Book Review: Disneyland: Inside Story by Randy Bright

Disneyland: Inside Story (1987, 240 pages) by Disney Legend Randy Bright is a wonderful look at the first 30 years of Disneyland. Randy started at Disneyland in 1959 as a crew member of the Columbia Sailing Ship. Since then, he has worked every position at Disneyland, including the Spaceman in Tomorrowland. He joined Walt Disney Imagineering in 1968 and worked on show writing. He has held various positions, including: Manager of Employee Communications, Manager of Concepts and Communications, Director of Scripts and Show Development, Vice-president Concept Development and Executive Producer for Disneyland and Walt Disney theme parks. Randy researched and wrote Disneyland: Inside Storyfor two years; it was published in 1987. In 1990, he was struck by a car while bicycling and died. He was made a Disney Legend in 2005.

It was very obvious from the book that Randy loved Disneyland. This book was the first official history of Disneyland–and remains the most authoritative one available. Don’t let the fact that it stops at 1987 keep you from purchasing this title.

Originally, as I was reading the book, I kept thinking that most of the information presented, I already knew. It wasn’t until I finished the book and started looking at some of my other Disney titles, that I saw that most of them used Randy’s book as a reference. It is considered to be the penultimate history of Disneyland.

Like most works on Disney, the book starts off with a brief history of the Studios and quickly moves into Walt and his fascination with trains. The Carolwood-Pacific, Disneylandia and the Burbank site are all discussed–ultimately leading to the Anaheim park that we know today. Randy details how Walt struggled to get financing and how he pulled together members of the Studio to do the design work on the attractions.

As Randy moves through the history of the park, he looks at the development of each land, providing concept sketches, artwork and photos. In hindsight, it is amazing that the Company was able to create Disneyland in a year. Although it is an authorized history of Disneyland, Randy doesn’t neglect the insider stories like the opening-day disaster (it is referred to as Black Monday). He also has other stories sprinkled throughout the book. You don’t get a sense that they were true disasters, but learning opportunities for the Company and Walt.

The book is filled with some of the most beautiful full-color and black-and-white photographs of the park throughout the years. There are candid shots of guests enjoying the park and full-page spreads of attractions, lands and aerial views.

This is a great introduction to Disneyland for so many reasons. Randy looks at each ride in the park’s history and presents background information, development, history and humor, when available. He takes us through Disneyland’s first ten years, the 1964-65 World’s Fair and back to Disneyland. He recounts the struggles to change and plus the park while keeping one step ahead of changing guest demand and technology. Randy writes about the years after Walt with poignancy. He expresses how the Company pushed forward with Pirates and struggled with the Haunted Mansion–eventually needing to partner with outside companies to produce their newest attractions.

Bottom Line: This is an amazing reference book and I highly recommend it. It is out of print and like many other Disney titles, the price has skyrocketed. You will have to buy this title on Amazon or eBay and expect to pay between $75 and $150 for a copy in good shape–I have seen it go as high as $350.00. In my collection, this stands as one of the top 5 most important titles that I own. Not only for its historical importance, but that it has some of the most amazing photographs of Disneyland available anywhere (except Daveland, of course!). If you can snag a copy–go for it. You will not be disappointed. As I mentioned earlier, this book is the standard reference for Disneyland history, so it has been quoted and used as a primary source quite a bit. It is wonderful though and you will enjoy it tremendously.



6 thoughts on “Book Review: Disneyland: Inside Story by Randy Bright

  1. I think you have to take this book in it’s historical context. When it was written in 1987, nobody had tackled Disneyland from this point of view or written about a single subject with such depth.

    Sure, there had been multiple books about The Walt Disney Studios and about animation. But, this was the first book to dive into detail about the Park.

    Of course, there was the “Disneyland First Quarter Century” in 1979 and the almost identical “Disneyland First 30 Years” in 1985. But, those were official publications.

    Randy Bright’s “I was there” point of view was the first of it’s kind.

    Until the Nickel Tour popped-up some seven years later, Disneyland fans used Randy’s book as their first, and often only, source.

  2. Tom–
    I agree with you.

    I just read it for the first time and I was so impressed with the amount of information in it.

    I was thrown off by the fact that I kept reading passages that other people used in their works. It was then that I realized that this was an original primary source!

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