Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Between Books - Marc Davis In His Own Words


Marc Davis In His Own Words: Imagineering the Disney Theme Parks by Pete Docter and Christopher Merritt is much more than a simple book.  The title is truly an experience, one which can help enlighten and raise the spirits of a Disney fan…because in 2020 more of us are Between Disney than ever before.

During the health crisis of 2020, I took eight months to read this two-volume text.  And when I say read, I mean experienced.  For me, every session was carefully staged in strong lighting.  I played appropriate attraction or movie themes on a speaker.  I never ever read so long that my mind began to wander.  I truly just let the book pull me into the art, process, and finally the experience of many of Mark Davis’ masterpieces. 

The structure of Marc Davis In His Own Words is largely what one would expect.  The 749 pages open with a chapter about Davis’ career in animation, a career which on its own merit was a triumph.  The book then follows his path through Imagineering, being called over by Walt Disney to provide creative ideas at Disneyland for “Nature’s Wonderland” and other established attractions.  Then the authors bring us through Davis’ most celebrated attractions including “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “Haunted Mansion”, “Country Bear Jamboree” and more including the transfer of many of these ideas to Florida and the Magic Kingdom Park.  The book ends with a period of creative frustration for Davis as many of his ideas were never fulfilled including the “Enchanted Snow Palace.”  Finally, a retired Davis continues to provide support of Imagineering creative endeavors, consulting with EPCOT and Tokyo Disneyland.  The chapters are picture heavy, with really the Davis art at the center of attention.  Davis quotes surround his striking art along with the words of his colleagues.  There is some background information provided by the authors, but they admittedly take third place to the art and words of Davis and those who worked closely with him. 

I have many thoughts, and learned so much during the months of reading this book that everyone praises.  First, I feel like I can now say I have experienced new Davis’ attractions such as the “Enchanted Snow Palace” as the excellent presentation of his art allowed me to sit Between Disney and experience a ride that has never been realized, and perhaps it should be!  But even for the attractions I know deeply, I can see them in a new way as Davis’ art provides never included details, variations and insights that I had never considered.  I also believe I know Davis the artist better.  His attraction development includes numerous brainstorming ideas which he drew out so he could find the right idea.  We have often discussed as fans that Walt Disney noted you cannot choose from one.  This maxim is true for Davis and his own efforts to find the story as he sought multiple ideas in his storytelling.  The best part is this is not told to us but shown to us through his concept art.  Additionally, he did not see an attraction as true pure storytelling.  An attraction was an experience and he could immerse guests into it.  But the story would be different for everyone.  And so Davis was not truly looking to tell stories but instead experiences.

If you are interested in Disney books, you have likely heard how great Marc Davis In His Own Words is.  They are right.  The two-volume book can be seen as a major investment, but the title can at times be found on sale which makes the price more reasonable for two large art of books.  But in the end, for me the price was fair.  Because I was able to use my time largely at home to bury myself multiple mornings into Davis’ fantastic worlds.   

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Between Books - How's the Culture in Your Kingdom


Cover How's the Culture In Your Kingdom

How’s the Culture in Your Kingdom: Lessons from a Disney Leadership Journey by Dan Cockerell collects leadership lessons from a 26 year career in Disney Parks working from a parking supervisor at Disneyland Paris to Vice President of the Magic Kingdom.  The book provides four main sections, “Leading Self”, “Leading Teams”, “Leading an Organization”, and “Leading Change” that are each filled with smaller sized chapters around one central theme.  Each chapter ends with a “Fast Track to Results” section which summarizes Cockerell’s major points and provides thoughts that a manager can implement quickly. 

The text provides a number of business lessons for managers.  While many of them may seem like common sense or lessons one can get elsewhere, Cockerell wraps them around stories of his time at Disney.  The stories range from his early Disney days especially working in a France as a young professional to the end of his Disney journey.  The stories honestly do not go deep into the inner workings of Walt Disney World, there are no dirty little secrets of My Magic Band.  Instead the stories and content really shows the value that Cockerell puts in relationships as part of servant leadership.  He shows candor as his leadership lessons make it clear that not every decision can please everyone.  And there is risk in leading.  But in the end, Cockerell has built a career, and now a consulting business, on placing a high value on a culture of relationship.  Cockerell also spends significant space discussing something that I may only now be understanding, the need for self care.  A leader must take the time to care for themselves by getting sleep, moving and thoughtfully eating in order to be their best for their people.

How’s the Culture in Your Kingdom is a leadership book with a Disney core.  Cockerell shows his leaders the importance of people in an organization.  It is a lesson that can be easy to forget in these trying times.  And there is just enough Disney to help keep the leader with a Disney passion focused on the lesson. 

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!