Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Between Books - The Haunted Mansion


Book cover showing the three hitchiking ghosts outside of the Haunted Mansion

The Haunted Mansion adapted by Lauren Clauss, illustrated by Glen Brogan, and designed by Winnie Ho is a Little Golden Book adaptation of the Disney attraction. The book is what you expect from a 24-page Little Golden Book classic. The story walks readers through The Haunted Mansion, from entrance to exit. Each page is illustrated with new art from Brogan that highlights each significant set within the classic attraction, specifically the Disneyland version. Clauss provides new text mainly focusing on a young guest experiencing the attraction while using some quotes directly from the ride.

The Haunted Mansion is really what you would expect and hope for in a Little Golden Book version of the story. The text is short, easy to understand, kid-focused, and often original instead of just lifting quotes directly from the attraction. The images are playful takes on the images found in The Haunted Mansion, though they often make the potential terror more kid-friendly. For example, we do meet the bride Constance. But Brogan leaves her without her tool of choice and does not fully reveal her grisly hobby. 

The Haunted Mansion is playful and fun. It could potentially spoil a first-time rider's experience. But it could also help a youngster, or in my case years ago grown-man, who has anxiety about potentially scary things and what they could experience in their doom buggy. The book could also help a youngster who enjoyed the attraction and returned Between Disney in keeping the fun in their heart alive. 


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Thursday, December 15, 2022

Between Books - The Disney Animation Renaissance

Book cover for The Disney Animation Renaissance with title on a field of white above an illustration of 4 glass panes.

A monograph is a specialized non-fiction work usually focusing on one topic. Generally, they are scholarly researched, and validated works. When I was in grad school, monographs were used to provide specialized and detailed views of a topic. And my professors generally assigned trusted and highly academic works. I would argue that many of the books on the Between Books shelf are not monographs since they often lack extensive references, were published by non-academic presses that may have lacked scrutiny of the research or were written with publicity in mind. But as animated features become increasingly accepted as not just entertainment but also reflections of social and cultural trends, technological innovations, and art the door opens for more and more monographs to be added to books that Disney fans seek out.

The Disney Animation Renaissance: Behind the Glass at the Florida Studio
by the late Mary E Lescher chronicles the development, rise, and closing of the combined Disney The Magic of Disney Animation attraction and Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida studio (the Florida studio). The studio and attraction co-existed from 1989 to 2004. The facility was originally designed for the Disney-MGM Studios theme park with a small animation team completing hand-drawn animation under the eyes of theme park guests. However, to Lescher’s readers, the story of the facility quickly changed as the tour educated guests on the traditional cell process but the animation team used techniques supported by computer workflows. While not truly equipped with Disney’s Computer Animation Production System (CAPS), Florida’s work was entered into CAPS production instead of following traditional hand-drawn animation. The Florida studio participated in the increased use of computer-supported animation as their hand-drawn images were scanned into CAPS in California.

The Florida studio were key contributors to Disney feature animation releases such as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. The popularity of Disney animated films evolved the Florida Studio’s emphasis from education and park attraction to animation production. This would eventually lead to the massive growth of the studio and the assignment of feature films fully produced in Florida starting with 1998’s Mulan. However, this success was short-lived as technical innovations changed animation, new largely CGI studios entered the market, and corporate politics eventually lead to the closure of the Florida studio in 2004.

The Disney Animation Renaissance is written for an academic-minded audience. The text can easily be used in a college classroom, with clear and accessible writing. But also the text has numerous citations and references which provide the text academic authority. That being said, for Disney history fans the book is informative and likely to scratch the hobby itch. The warning I would give is this is not a relaxation text but a study text. I read the monograph with a highlighter, bringing myself back to my college days. Lescher provides no unneeded sentences and every sentence and paragraph is combined to chronicle a period in Disney animation history. Lescher’s conclusions are well-argued and ones that readers can easily find themselves agreeing with.

Lescher was well-placed to offer up this book. She held a PhD, was a researcher, and museum curator who had facilitated animation exhibits. Lescher maintains an academic tone throughout the majority of the book. But she does break free of that tone at times as she brings forth personal prior experience as a long-time staffer of the Florida studio. This tone swap helps her reader understand her passion and beloved memories of this experience. But it also explains how and why so many veterans of the Florida studio have emotional deep memories of their time there. This experience also provided Lescher the academic access to numerous other Florida studio staffers for oral history collection.

The Disney Animation Renaissance: Behind the Glass at the Florida Studio by Mary E Lescher is an academic monograph that is also accessible to Disney animation and parks fans. Lescher provides several important conclusions about the second Disney animation Renaissance, technology, the role of CAPS, and most of all the Florida studio’s contributions to the history of animation. Animation fans will lock onto the history of the films that the studio contributed to making. Parks fans cannot help but be fascinated by the evolution of the attraction and the perceptions of the animators behind the glass. And most of all, the work shows how serious academic studies on animation endeavors can provide us with valuable lessons about business, technology, innovation, and culture. 


Review Copy Provided by The University of Illinois Press

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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Between Books - Santa Stops at Disneyland

Santa Stops at Disneyland written and illustrated by Ethan Reed is a Little Golden Book that depicts a moment that everyone who is young at heart would love to imagine, Santa Claus spending an evening at Disneyland. The words and images depict an evening trip for Santa and his sleigh at Disneyland Park. Reed shows his young audience a jam-packed day that includes both fun and work. Reed takes his readers through a truly joyful evening.

I am just starting to gather up Disney Parks-themed Little Golden Books. Many of us had them when we were kids. The Between Kids are now too old to be the target audience. But even as a Disney adult the book was still very fun for me. The images are cute and Reed illustrates Kris Kringle visiting the entire park, including my favorite rides. And Santa in a bobsled just looks right! We get to see Reed’s vision of the entire park. And plot-wise, Reed lets us know that Santa is a Disney adult! No seriously, he is a full-on Disney fan. If you are reading this review, you likely would believe that the Spirit of Christmas could be your pal. You read guide maps, Santa reads guide maps, clearly, we should all be holiday friends!

Santa Stops at Disneyland
by Ethan Reed put me in the Christmas mood. And I love the idea of a cute illustrated journey through Disneyland at Christmas. Maybe Little Golden Books are not just for the young, but also the young at heart.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that Between Disney receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Between Books - Star Wars: The High Republic Path of Deceit


Blue book cover showing three figures, one with a lightsaber standing in front of a Jedi crest.

Welcome to Star Wars: The High Republic!

Okay, we have actually been here before. Welcome to earlier in the Star Wars: The High Republic than we have ever been before!

There are Jedi!

There are lightsabers!

There is a lot of talk about the Force!

There are some young ladies with a name we have seen before in Star Wars: The High Republic!

And look over here, there is a ship that will become important later!

Yoda is not in the building!

Star Wars: The High Republic Path of Deceit by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland opens up a new chapter within Star Wars: The High Republic. Years before the creation of Starlight Beacon space station and the attack of the Nihil on the Republic, a Jedi, and her Padawan Kevmo Zink are tasked with finding stolen artifacts rich in the Force. They believe that on the planet Dalna, a group called the Path of the Open Hand is connected. The two investigate with Kevmo meeting the young Path member Mardo Ro who brings brightness to Kevmo’s life and challenges his beliefs about the Force itself. Kevmo and Mardo navigate the tension between the Path of the Open Hand, Jedi, and a plan that is greater than two young people.

Star Wars: The High Republic can be hard for me. I am convinced that Star Wars is best when visually presented. The mind needs visuals to see the whole magnificent picture. So, as we are invited into a tale that has no characters we have seen on the screen or in comics, LucasFilm is asking the authors to take on a hard task. They have to provide us information about where we are, hints to what is to come, and characters that we need to care about…and quickly. And they need to deliver the request at a young adult reading level. And I am a Disney adult, which I am sad to say only really means young at heart. This meant that Star Wars: The High Republic Path of Deceit did not work the best for me. The authors complete their charge, a young adult novel earlier in the High Republic than we have gone before. But I found myself asking the bigger questions; first, why did they not continue from the end of the last major event publishes in the High Republic instead of jumping backward? Second, I have friends who question the distribution of television series as they do not want to watch every episode of Star Wars: Rebels to understand what is occurring on Disney+. Is it possible by not giving us familiar characters in publishing that some of the hardcore readers may be turning away as the non-core asks this question?

Star Wars: The High Republic Path of Deceit has some familiar story threads. And the text has concepts that tell you that you are in Star Wars. And the authors clearly completed their assignment. But perhaps Disney executives should be reviewing their strategy in greater detail.

I mean, I will still read what is next! 


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Thursday, November 17, 2022

Between Books - Walt's Apprentice

Book cover for Walt's Apprentice with a collage that shows Dick Nunis, Walt Disney, Mickey Mouse and Disneyland castle as seperate images

It is a harsh reality that Walt Disney passed away over 55 years ago. And sadly it means that many of Disney’s close colleagues and acquaintances have been taken from us. Dick Nunis represents one of those colleagues who worked with Disney over half a century ago, who we have heard others talk about but who had not yet captured his memories working at Disney until now.

Walt’s Apprentice: Keeping the Disney Dream Alive by Dick Nunis collects Nunis’ memories. Nunis outlines his youth including his college football career at the University of Southern California. After suffering a significant injury, Nunis moved into education, then training and development where Disney hired him as part of the Disneyland opening day training team. After a successful launch, Nunis found himself in operations where he oversaw lands within the park. His focus on capacity, efficiency, and maintaining Walt Disney’s standards led to his oversight of park operations. Working closely with Disney, Nunis would find himself added to projects as assigned. This would include participation in a World’s Fair, an Olympics, and eventually Disney’s move to the east coast with Walt Disney World. Nunis would successfully lead operations on both coasts until his retirement. Nunis then describes his post-Disney years as ones where he remained active and shared Walt Disney’s standards with others.

Nunis was assisted by a book team that created an outline for his recollections. Chapters tend to be topical and do not fully link to each other. The writing is clear, his team likely included editing skills, and he is easy to understand. Nunis has a reputation for being gruff. And his writing at times leans into this image with one section including phrases that support the story of the taskmaster general. The value is to see and hear these stories in Nunis’ voice. For example, he clearly was proud of his actions during the Yippie invasion of Disneyland. The text allows him to share his thoughts on this historical moment instead of letting others describe his actions for him. The pages allow him to tell the story in his voice and as he would shape it. The interesting piece to me however was how little was new. So many writers and colleagues have talked about the man that stories are not generally new information. Instead, they are about Nunis, by Nunis, and all of them are collected in one volume. Each chapter ends with a business lesson from Nunis, Disney, or other colleagues. I found these quotes somewhat unneeded as I read the volume less as a business book than a memoir. And some of these lessons seemed a little stretched to fit.

Walt’s Apprentice by Dick Nunis paints the former executive as a student of Walt Disney. And for some who see Disney as creative or affable may not take to the imagery. But we must also remember that Walt Disney was not a man who issued praise, worked hard, and demanded high standards. And while Disney may not have seen himself as a general like Nunis is willing to do, in many ways Nunis learned much from Disney. We must never forget that people are complex and do not always fit the stereotypes we place within our heads. The great benefit of Walt’s Apprentice is this book captures Nunis’ memories in Nunis’ words including his impressions of Walt Disney and himself.

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Thursday, November 3, 2022

Between Books - Career Magic


Career Magic book cover with stars on a night sky.

My career combines operations, customer service, leadership, and relationship building. And being a big Disney fan introduced me to former Disney executive Lee Cockerell. I have a fairly robust intellectual diet of the former Executive Vice-President of Operations, Walt Disney World Resort’s thoughts and best practices. Cockerell recently updated one of his books I had not read before, so I jumped on the pre-order as it suddenly seemed very relevant in today’s current job-seeking world.

Career Magic: How to Stay on Track To Achieve a Stellar Career by Lee Cockerell has recently been updated. Cockerell in podcasts and presentations has stated that he was dissatisfied with the editing of the first edition and that this revised edition cleans up editing errors. Career Magic narratively follows a life and career. Cockerell outlines his steps from a poor family in Oklahoma, a short stint in college, joining the Army, and then starting a hospitality career. Cockerell started at the lowest levels as a banquet server and leveraged his growing experiences into leadership positions at Hilton and Marriott. As an executive, Disney recruited Cockerell to join the Disneyland Paris opening team before he moved to Walt Disney World where he finished a career earning a window on Main Street. The book ends with Cockerell’s current retirement life as a consultant and speaker. In each chapter, Cockerell recounts his career story, connects his story to lessons he learned, and then finishes the chapter with summary statements of his career lessons.

Jobs and careers are a big topic right now. So let’s start with what this book is not. This is not a job-seeking how-to book. Anyone wanting hints and tips in getting hired by Disney or maximizing a job search will be disappointed. Cockerell does not share his ideas on using LinkedIn or his favorite resume format. So those seeking a resource on the nuts and bolts of their job search will not find tactics here.

Instead, this is a career book! Again, not tactics but really this is a book that highlights strategy. For me, I see two main themes; relationship and excellence. I really see relationship as being tied to leadership for Cockerell. He will remind his readers that he was rarely given leadership training as his career advanced. And so he often had to grow this area. As I read his journey, it seemed to me that as he grew as a manager and leader, this was really expressed in his relationships. You see Cockerell grow as a leader and executive in how he treated others. And Cockerell advocates for interactions that are respectful and emphatic. Basically, to grow a career, be nice! Second Cockerell’s journey and growth is tied to his continued excellence in assigned tasks. He took on positions that often pushed his current capabilities. He threw himself into understanding these jobs and then executing on expectations. This excellence often lead to him being noticed and advanced. And while he did have setbacks in his career, he still focused on the task at hand which allowed others to observe his execution and keep him in mind for future advancements.

Writing style, the text is very approachable and feels like Cockerell’s voice in text form. Cockerell is recounting his professional journey and the writing, and perhaps updated editing, provide an easy-to-follow story, even for those lacking a hospitality background. He also does a good job of providing easy-to-understand lessons that are directly tied to his career progress.

So many professionals in the current state of the world are reflecting on job seeking and careers. Career Magic provides professionals with many considerations while considering the next strategic steps and potential job changes. Those who are facing obstacles, perhaps they will find hope that relationship and excellence can create a career legacy of success. For those professionals who are also Disney fans, they will find two chapters on Disney parks operations that may spark additional interest. Lee Cockerell provides us with content to reflect on as we all look to create a career that satisfies and interests us.


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Monday, September 19, 2022

Between Books - Women of Walt Disney Imagineering

Book covering shwoing the tools of Imagineering including a Sorcerer Mickey themed hard hat, a compass, colored pencils, amd more.

Women of Walt Disney Imagineering: 12 Women Reflect on Their Trailblazing Theme Park Careers presents essays from twelve different Imagineers who have combined decades of experience in numerous Imagineering trades. The collective authors are show designers, vice presidents, lighting designers, landscape architects, and more. Some of them are children of well-known Disney executives and legends. Oh…and they are all women! The group has an impressive portfolio, but their common thread is sharing their work experiences in an atmosphere and culture led and dominated by men.

Women of Walt Disney Imagineering is fairly straightforward. The twelve authors contribute a series of essays that discuss their times at Imagineering, as all of them have not left through job changes or retirements. Each essay is solely in the tone and experience of the author made up of Maggie Irvine Elliot, Kathy Rogers, Katie Olson, Julie Svendsen, Paula Dinkel Elisabete Minceff Erlandson, Tori Atencio McCullough, Pam Rank, Becky Bishop, Karen Connelly Armitage, Lyne Macer Rhodes, and Peggie Fariss. As a group, the essays are easy to read and relatively straightforward. Additionally, they do a great job of introducing readers to a number of Imagineering experiences including working one’s way up through the company and making a career, balancing home and professional life, and positive/negative treatments of women in the workplace.

There is a wide breadth of experiences in this book, more than one can express in one review. First and foremost, it was not always easy being a woman in the male-dominated WDI (Walt Disney Imagineering). There are examples of sexual harassment by unnamed male employees. But other forms of discrimination are discussed from being ignored to having male colleagues take credit for the authors’ work. For everyone, working at WDI may not have been as idyllic as many of us would hope. We should applaud Disney Editions for allowing less-than-flattering stories to hit the page. Though they at times make fans feel good as John Hench, Marty Sklar, and others show as positive professional mentors. Second, it is clear that at times female Imagineers had to suffer through perceptions in the office that made them come off as negative in the eyes of co-works, and sometimes that was what was needed to get the job done. And finally, there were often tough decisions that had to be made when balancing work and family.

Women of Walt Disney Imagineering: 12 Women Reflect on Their Trailblazing Theme Park Careers provides windows into 12 Imagineering careers. All of the authors have lessons to share from their journeys. And all were satisfied with their careers, as shown by their willingness to contribute to this volume. It is a very readable volume, which helps to demonstrate that Imanigeering is not just the domain of men.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Between Books - Star Wars: The Princess and the Scoundrel



Book Cover for Star Wars The Princess and the Scoundrel showing Han  and Leia empbracing with the Haylcon in the background and a seperate forest and ice scape in the foreground.


Some people love it, some people hate it, and Disney excels at it.

I needed to read Star Wars: Princess and the Scoundrel to better prepare myself for a future trip to somewhere I have never been, Disney’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and the exclusive Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, the Haylcon, experience.

Readers are dropped into the days following the destruction of the second Death Star on Endor as Star Wars: The Princess and the Scoundrel by Beth Revis opens. Han Solo confesses his love and proposes to Rebel hero Princess Leia Organa. The Rebel Alliance puts on an Ewok Wedding, and the two plan to honeymoon. Despite the Rebel victory, the Empire still stands and is reorganizing. And while the newly married couple should take some time to honeymoon, they instead merge politics and love as they take a very public honeymoon on the recently recommissioned tourist starship, the Halcyon. The two struggle with defining what their new marriage looks like in a new universe where both will have plenty of responsibility and danger. Leia uses this trip to work in some ambassador work and the couple must show the galaxy that the Empire has truly fallen.

Star Wars books and I don't always get along. Mental images at times create frustration for me as the different species distract me as I try to remember what they all look like. However, here I did not have this concern. Instead, sadly, I just found this book a little dull. The plot was not quite galactic trade routes but it was close. Much of the book revolves around what the new galaxy can and will look like. So, lots of talky talky talky. The plot is a bit predictable with no action till nearly 70% into the book. I really preferred Revis’ Star Wars: Rebel Rising which better spaced the action. And let us be honest, Star Wars is an action story and we need a constant stream of incidents to keep the reader’s attention.

Sadly, the text also did not really get me excited about the Halcyon. My understanding is that incidents occurred that tie to visits on the Halcyon today. Though as a reader we really do not spend much time on the Halcyon and exploring the ship. Instead, we spend a lot of moments on two separate moons. And I left the book, not at all excited about the possibility of a future stay on the ship.

Synergy gives, and synergy takes away. Sadly, for me, Star Wars: The Princess and the Scoundrel fails to get Disney fans excited for a resort stay. And I think that those who want to visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge should instead look to Star Wars: Black Spire which familiarizes readers with what they may see in the park…but not the Haylcon.

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Monday, August 29, 2022

Between Books - The Disney Revolt


The Disney Revolt book cover showing men and women in a picket line holding protest signs including Donald Duck and asking if they are mice or men.

The Disney Revolt by Jake S Friedman could be my favorite new Disney book of 2022. It entertains, educates, and provides more depth into a turning point moment in Disney history. This book is a must-read for those who are Disney animation history enthusiasts.

The Disney Revolt: The Great Labor War of Animation’s Golden Age by Jake S, Friedman details the rise of Disney animation, the animation strike of 1941, and the long-term repercussions of this event. While at moments, it reminds me of a Parallel Lives of Plutarch formula, using Walt Disney and Art Babbit as the main entries into the story, it is really the insight into Babbit’s life that gave me the most interest as a reader. Friedman discusses the early life and career of Walt Disney to the founding of his animation studio and the release of animated shorts to features with Snow White. Disney evolves as a businessman with working-class roots who was close to his small yet growing staff and invested in their development with the creation of the in-studio art school as he attempted to maximize his artist’s efforts. As the business grew, the gap between labor and management also grew. This led to miscommunication and differing priorities over schedules, salaries, credit, and bonuses. Additionally, labor in Hollywood became increasingly organized, due to market and criminal forces, which meant eventually union influences would make their way to the studio. Disney and his leadership team attempted to shepherd and control, these influences in an attempt to keep the union voices pro-Disney, At the same time, the intelligent and outspoken Babbit worked to limit management control hoping that the voice of the worker would be truly heard. This eventually led Babbit to lead the 1941 lockout that would polarize employees and in some cases break relationships forever. Case in point, Babbit himself would virtually be exiled within the studio and later forced to leave with his art contributions largely ignored by the studio. Friedman presents us a history of Disney labor relations that is factual and highlights the faults of all involved in what was a painful and messy moment in Disney history.

While I at times saw similarities with the Parallel lives structure, it was really the Babbit content that stuck most with me. Friedman, in my mind, does not make him the hero of the book he provides a balanced view of Babbit’s life. I have found that other books will make mention of Babbit as only a victim, but Friedman introduces us to a man who was innovative and artistic and yet flawed. Babbit could carry grudges and act on perceived offenses that perhaps would be best ignored. He was passionate about things that he believed matter, and in this case, making sure that Disney employees were able to be heard on the union issue and not forced into a decision and organization that did not truly represent them. It is easy to see him standing on the picket line, yelling at his colleagues for breaking the line, and doing so with a tone that would forever break their friendships, until their elder years. Friedman shows us also an artist who was not perfect, at times needing to work outside of the Disney standard, and was innovative as he brought forth ideas like film reference.

The Disney Studio does not leave this account guilt-free. Walt and his leadership team were very invested, too invested, in creating a pro-management union at the studio. And many of their actions were underhanded and deceitful. It was not Babbit, but the studio, that interacted with gangsters in attempts to end the strike! Reading this account, one’s stomach gets squeamish as you read about Disney’s counsel Gunther Lessing and some of his actions at and before Disney. For strikers and management, everyone has a share of the blame for the moment that turned vicious and ended the family feeling at the studio.

The text is a solid work of history. It is extensively researched and notated. Additionally, it is well-written and engaging for a work that is primarily academic in tone. I enjoyed the use of pictures, which are sprinkled through the pages instead of condensed in one spot. They are put next to the most relevant moments and help to move the story along.

The Disney Revolt: The Great Labor War of Animation’s Golden
Age by Jake S, Friedman is an engaging story of a key moment in Disney and animation history. Readers get to better know Art Babbit, both his strengths and weaknesses, and are reminded that Disney is a company that acts on business interests. If you told me that I would “enjoy” a labor history, I would have likely laughed. But seeing this moment through the eyes of Babbit and Disney created different views of this moment and likely a better understanding of this turning point!

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

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Friday, August 12, 2022

Between Books - The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World Third Edition


Book cover for the Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World showing a castle with fireworks in the background.

Susan Veness’ The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World book has long been a standard here at Between Disney. But a lot has changed at Walt Disney World, and here at Between Disney, since the first edition was reviewed in 2011. And it was just a few years ago, in my mind, that I reviewed the Second Edition. And boom, there arrived at my doorstep a Third Edition in 2020…during a time when I was slowly working through Between Books. Slowly, I have been picking up on reviews again and this new edition is really the best place for me to kick off a new era of Between Book reviews.

The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World: Over 600 Secrets of the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Third Edition by Susan Veness follows the same general plan as the earlier editions. Veness walks readers through the four Walt Disney World Resort parks land by land. As she takes this walk she drops fun facts and behind-the-scenes information that for many, okay readers like me, will find delightful and help to expand the park experience. The book is text-driven, with little to no pictures except for a map that highlights some facts about each park.

Overall, the facts are interesting and delightful. I have read a lot of Disney books, yet I felt like I experienced many new to me facts. The text was well-written and engaging. But for some reason, I did find that it took me a bit to get into the text. This may be due to the fact there was content I had read before in this format. But as I got further into the text, my attention was increasingly grabbed instead of diminished. I worried that new sections such as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge would spoil me but instead I felt the sections prepared me and helped grab my interest. I felt like the surprises I have kept from myself were not revealed.

It could be the lack of images and photos that may have been my initial barrier to all in. As I read a section I often attempted to mentally picture the layout of the area. I assume the lack of images is tied to copyright issues. And while this text can be used to prepare a traveler, it may even be better in the park as a guide to help fill time in lines, as visitors play a game to find the secret the text points out. For this purpose, the book is light enough to fit in a small backpack but even better would be a Kindle edition on a cell phone.

I did note in the past I would like a section about Downtown Disney/Disney Springs. Content about Disney Springs and the water parks would be fun, but the editions are all consistent in creating boundaries around the theme parks.

As expected from a revised edition, content is often the same. The France section of the World Showcase that I discussed in the Second Edition remains unchanged but has shifted to page 129 to align with the new and removed content in this edition. This fact just leads me to suggest that new readers really should consider the newest edition for the most updated content with the key details found in earlier editions. This is underscored by the growth in each volume as the original had 242 pages, the Second 255 pages, and the Third 286 pages. This text is like the park is expanding. Get the newest fellow readers!

The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World is a go-to book for me. It is fun. It is well written. And it has a lot of facts. It has the power to prepare someone for a trip, especially if they want to sound knowledgeable on Disney secrets. Also, it could provide park fun, as family members waiting for their next attraction seek out the secrets provided for each section. I will continue to recommend The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World for those who want to read up on park secrets before they visit the Walt Disney World Resort.

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

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Thursday, June 23, 2022

Between Books- A Portrait of Walt Disney World

Book cover for A Portrait of Walt Disney showing a horse drawn Cinderella style carriage being driven around the hub in front of Cinderella castle.

50 years of joy at the Walt Disney World Resort have arrived! And how do we celebrate? A Between Book of course is the best way to party! And when we say Between Book, we mean a massive, big, back-breaking, coffee table book.

A Portrait of Walt Disney World: 50 Years of the Most Magical Place on Earth by Kevin M. Kern, Tim O’Day, and Steven Vagnini is a massive coffee table book highlighting 50 years of magic. The text opens with the expected historical path with the authors outlining the origin, development, and construction of the Magic Kingdom Park in Florida. This history is followed by themes. For example, the first theme, nostalgia shows how the entire resort encapsulates the ideal of the past as the authors walk through Main Street U.S.A., the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Liberty Square, the Haunted Mansion, Hollywood Boulevard and other attractions and locations which fit the theme. The text is illustrated with gorgeous color photos and concept art. Other themes which follow this pattern include fantasy, discovery, tomorrow, and reflections. The book concludes with a chapter that provides detail around the 50th anniversary celebration.

Overall, the book is brilliantly illustrated and visually enjoyable to dive into. The accompanying text fits the images well and is well-written. The piece that took me the most to adapt to was the themes. When you have read as many Between Books as us, do we not all expect that they will walk park-to-park and then land-by-land in each chapter? But here the themes transition from park to attraction to resort hotel to attraction again. So the reader must come to learn to follow the theme and not the geographical area as they proceed through the book. It is also very large, and expensive, so I do not suggest attempting to read the book all in one sitting…especially if it is sitting on your lap. This offering is also long-term going to be a collectors item and not something for your friend who is just showing a passing interest in the park, especially due to the large price point especially for periods where it may be out of print.

A Portrait of Walt Disney World: 50 Years of the Most Magical Place on Earth can help all of us park fans celebrate the park no matter how Between a visit we truly are. It is visually pleasing and can help us connect to the Florida Project no matter where we are. We just have to be willing to pay a fee which is closer to a one-day ticket than we may guess.  

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Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Between Books - Imagineering An American Dreamscape

Book Cover for Imagineering An American Dreamscape showing a Ferris Wheel

I spend a lot of time between Disney dreaming about a good Disney Parks day. But, I have rarely explored the parks between Disneyland and Walt Disney World. And I hoped Imagineering An American Dreamscape could better inform me about regional parks and perhaps even get me excited to visit one.

Imagineering An American Dreamscape: Genesis, Evolution, and the Redemption of the American Theme Park by Barry R. Hill details the history of the American theme park from the late 19th century to the recent past. Hill describes the types of parks that existed before Disneyland, how they influenced Walt Disney’s park, and how Disneyland would then impact regional entertainment after its popularity grew. From early rides like steeplechases to high-speed roller coasters, Hill describes the economic measures needed to attract and then retain visitors to an audience familiar with larger national parks. The tale is one of copying Disney’s and other successful models, followed by a need to change due to the economics of the market. And much of this is followed by economic shifts as parks closed and consolidated as economics pressured the local park owners who could not retain growth or saw the need to add big-ticket attractions to their parks outstripped their pocketbooks.

I enjoyed Imagineering An American Dreamscape. It is well-written and engaging. It is extensively referenced, showing that Hill has deeply researched his topic. Sometimes, he does move from the historian's tone to one of nostalgia. But these tone shifts show his deep love of this topic. Hill introduced me to parks like Astroland, Great America, King’s Dominion, and so many more. He also does an excellent job of showing how regional parks like Six Flags Over Texas impacted the Disney experience today, moving from attraction tickets to a single admission.

Hill notes that the entertainment experience is becoming blurred. Regionally we may not be able to determine what is a theme park, amusement park, mall, or museum in the future. Hill shows us clearly how economic factors have impacted the history of these experiences, their need for them in our regions, and the excitement of enjoying these venues.

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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Cap's Comics - W.E.B. of Spider-Man

Comic book cover for  W.E.B. of Spider-Man showing Spider-Man swing over the W.E.B. building.



Here I sit, stuck between two Disney parks, and it has been years since I have been able to visit Orlando or Anaheim. And one of the dreams that has become a reality since my last visit to the Disneyland Resort is Avengers Campus. Yes, I want to go there! Marvel and Disney with W.E.B. of Spider-Man, which collects the five single issues of this comic title, are trying to get myself and my younger self motivated to visit the new land and WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure.

In W.E.B. of Spider-Man, writer Kevin Shinick and artist Alberto Alburquerque introduce Peter Parker to the Worldwide Engineering Brigade (W.E.B.) established by Tony Start to gather great young thinkers together to solve the world’s emerging problems. W.E.B. members include Harley Kenner from Iron Man 3, Lunella Lafayette the Moon Girl, Onome, a genius girl from Wakanda, Doreen Green the Unstoppable Squirrel Girl, and Amadeus Cho also known as Brawn. The youngsters are joined by the Spider-Bots found in the ride. The team is drawn into a battle with some familiar-faced villains attempting to steal key data from W.E.B. Peter struggles in this adventure to determine whether he or his alter ego, Spider-Man, best fits within the W.E.B. team dynamic.  

This title is for 10+. And honestly, it is for that age, and a little bit older, this best would work. As an adult, I found the lack of foreshadowing for the big bad to be a major miss. And I think for young readers, the lack of foreshadowing and general low visibility of this villain is problematic. I do not believe the ten-year-old crowd knows who the villain is and may not care about them. I think all readers needed to Scooby-Doo this where we take off the mask and yell it was you! But that is lacking. The story is what you need and expect from a comic from this age, with Alburquerque providing very professional and well-done art. I can see an 11-year-old reading this a few times before hitting the park, but it will likely never be any adult readers entry comic to the ride, where the movies should be taking that role for most of the audience.  

W.E.B. of Spider-Man is a story with a hiccup or two. But it performs as needed by creating a comic story accessible to young readers. And best of all, from a Disney synergy window, it likely will make some young people feel closer to the Spider-Man ride and the backstory and lead to pleas to get into line! 

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Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Between Books - Mary Poppins & Mary Poppins Comes Back

Book cover shwoing Mary Poppins flying with a umbrella over the city of London.


For years I have had a copy of Mary Poppins & Mary Poppins Comes Back by P.L. Travers sitting on my Between Books shelf, but I have never had a chance to read it.  Recently, I decided to pick it up and dive into the story that was a key Disney movie moment.  As I read through it, I realized how factual another semi-fictional Disney film actually was and the challenge this story presented. 

Mary Poppins & Mary Poppins Comes Back by P.L. Travers collects the first two books of Travers' Mary Poppins series.  The titles consist of a series of short stories detailing the interactions between the magical nanny Mary Poppins and the four, yep four, Banks children.  The characters will feel familiarish to anyone who has seen the Poppins films.  And the stories will occasionally remind one of the movies as we travel into China bowls or visit a laughing uncle.  But overall, the stories are generally not connected and provide short incidents, which are often confusing and nonsensical, with the Banks children.

When we hear the story of the Disney movie, we are told that Walt's children loved these stories.  But to be honest, I did not.  They really are confusing at times and I often feel like the characters are not that approachable.  If anything, reading through these makes it clear how factual Saving Mr. Banks is, as it would have been impossible to make a straight adaptation of this writing into an engaging movie.  In short, the Travers' stories had to be adapted, and the Sherman Brothers and Don DaGradai did an excellent job taking random stories and connecting them together.  For example, the presence of Mr. Banks is somewhat invisible in the book, and the choice to make him the antagonist helps string together a watchable movie.  Ironically, at the same time, I was reading this Between Book, I also started listening to the Sherman Brothers series on the Disney History Institute podcast which focused on the facts of Saving Mr. Banks and describes the actual adaption of the book into a movie.  

In short, I was disappointed by Mary Poppins & Mary Poppins Comes Back.  I will not read any more of the series.  it is not for me.  But I also better understand the challenge that Walt Disney and his team faced when creating a classic movie. 

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Friday, February 11, 2022

Between Books - Disney World at 50

Book cover for Disney World at 50 showing the Founders Statue of Walt Disney holding Mickey Mouse's hand in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom park.

The Orlando Sentinel’s Disney World at 50: The Stories of How Walt’s Kingdom Became Magical in Orlando collects portions of the Orland Sentinel’s fifty years of reporting on the Florida vacation kingdom.   The book collects portions of articles printed in the Orlando Sentinel with tons of images from Walt Disney World.  The book covers the history of the park chronologically from the announcement for the park to the park today.  Topics covered include building the Magic Kingdom, opening day, transportation, changes in the park, and 2021 events.

The text is a pretty interesting read.  The audience gets to read historical news articles with the knowledge of today to better understand intentions and things that did not occur.  The images are very enjoyable, and coming from the newspaper's archive and not Disney’s photo collection provides many new to me images.  I do find that the page numbers are at times lost in images.  Additionally, there is a gap in the narrative.  The book jumps 24 years to the current day and the impact of the Coronavirus on the parks.  And the several pages of content do feel out of balance with other topics in the book.  Honestly, I would have found it more balanced if an event like September 11th and that park closure was included due to the impact on American society.  

The Orlando Sentinel’s Disney World at 50: The Stories of How Walt’s Kingdom Became Magical in Orlando is an interesting visual adventure.  It allows us to look back with what we know today and revisit the past.  And with images that we typically do not see in other books, readers can enjoy the 50th anniversary regardless of where we are between the parks.  

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Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Between Books - Claude Coats: Walt Disney’s Imagineer

Book cover showing Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle and an insert of Claude Coats at his workdesk.


Claude Coats: Walt Disney’s Imagineer-The Making of Disneyland From Toad Hall to the Haunted Mansion and Beyond by David Bossert is an excellent addition to the history of Disney Imagineering.  The text balances images with narratives and gives this legendary Imagineer the chronicle he deserves.

The text offers exactly as titled.  Bossert works through Coats’ career from birth to the completion of one of his most famous projects, The Haunted Mansion.  The book outlines his early career from art student to animation.  Bossert follows with discussions of his transitioning to work on Disneyland, moving beyond design to actually painting backgrounds to get the work done.  The discussion of the Grand Canyon Diorama is one of the most in-depth that I have seen.  Chapters provide details on his collaborations for the fan-beloved Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion.  But along the journey, the book includes interludes on presentations to NASA and painting for the U.S. Air Force.  The text is well-balanced with Coats’ images and text providing historical context to Coats’ work.

The text is really well done overall.  Bossert helps us understand Coats as an artist as he was someone who unlike Marc Davis did not work alone in his office.  But instead would often work outside working on models and collaborating with other artists.  Bossert frames Coats, not as someone who would be adversarial with other artists.  But instead, someone who was a team player, mentor, and project management.  Additionally, the chapter on the Air Force paintings demonstrated Coats as an artist outside of his Disney work and makes it clear that he truly was a respected Califroonaia fine artist.  The biggest gap I see in the books is a lack of discussion after the Haunted Mansion.  It would be interesting to be able to compare the frustrated Marc Davis after the Mansion with Coats and how he navigated being creative as the next generation grew into their own.  

Claude Coats: Walt Disney’s Imagineer-The Making of Disneyland From Toad Hall to the Haunted Mansion and Beyond by David Bossert is a great inclusion to the Between Books bookshelf.  It is well written and illustrated.  And it clearly left me wanting more.  Maybe we needed a two-volume set here! 

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Monday, January 17, 2022

Between Books - They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney's Late Golden Age The 1940's - Part Two


Book cover showing hippos dancing

Short Version - They Drew as They Pleased by Didier Ghez is really good.  If you like or love Disney animation and books you will want very volume.  With volume three, that summary can continue!

Long Version - They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney's Late Golden Age The 1940's - Part Two by Didier Ghez is the third volume in this art driven series.  Ghez again features treasures from Disney's story artists.  This volume focuses on members of the short lived Character Model Department in the 1940’s under the leadership of legend Joe Grant  The artists including Jack Miller, Campbell Grant, James Bodrero, and Martin Provensen may be a group that honestly are not familiar with every Disney fan.  But they were a group who contributed significantly to the look and feel of Disney features like Fantasia and animated shorts in the 1940s. 

For me, I really focused on Miller, Grant, Bodrero, and Provensen.  The Character Model Department  was only functional for a few years.  And they were often resented by their animation colleagues for their ability to play and dream.  But the group was made of high-quality artists, many of them finding their way to other commercial avenues after Disney.  And they were extremely close with Grant, Bodrero, and Provensen living together, playing together, and seeming like a real life Three Musketeers.  While there were several projects discussed, I found myself struck with the differences between Fantasia and Victory Through Air Power during World War II.  Fantasia concept art from these artists is true fine art.  But for the air power propaganda film, well there is no concept art in these brilliantly illustrated paintings.  As this Disney passion project bored them with charts and arrows and in some cases drove them one step closer to leaving the studio even joining the war effort.  Leaving the studio is a true theme as it is shocking yet again how short some of these masters’ tenure at Disney was. 

Yes, They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney's Late Golden Age The 1940's - Part Two is a volume that history loving Disney fans want and need.  Well written and beautifully illustrated it is yet another joyful read. 

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