Jeff Kurtti in Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park outlines the lives of 30 Imagineering legends, both official Imagineers and unofficial ones, that help build the Disney theme parks that we love today. Kurtti begins with Walt Disney himself, whom Kurtti labels as the original Imagineer. Kurtti follows with themed chapters including The Prototype Imagineers, The Executive Suite, The Place Makers, The Story Department, Masters of Mixed Media, The Model Shop, The Machine Shop, The Music Makers, and The Unofficial Imagineers. The book concludes with a section titled The Renaissance Imagineer which provides a slightly longer biography of John Hench. Most of the biographies are less than five pages and filled with photos and illustrations from the legend’s career.
The text itself is factual, well researched and a valuable resource for the lives of these Imagineering legends. Each biography provides a quick overview on each figure spotlighted. The biographies are more than just bland facts, with the Kimball chapter discussing the low points of Walt Disney and Ward Kimball’s relationship and another explaining why Yale Gracey is a mysterious figure in Disney history. The only difference between the quality of information and style I have found in Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park and academic historical books and articles I have read is the sources which include fan magazines, which for Disney legends are an excellent resource for their past interviews. Some readers may find the writing an obstacle since it is academic in nature. Therefore, it can be difficult to “get into” each biography if one was hoping for a hook to pull you into the story.
Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park is an essential volume for any Between Books library. In less than 150 pages it provides an introduction to 30 key players including Walt Disney himself. I personally have consulted this volume a number of times to verify and clarify information. Due to its size and writing style it will never be a book one packs up to read poolside, but it is a book one will consult again and again as you ask yourself questions about these men and women. If anything I hope Kurtti would consider another volume in the future including new Imagineering legends not included like Marty Sklar and Tony Baxter.