of the service. Everyone enjoys Bob Gurr. He is a natural storyteller. I loved his Design: Just for Fun. And he is full of optimism. In fact it felt like a great read to match a rewatch of Tomorrowland with. But in the end, I felt like I read a book that was more Frank Walker than Bob Gurr.

Bob Gurr: Legendary Imagineer: Life and Times – Disney and Beyond by Bob Gurr is the second autobiography offered by the Disney legend. The book starts very straightforward as the author discusses his family, early life, Disney career, and post Disney endeavors. Along with an outline of his life, the author provides topical chapters on his interests including automobiles, gliders, travel and society. The book provides no images and is strictly narrative. And the chapters are often focused on memories and opinions not designs and projects.

Honestly, you need a Bob Gurr book! But the book you need is Design: Just for Fun, if you can get it. For a Disney fan that book is a rich and detailed story of a career including Disney and non-Disney projects. While there are descriptions of his time at Disney and key projects, Bob Gurr: Legendary Imagineer: Life and Times – Disney and Beyond largely lacks this level of detail and is largely musings and opinions paired with thoughts on hobbies. I did enjoy myself learning about gliders through Gurr’s eyes. But I found myself more greatly immersed in the earlier book including discussions of non-Disney topics like his work with Universal and the Olympics. And these are topics that he largely skips over.

My biggest concern with this self-published offering is the need for an editor. While Gurr notes that he follows grammar rules of his own making, these rules do not support his natural storytelling ability. For example, he adds notes in text, which would flow better without notes notation but just being included in his natural flow. And sometimes I as a reader had trouble keeping track of family members especially with some of them sharing a name. And his transitions can be rough, with one paragraph starting with a comment about today’s films lacking cartoon shorts followed in the next sentence by a comment about the draft. And editor would likely have helped smooth out these bump while making the book sound like Gurr’s own natural storytelling voice

What is also odd is Gurr comes off as a pessimist at times, just like Frank Walker. When I think of Gurr I think of curiosity, innovation and change. But Gurr often laments today’s modern life and looks back fondly at earlier times as the good old days. While we all likely romanticize our childhood, Gurr’s tone at times does not feel aligned with interviews and other writings I have experienced. It felt less optimistic than I expected and believe him to be!

Disney fans really do want do to explore the career and thoughts of Bob Gurr. But Bob Gurr: Legendary Imagineer: Life and Times – Disney and Beyond sadly is not as satisfying as Gurr’s earlier out of print and pricey used Design: Just for Fun. This newer offering does not dig as deep and really only gives readers a brush to Gurr’s fantastic career. The book does add more about his hobbies, which help show his whole personhood. But readers may feel like they have an incomplete picture of this great innovator and designer.