Lights: Imagination, Egos, Mystery, Deceit and 523,814 Lights by Ben Sherman provides a fictional accounting of how the Disneyland Main Street Electrical Parade came into being. The book follows Ray Lawrence from the Character Department, who is selected to create from scratch a new entertainment offering...a light parade. The book starts in September 1970, when Lawrence meets with Bernie Gold to brainstorm possibilities for a night parade. The story follows Lawrence over the next few years as he navigates unions, budgets, office politics and backstabbing as he creates and implements the parade. The story ends as Lawrence and his crew surpasses the obstacles put into place by Disney executives to successfully launch the parade.
My confession here is I thought Lights would be very boring. A fictional book about office politics does not sound exciting at all to me. Where are the unnecessary explosions? But actually the book was really engaging and kept my attention despite the fact the action is all very low key and the only stakes are a few jobs. But I really got caught up into the story as Lawrence tried to do the right thing with employees considering unions, his inability to understand Disney leadership, his casting of dancers, teaching a young man to become Grumpy and finally the inevitable of launching the parade. Sherman writes clearly and kept my attention despite the subject matter.
The story is based on real events. And there have been a few times that I have Googled trying to figure out who I think Ray Lawrence could be. There are some figures that are easy to identify. Jack Warner is really Jack Wagner, with the fictional figure sharing the same real sound roles with the real Disney Legend. And I could imagine that the practices and work areas really occurred like that. There is a supernatural moment that occurs that I would love to know if someone really believed it happened or if it was added to embellish the story. In the end, I have given up trying to find the specifics and just enjoyed the story.
At $6.50 this book is a little high price wise for my preferences. I really wish it was closer to the $3 range. But it is available on Kindle Unlimited as a book one can borrow. And I do think that is a book that any Disney parade fan will find enjoyable.
Lights is a story of deceit and lies and magic. As a reader you know that the parade will launch in summer 1972 and run for decades. But as one worries if Ray Lawrence will keep his job, you leave satisfied with the enjoyable read.