A frequent request at Imaginerding is for books about the history of Walt Disney World. While there isn’t one book that covers it completely, there are several titles you can digest that will give you a very good picture. There are a lot of titles available and they come from different sources; check out the ones that look most interesting.
a complete or selective list of works compiled upon some common principle, as authorship, subject, place of publication, or printer.
This bibliography is by no means a complete list of books available on Walt Disney World; I have only added books that I own. Feel free to leave a comment if I have missed something good!
You can always keep up with the Walt Disney World-related titles we have reviewed by clicking here.
The books included in this set focus on more than just Walt Disney World. I consider each title an essential part of any Disney enthusiast’s library.
- The Imagineers. Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind-the-Dreams Look at Making the Magic Real. 1998. A spectacular title that looks at how the Imagineers create the theme parks. Concept art, anecdotes and pictures fill the volume. Has information on the development of attractions, lands and resorts. A must have!
- The Imagineers. Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making More Magic Real. 2010. A completely re-vamped update to the 1998 classic. Shares concept art, photos and paintings from Disney Parks around the world. The focus is mainly on developments of the past 15 years.You can read my review here.
- Kurtti, Jeff. Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park. 2008. Kurtti looks at Imagineering’s (WED) heavy hitters and discusses their contribution to the modern theme park. Rare concept artwork and loads of biographical anecdotes present a look at early Imagineering. You can read my review here.
- Ridgway, Charles. Spinning Disney’s World: Memories of a Magic Kingdom Press Agent. 2007. Mr. Ridgway recounts his years with the Walt Disney Company and what it was like to work at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. It reads like a love letter to the theme parks.
- Smith, Dave. Disney: The First 100 Years. 1999. An essential part of every collection, Disney Archives Head Smith has put together a chronological look at the Disney Company.
The following titles are specific to Walt Disney World and cover more than just an attraction. The Kurtti, Koenig and Beard titles are a must!
- Beard, Richard F. Walt Disney’s Epcot Center: Creating the New World of Tomorrow. 1982. This is the book that every fan of Epcot should own. An amazing amount of conceptual artwork and photos of the park during its first few months. In-depth information on the pavilions and anecdotes from the Imagineers. There are three editions: a pre-opening, post-opening and a short version. The difference in the post- and pre- is whether some of the pictures are in-park photos or close-ups of models.
- Emerson, Chad. Four Decades of Magic: Celebrating the First Forty Years of Disney World. 2011. A compilation of essays celebrating the rich tapestry of Walt Disney World by Disney historians. Includes an essay by yours truly!
- Emerson, Chad. Project Future: The Inside Story Behind the Creation of Disney World. 2009. Emerson takes an in-depth and straightforward look at the creation of Walt Disney World. It covers the purchase of the land and the political machinations that took place. It includes a great timeline and listing of key players. You can read my review here.
- Gordon, Bruce; Kurtti, Jeff. Walt Disney World Then, Now, and Forever. 2008. Theme Park Exclusive. Gordon and Kurtti have written a history/souvenir guide for Walt Disney World. It does act more like a family scrapbook than a history book, until you delve into its pages. You can read my review here.
- Koenig, David. Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World. 2007. Koenig looks at the creation, construction and development of Walt Disney World. There is not another title that talks to as many former employees to reveal anecdotes and what happened politically. You can read my review here.
- Kurtti, Jeff. Since The World Began: Walt Disney World, The First 25 Years. 1996. The seminal title in any theme park enthusiast’s library. Kurtti explores the first 25 years of Walt Disney World with photographs and rich historical detail. You can read my review here.
- Malmberg, Melody. The Making Of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. 1998. This book goes into an incredible amount of detail on the initial ideas, design and implementation of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You can read my review here.
- Mannheim, Steven.Walt Disney and the Quest for Community. 2003. This book could almost be considered a biography of the Epcot that could have been. Mannheim writes a very through-provoking and enjoyable work on Walt Disney’s plans for EPCOT Center and how they germinated and became reality (or didn’t, in some cases). You can read my review here.
- The Story of Walt Disney World, Commemorative Edition. Various Years (1971, 1973, 1976). An official publication that looks at the first few years of Walt Disney World. It focuses on the building of the Magic Kingdom, the resorts and the rest of the vacation kingdom. It has a great stylized map and lots of pictures.
- Walt Disney World, The First Decade.1982. An official publication that looks at the development of the Magic Kingdom, hotels and the Village Marketplace. The book is like a time capsule with lots of great photos. You can read my review here.
- Walt Disney World, 20 Magical Years. 1991. An official publication that is part history and part souvenir guide. Great for pictures and as a time capsule. Updates Walt Disney World, The First Decade. You can read my review here.
- Yee, Kevin, Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions and Other Tributes. 2010. An unofficial guide that looks at the hidden details, histories and tributes throughout the Walt Disney World Resort. You can read my review here.
- Broggie, Michael. Walt Disney’s Railroad Story: The Small-Scale Fascination That Led to a Full-Scale Kingdom. 1998. Broggie presents a fascinating look at Walt’s Railroad–part biography and part theme park history. The majority of the book focuses on the Carolwood-Pacific, but Broggie does discuss the Magic Kingdom and Ft. Wilderness Railroads. You can read my review here.
- Leaphart, David. Walt Disney World Railroads Part 1: Fort Wilderness Railroad. 2010. David has compiled an monumental and magnificent look at the Fort Wilderness Railroad. A must for any fan of Fort Wilderness, trains or early Walt Disney World anecdotes. Visit the author’s website for more information.
- Leaphart, David. Walt Disney World Railroads Part 1: Fort Wilderness Railroad Gallery Companion. 2010. A companion guide to David’s work on the Fort Wilderness Railroad. More pictures than you can shake a stick at!
- Surrell, Jason. The Disney Mountains: Imagineering At Its Peak. 2007. Surrell takes an in-depth look at every Disney mountain, from Matterhon to Everest, with side trips to some un-built mountains.
- Surrell, Jason. The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies. 2006. If you are a fan of the Haunted Mansion, you need to own this book. Surrell starts at the earliest concepts and takes us through to the final incarnations, step-by-step. The concept art is wonderful.
- Surrell, Jason. Pirates of the Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies. 2006. An in-depth history of Pirates of the Caribbean, from concept stages to Disneyland Paris. We experience all versions of the attraction through the script, artwork and photographs.
There would be no Walt Disney World without these artists.
- Hench, John. Designing Disney. 2009. Hench shares his thoughts on helping to design every Disney theme park. The text is insightful and the artwork is astounding. There is also a 2003 edition.
- Kurrti, Jeff; Gordon, Bruce. The Art of Walt Disney World. 2009. Theme Park Exclusive. Jeff and Bruce have collaborated again to create a sister volume to the wonderful Art of Disneyland. This large-scale book presents concept artwork from every phase of Walt Disney World’s history. Many of the images are seen here for the first time. Every fan of Walt Disney World should own this title. You can read my full review here.
- Mumford, Dave; Gordon, Bruce. A Brush with Disney : An Artist’s Journey, Told through the words and works of Herbert Dickens Ryman. 2000. A look at Herb Ryman’s art–not just work done for Disney, but over his entire career. You can read my full review here.
Detailed-inspired travel guides, academic treatises and amazing photographic titles. Usually more of a time-capsule than a history title.
- Burns-Clair, Pam and Peri, Don. Walt Disney’s First Lady of Imagineering Harriet Burns. 2010. Harriet’s daughter Pam and Disney Historian Don Peri craft a fascinating and beautiful collection of anecdotes and tributes to Harriet Burns, as told by her family, friends and co-workers. You can read my review here.
- Childs, Valerie. The Magic of Disneyland and Walt Disney World. 1979. This work is mainly a pictorial essay about Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Geared mainly for park detectives and people who visited the parks in the 1970s. You can read my review here.
- Hannaford, Dee. The Gardens of Walt Disney World Resort. 1988. One of the most beautiful coffee-table books ever produced about Walt Disney World. Amazing photographs of the gardens and natural areas help to create a snapshot of Walt Disney World Resort in 1988. Absolutely gorgeous and belongs in every collection.
- Imagineering Field Guide Series: Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdomand Disney’s Hollywood Studios. 2005-2009. Written by The Imagineers, this series of guidebooks discusses some of the details and histories of the parks. They are designed to be taken into the park with you; hence the artwork can be fairly small, but exciting.
- Marling, Karal Ann. Designing Disney’s Theme Parks: The Architecture of Reassurance. 1998. Marling presents a series of academic articles written by historians, critics and architects that look at the development of the Disney theme park. Wonderful photographs.
October 2011 marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. The Vacation Kingdom has seen a lot of changes over the past four decades and the editorial staff at Imaginerding wants to celebrate the unique and rich history of the resort with a series of posts.
A very special thanks to Celeste Cronrath for designing the series of logos for our posts. Make sure to follow her on Twitter.