Disneyland The Nickel Tour, a book review

Disneyland the Nickel Tour, a book review

Disneyland the Nickel Tour: A Postcard Journey Through a Half Century of the Happiest Place on Earth Bruce Gordon, David Mumford, Roger Le Roque and Nick Farago.

Disneyland The Nickel Tour

Let me start this review with the following statement: Disneyland the Nickel Tour is the most prized book in my collection.

I have over 1000 Disney-related books and this title, alone, is still one of the best books ever created.

I’ll try not to be too biased. It’s also the most expensive and one of the hardest to come by. In the Afterwords section of Walt’s Time, Bruce explains how Disneyland the Nickel Tour came to be:

We talked to every publisher we could find, and heard the same story, word for word.
No Commercial Potential. No audience. No Market. No Deal.

They put the book together themselves: Scanned all of the cards, did the layout of every page and had it printed in Italy. They lugged the books to every convention and sold them through mail-order.

And guess what: we sold every book we printed.—p. 241, Bruce Gordon, Walt’s Time – From Before to Beyond

Disneyland the Nickel Tour is a look at the first 45 years of Disneyland’s history seen through the postcards of the park. In addition to Randy Bright’s wonderful Disneyland the Inside Story, Disneyland the Nickel Tour stands as one of the two most comprehensive books about Disneyland’s history. Where it edges out Mr. Bright’ work is that Disneyland the Nickel Tour does cover the past 20 years. Unfortunately, Mr. Bright passed away in 1990 and a second edition is not forthcoming. Bruce Gordon, the primary writer of Disneyland the Nickel Tour, was an Imagineer and started with the Company in 1980. Mr. Gordon co-authored many books about Disney and there are several that will be published posthumously later this year. Mr. Gordon passed away in November 2007. As it stands, the second edition of Disneyland the Nickel Tour will probably be the last.

disneyland the nickel tour

Disneyland the Nickel Tour is an amazing work on so many different levels: the postcard images, the photographs of attractions that weren’t released in postcard form, the historical information and the writing. They begin by sharing pre-opening cards and work their way through the history of Disneyland. One of Gordon and Mumford’s strengths is that they write well and can take something as simple as post cards and turn it into an epic look at a theme park. The writing never gets technical and is always filled with reverence, love and a little remorse. Occasionally, they slip in some humor. It is always fitting and they obvious love word-play. The following paragraph could have been presented as just a litany of facts, but they went a different way with it.

On the left hand side of Main Street, we encounter the Sunkist Citrus House. Long before this view was taken, the Citrus House had actually been two separate stores, one housing “Sunny View Jams and Jellies” and the other housing the “Puffin Bake Shop.” By October of 1958, Disneyland had canned the jam and jelly shop and opened a candy store in its place. It was a sweet deal until June of 1960, when the Puffin Bake Shop went stale. (It seems they just weren’t making enough dough to stay in business.) And even worse, it wasn’t long before everyone was beginning to sour on the candy shop next door. So the two shops were joined together, and in a dedication ceremony held with Walt on July 31, they finally became the home of the Sunkist Citrus Shop. Things were calm until 1990, when the time was ripe to spin around in a circle once more – only to find the Sunkist moving out and the Bakery moving back in! Well, that story certainly had a peel. Orange you glad we wasted all this time? Meanwhile, here’s the scoop on the Carnation Ice Cream parlor: in 1997 they split from their original parlor and (having lost their Carnation along the way) floated into the home of the bakery. Then, with perfect Disneyland logic, the bakery moved into – the ice cream parlor! If that doesn’t get a rise out of you, nothing will!
p. 121

The sense of history that you get from Disneyland the Nickel Tour, through the postcards and photographs, has not been presented in any other form. Besides being a reference work for postcards, it is almost a wish book—one you can flip open to any page and see a favorite or long-gone attraction and dream about visiting or re-experiencing. The images are stellar and your appreciation of postcards as art and history will grow.

Disneyland the Nickel Tour was obviously a labor of love for Gordon and Mumford. It is hard to stress how important this work is in the Disney Literature. Beside being one of two major historical works about Disneyland, you get a feel for how Disneyland evolved, how Walt plussed the park and how the Disney Company moved forward after Walt. It is the most cherished book in my entire collection. If you are lucky enough to find a copy, get it. I know that many people will dismiss this book because it is about Disneyland, but without Disneyland, there would be no Walt Disney World. The history of Disneyland offers a lot of insight into the growth of Walt Disney World as well.

Disneyland The Nickel Tour is simply amazing!


Have you read Disneyland the Nickel Tour? Are you going to try and hunt this book down?

16 thoughts on “Disneyland The Nickel Tour, a book review

  1. Wow – what an amazing book! Thank you G for showing us this book, considering it’s highly unlikely I will ever be able to purchase one.
    The detail that must’ve gone into that book is amazing – and it looks like a beautiful book too.
    Thank you again for another book on the never-ending Wish List.

  2. I second everything you said. I actually have three copies of the book! I bought the first one directly through Camphor Tree. It’s extremely tattered from lots of use. When I first began my trek back into Disneyland’s past in late 1995, I discovered The Nickel Tour and The “E” Ticket simultaneously.

    In 1998, when they had only 250 copies of the first printing remaining, they had beautiful leather slipcases (embossed with the Disneyland logo and the castle icon) produced and sold them as a special edition at The Disney Gallery. I got number 13! It’s nice to have an autographed, pristine copy to go along with the well-used one. And then the TEAM Store (for Cast Members) at Disneyland sold autographed copies of the second edition for a mere $45 in 2000!

    I was a bit disappointed that they changed very little existing text and only added a small number of pages… but I guess when you’ve done that much formatting, it’s tough to revise! 🙂

  3. I love this book and curse it at the same time. It is, without a doubt, the best book written on Disneyland history. But, it’s also the same book that started me on postcard collecting. Some 900+ cards later, and I’m still going.

  4. As funny as it sounds, it took me almost a week to nail down my thoughts about the book. It is so unbelievable on so many levels that I had a hard time staying on track. Besides, the real beauty of the book is the visual appeal…all of the postcards and images form the history of the park.

    It is really a crime that more people will not be able to experience this title.

  5. While I’m not a huge fan of the ebook – particularly for my Disney texts – I think this might be an ideal candidate for ibooks or Kindle (obviously with a color screen) simply because it seems unlikely it will go into print again. While an East Coaster, I would love just to be able to see be able to leaf through this book but $250 or so is just too much!

  6. Hank,

    From what I understand, one of the widow’s has a box or two in her garage and she releases them periodically. I would love to see an updated version, but someone might have to buy the rights from the relatives.

  7. That would be cool – but does she charge cover price or the current market price? And how do you find out when is going to shell out a new box?

  8. I was fortunate to know, befriend, and work with both Bruce Gordon and David Mumford during our years as Disney Imagineers. In fact, Bruce was my mentor in our Imagineering Mac User Group and he coached me through my learning to use myn first MacSE computer in the mid 1980’s. I used to stay late at WDI and watch them working on “Disneyland Nickel Tour.” WHEn they went ahead and self-published the first edition I was fortunate to get of those signed & numbered copies. I insited they let me pay for my copy even though they wanted to gift it to me for my support and (very minor)m assistance with the prepproduction process. It is my favorite book about Disneyland (which I first visited when my fsamily m,oved to Los Angeles in 1957… we went immediately.) I reconnected with “the Boys” while I was living in the San Francisco Bay area and they were consultsants to Diane Disney and her team developing the MAZING “Walt Disney Family Museum.”

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