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.  

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

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.

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