Thursday, March 30, 2023

Between Books - The Story of Disney: 100 Years of Wonder

Book cover for The Story of Disney 100 Years of Wonder with shilloutes of Disney characters ringed along the edges of the book.

No hologram Walts here my friend!

The Story of Disney: 100 Years of Wonder by John Baxter, Bruce C. Steele, and the Staff of the Walt Disney Archives is a companion book to the Disney100: The Exhibition which began traveling the world in 2023 to coincide with the Walt Disney Company’s 100th year. The book is broken into topics that include the foundation of the company, adventure, innovation, the parks, sound, and others. Since the book is topical, each chapter generally covers large spans of the company’s century of history and multiple subtopics. Each chapter comes across as an essay with a variety of supporting color images and interstitials that highlights historic people or moments.

This text is trying to capture in a visually pleasing way 100 years of history. This is a drinking from the firehouse situation. As a reader, you will get deep on nothing. But you will glance off a lot of Disney creations as they get namechecked for their historical contributions. It does at times feel like films and tv get more space than parks, but the parks-specific essay is in the last half of the book. If one was to teach a course on Disney history, The Story of Disney: 100 Years of Wonder could serve as the textbook. But other texts would be required to ensure that students could learn deeply on specifics. The images are visually wonderful, as one would expect from the Disney Archives.

I do find it interesting how Bob Chapek is managed in this book. The book was being completed during the time that Bob Chapek’s tenure began to sour and eventually Bob Iger returned as CEO. Chapek is thanked for his interviews…but he’s never mentioned in the text of the book. But Bob Iger is really prominent as he adds color to the company’s history. I speculate that much of the real estate given to Iger speaking as the company’s leader may originally have been reserved for Chapek. And with him leaving the company, he was replaced and removed from the history. Disney can be very controlling of their history’s image. And I wonder if, like Michael Eisner, who is mentioned once, we will see Chapek have a historical return in a few decades, especially for his work in home video.

The Story of Disney: 100 Years of Wonder
by John Baxter, Bruce C. Steele, and the Staff of the Walt Disney Archives is a celebration of 100 years. It is visually appealing with text that varies between historical examination and marketing speak, as one would find in D23 Magazine. And that is not shocking with contributors that are often asked to fill this assignment of informing fans about and marketing Disney products.

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