Friday, October 14, 2011

Between Books – Spinning Disney’s World

Charles Ridgeway in Spinning Disney’s World: Memories of a Magic Kingdom Press Agent details his 30 plus years publicizing Disney parks around the world as both a full time cast member and a consultant.  When Disneyland opened for its press preview in 1955, Ridgeway was there as a member of the press.  And he often covered Disney news stories for the Los Angeles Mirror-Press as a reporter who lived near the Anaheim park.  In 1963, Ridgeway became a Disney cast member in Public Relations, a field he did not feel a good fit for his journalistic background.  Instead of taking on a short term job, he instead found himself embarking on a 3 decade career promoting Disney parks and attractions to the press.  Ridgeway would later relocate to Florida to promote the opening of the Walt Disney World Resort.  This would be followed by promotion of three additional parks within the resort, anniversaries, and attraction openings.  Ridgeway would also help expand the parks worldwide using the lessons learned from promoting the American parks to spread the word about Disneyland Paris and later in a part-time role Hong Kong Disneyland.  Throughout the book, Ridgeway makes it clear that his success was based entirely on building personal relationships. 
I have heard Ridgeway interviewed on podcasts and have enjoyed listening to him share stories of his work for Disney.  So my anticipation of this book was fairly high.  Sadly that was tempered by poor organization.  None of the chapters have titles or coherent themes.  You may be reading on one topic and then have the chapter suddenly switch themes with little to no transition.  Later a similar topic may be brought up again in an unrelated chapter.  Overall, one gets the feeling that this book is an elder sharing his stories and opinions around a dinner table, not in a book.   A little reorganization could really have helped improve this book and helped keep focus on Ridgeway’s stories.  What I took away from this book is the importance of personal relationships in getting good publicity for the Disney parks.  Ridgeway fostered those relationships which lead to reporters, editors, producers and even celebrities talking favorably without prompting about Disney.  In many ways this makes sense as it is often the interactions that Disney fans had with cast members and the attractions on a personal level that have had the most impact on our fandom. 

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