Daily Figment 91 – Book Review: A Visit to Disneyland

I can imagine Walt Disney’s A Visit to Disneyland being one of the most well-read, cherished and worshipped books in any child’s collection in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.

I envision late evenings under the covers with a flashlight; the book spread out below you. Lazy Saturday afternoons spent dreaming of visiting Disneyland while going over the pages again and again. Begging mom and dad to take you to see the sights outlined in the pages.

The text is presented in verse form and follows most of the main lands and attractions available in 1965. There are pictures from the park and illustrations by Stan Tusan (and have a very primitive Mary Blair feel). The illustrations show two young children enjoying the park. They are shown in the background visiting the same attractions as we read about them.

The copy I recently acquired even has artwork by one of the previous owners. The verso of the title page has a map of Disneyland drawn as if a child had created it with his or her crayons. My copy has some of the icons filled in: the Matterhorn is orange, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle is resplendent in purple and yellow, the foilage is green and the Rocket to the Moon is green and black. I can imagine the care and the excitement of the young artist as they added their own touch and feelings to the map.

Can’t you?


Do you have one moment that defines your first Disney Park experience? The one item that made you want to visit? The one that started your longing?

I can remember seeing a viewmaster of the Haunted Mansion when I was about 6 years old. I can remember seeing a shot of the front doors and another of the ballroom scene. From that moment forward, I was smitten and had the images seared into my mind. It would take almost 18 years for me to make my first trip and the Haunted Mansion would be my first Disney ride–ever.
Was it worth the wait? You bet.

Leave adventure and magic behind you.
But please don’t shed one single tear.
The way Disneyland’s growing
There’s no way of knowing
What suprise you’ll find next time you’re here!

–endpaper,Walt Disney’s A Visit to Disneyland



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6 thoughts on “Daily Figment 91 – Book Review: A Visit to Disneyland

  1. I remember listening to Sounds from the Haunted Mansion, long before I ever visited the park.

    Memories from my first trip are very hazy . . . I remember hiding my face on POTC, and eating lunch somewhere near the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse.

    I love that quote from the end of the book. I wish they had that at the exit gates, and maybe even in Orlando on the Magical Express! I’ll bet I’m not the only one who’s ever cried on the bus ride back to MCO.

  2. The most potent Disneyland-related memory from my childhood was rushing home frmo school every afternoon to watch the slate of Disney programming on The Family Channel (Canada’s then-version of the Disney Channel). There were the standard anthology shows of old cartoons, the house at Pooh Corner live action Winnie The Pooh show, and the original Mickey Mouse Club.

    Of course, as the original Mickey Mouse Club, they would pretty consistently feature segments advertizing this brand new place called Disneyland. The ones that impressed me the most were the black-and-white vistas of Frontierland. Maybe it’s because I come from a ranching family in Canada’s “wild west”, but I really, really wanted to paddle those canoes and run around Fort Wilderness.

    As I grew up, I fell out of an interest in Disney… Kid’s stuff, y’know, not to mention the official big bad corporate monster sucking the life and creativity out of the Western world with their insipid cartoons and consumerism… Thankfully I got over that phase through the twin-pronged attack of Scientific Romances and the Haunted Mansion.

    Nurturing my interest in Victorian Sci-Fi, I couldn’t get far without running into the cool stuff Disney had made in film and theme park. And nurturing my interest in groovy classic horror kitsch, I couldn’t get far without running into the Haunted Mansion. Then the rest started pouring in… The Mansion led to the Disney Villains, which led to the classic fairy tale films which matched my interest in Victorian Mediaevalism. My interest in Victorian Sci-Fi is part of a larger interest in old things, which led back around to those classic fairy tales and black-and-white Mickey Mouse cartoons, not to mention Walt’s love affair with the nostalgic. That love of old things led to me getting a degree in Museum and Heritage Studies; a discipline for which, like it or not (and many don’t) Disneyland is the elephant in the room.

    After meeting some folks at Doombuggies.com, I finally took my first ever trip in May of 2005, the day after the beginning of the 50th anniversary. I won’t get into the grusome details, but the first half of that weekend was actually denoted by horrendous (and expensive) disappointment! Suffice it to say that the theme park wasn’t quite up to the fully and flawlessly immersive experience I was expecting… That and Fort Wilderness was closed!!

    What turned it around, though, was the Disney Animation exhibit in California Adventure. There was exactly what I came to Disneyland for: a full immersion into, and celebration of, the imaginative world of Disney animation. First was that amazing foyer with its sight and sound medley of the films, followed by the Magic Mirror’s alchemical lab! The Beast’s Library! Ursula’s lair!

    Unfortunately, with that having got me in the mood, I only had one more very rushed day left. Which, in turn, required a second trip in May ’06… And that was about the best trip of my life, if not the best week of my life. Finally in the mood to approach Disneyland as it actually was, along with such a great group of people, equated to an amazing time.

    In fact, there’s too many good memories from that to pin-point any exact one: Was it riding in the Lilly Belle? Sitting right in front of the castle for Remember, Dreams Come True? Those quiet, misty mornings walking around old Tom Sawyer’s Island? Whipping out all our cell phones for the photo on the Tower of Terror? Being pulled into the Laughing Stock Company’s “dating game” skit? Topping the week off by having my Doombuggy stop right in front of the brand new Constance, on my last ride on my last night using the last two shots on my camera before my last set of batteries died?

    I don’t know, but I do know that I can’t wait to go back!

  3. My first trip to Disneyland wasn’t until the 90’s (1990’s thank you very much…I know my husband thinks I am old, but I am clarifying for my sanity). I had been to DisneyWorld my entire life over and over and just knew there was no way DisneyLand could compete. Was I ever mistaken…
    Disneyland stands on its own with a unique magic and charm. When I went to DisneyWorld I wanted that same feeling I got every Sunday night when the whole family got around the television and watched the Wonderful World of Disney. Part of it you will to occur through your own deluge of magic (your imagination) and the most carefully laid out drama that is managed by the cast members for Disney. I get that Wonderful World of Disney Sunday night feel everytime I visit any of the parks. Surreal and peaceful, even vacation stress just isn’t as stressful.

  4. Thanks for this lovely post George. I’d love to see more of the illustrations from the book, but what lovely descriptions you gave! It’s so sad but I actually can’t remember my first trip to Disneyland as I’ve been going there all my life. Really. Since I was like 1 year old my parents have taken me. But it’s still just as nostalgic. There’s no magic kingdom that can best the original park.

  5. Wow…

    Thanks for all of the amazing comments!

    When my wife got this book for me, I was instantly captivated by it and thought about all of the times I stared at toy catalogs with Star Wars characters. Now I dream of visiting WDW all of the time!

    I can only imagine how different my Disney experience would of been had I seen this titles back in the day.

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