Book Review: Project Future

“I’m doing this because I want to do it better”, Walt Disney on the Florida Project.

Project Future: The Inside Story Behind the Creation of Disney World by Chad Denver Emerson. 2009, 185 pp.

Any serious student of Walt Disney World history bemoans the dearth of information available outside of the corporate archives. There are some fantastic resources in print and I have complied a bibliography of titles that focus on Walt Disney World history. Still, there are many gaps and many unanswered questions.

Chad Emerson is a Professor of Law at Faulkner University. He is also a lecturer, author and consultant in the area of amusement and hospitality law. His interest in piecing together the tale of Walt Disney World began when he stumbled across information about the Reedy Creek Improvement District and his wife thought that it would make a fascinating read.

Chad took her advice to heart and began researching the book.

Most of us are aware that Walt began to secretly purchase land in Central Florida for his Disneyland East idea, which blossomed into the City of Tomorrow. Before the publication of Project Future, very few of us were aware of the political machinations, maneuverings, time and money that went into the acquisition of the land that we call Walt Disney World. Project Future has been described by other reviewers as “spy-like” and full of intrigue–they are correct, but it is also full of anecdotes from former employees and government officials.

Chad’s book fills a very important vacuum in the time-line from Disneyland’s inception until the opening of the Vacation Kingdom. The style of the book is very straightforward and most lay people will be able to consume the work without consulting a legal dictionary. The language, tone and writing are one set of the book’s strengths.

Included is a listing of key players, which is very helpful. Many times, I found myself flipping to that section to refresh what a certain player’s role was. Chad has a detailed time line that focuses on the major events of the land acquisitions and lobbying efforts.

In all, this is a pleasurable read that paints a picture of how daunting a project like Walt Disney World actually was. You will never take the 43 square miles purchased in the mid-1960’s for granted again! You will also come to realize that a project of this size and scope will never be duplicated.

You can learn more about the book by visiting http://www.projectfuturebook.com/

Book Review: Walt Disney World, 20 Magical Years

Walt Disney World: 20 Magical Years 1991, 168 pages.

This is a wonderful title for the Walt Disney World fan and enthusiast.

Published to celebrate the first 20 years of Walt Disney World, this book acts as a souvenir guide and vacation pictorial. It follows the same format and concept as Walt Disney World: The First Decade and adds EPCOT, the Disney-MGM Studios, Pleasure Island and the newer hotels. Basically, everything that was built since 1981.

20 Magical Years is more than the standard Disney PR piece; we are on a journey to a time when Walt Disney World was entering the Disney Decade and poised for massive growth. It was a simpler Walt Disney World that was still trying to discover its path after the opening of EPCOT Center and the Disney-MGM Studios. You get to visit each land and each attraction at the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT Center–with clever outside shots and not often seen interior photos. The coverage of the Disney-MGM Studios is sparse, but that is expected. It is obvious from the book that it was still considered a half-day park by the Company. The last section of the book is called The Vacation Kingdom and covers the Magic Kingdom hotels, the Caribbean Beach Resort, Typhoon Lagoon, River Country, Pleasure Island and the Village Marketplace. It is the biggest change from the first decade to the second. The ancillary, or Vacation Kingdom, areas are given much less focus.
For Disney fans, this book is a fond trip down memory lane. For Disney enthusiasts, it is a historical look at attractions, lands and areas that no longer exist. Horizons, World of Motion, Discovery Island and River County are all included. It is a very fond look back at a vanished Walt Disney World. In many cases, this book is one of the few official resources that we can use to document the history of Walt Disney World.

This book is a lot of fun. I use it for research and for taking virtual trips. The photographs, although taken by Disney, are of a different quality than most stand alone publications. There are a lot of construction shots and pictures from different angles. Sometimes the shots can be surprising!

It is very nostalgic and even at the 20-year mark, Disney has made the switch from Vacation Kingdom to the individual theme parks. The emphasis on the total work is the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT as the center of your vacation.

I highly recommend this title–especially since it isn’t a rare book, yet. You will enjoy the walks down memory lane!


 

 

Book Review: Harriet Burns, Walt Disney’s First Lady of Imagineering

Walt Disney’s First Lady of Imagineering: Harriet Burns by Pam Burns-Clair and Don Peri. 2010

Harriet Burns. Her name is synonymous with Imagineering and the creation of early Disneyland. Not only was she one of Walt’s first Imagineers, but she was the first woman in Imagineering, hence her title, the First Lady of Imagineering. She worked on the development of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair and countless other rides, attractions and resorts. Harriet retired in 1986 after 31 years of creating magic for the Walt Disney Company.

Joanne Campbell wrote about a trip to Walt Disney World with Harriet Burns in the early 1990s:

The following morning Harriet had made reservations at a park restaurant she knew served the famous Mickey Mouse pancakes. She insisted on paying the bill because she said that her Disney card would entitle her to a discount. Of course we thanked her, but we didn’t think too much of it. When she presented her card to the waiter, she said she hoped it was alright, because this card was actually from California. The waiter disappeared for some time, and suddenly the manager appeared. He was quite perplexed and said, “Mrs. Burns, was everything satisfactory? Michael [Eisner] usually alerts us when you’re on the property!” With that, OUR eyes popped open in amazement, and we began to realize that the term Imagineer (and her #7 on the credit card) was something extraordinary.

Because Harriet was retired at this point, she herself had not seen MGM, which had just opened in Orlando. We hopped on a double-decker English bus with the throngs, and hadn’t gone too far before Harriet said, “Look, boys, there is the old airplane that Bill and I rode to New York with Walt in for the World’s Fair!” My husband and I exchanged looks, and sure enough, the tour guide then said, “and THIS is the plane that Walt took to the World’s Fair.”
–p. 42, Walt Disney’s First Lady of Imagineering

The book is replete with stories that will touch your heart. It is so much more than a tribute book to Harriet, it is also a look at how special and amazing it was to be one of Walt’s Imagineers. This book is perfect for anyone interested in Imagineering, Walt or the amazing people that were fortunate enough to meet Harriet. She was an inspiring woman!

Pam Burns-Chair, Harriet’s daughter, worked with author and Disney Historian Don Peri to create and compile this list of eulogies and tributes by family, friends and Disney employees. 67 essays, ranging in size from a few paragraphs to several pages help tell the story of how Harriet touched so many people’s lives. The book is filled with over 200 photographs that span Harriet’s life and her career at Disney.

After reading  this marvelous title, I felt like I had the opportunity to meet Harriet through the eyes of her family and friends. She was well-loved, respected and admired. Some of the best anecdotes were supplied by former Imagineers that had developed a special relationship with Harriet. She was known for having an off-color sense of humor that seemed to be in opposition to her native Texan drawl. Many of the Imagineers wrote that Harriet was personable and never forgot anyone she met.

Chelsea Clair, the daughter of Pam and the granddaughter of Harriet, designed the book. She did a wonderful job of laying out the pages and integrating the photographs into the text. Pam, Don and Chelsea should be very proud of the book they put together in honor of Harriet. Their love and the love of Harriet’s friends and family.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Scott Wolf, Disney Historian and owner of MouseClub House Scott helped with the project and created the website for the book at Imagineer Harriet.

You can also be come a Fan of Imagineer Harriet on Facebook.

This is a sentimental and beautiful look at Harriet Burns and her life in and outside of Disney. Look at Walt Disney’s First Lady of Imagineering: Harriet Burns as more than a tribute; Pam and Don have compiled stories that give you an intimate look at what it was like to work for the Walt Disney Company with Walt and the heralded Imagineers.

The book provided was a review copy from the publisher.

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Book Review: Walt Disney’s Railroad by Michael Broggie

Walt Disney’s Railroad Story by Michael Broggie

Love Disney trains? Then check out Walt Disney’s Railroad Story by Michael Broggie.

Lilly Belle…the train that started a Magic Kingdom
by George Taylor

Walt Disney’s Railroad Story: The Small-Scale Fascination That Led to a Full-Scale Kingdom by Michael Broggie. 1998. 431 pp.

Less than a month before Disneyland’s opening day in 1955, Walt journeyed to the under-construction theme park for the first live steamup of locomotive No. 2. This was the culmination of a lifelong dream for Walt as…

…he climbed into the cab, moved the Johnson bar forward, tugged twice on the steam whistle, and pulled open the throttle. With Harley Hgen in the fireman’s seat and this book’s author (as a wide-eyed 12 year old) sitting on the tender, Walt eased No. 2 from the roundhouse into the bright Californian sun and onto the main line. -p. 231.

Imagine that moment in Walt’s life; after years of making films and building the Company, he finally finds himself as the Chief Engineer of a real engine. His engine.

Walt Disney’s life had been surrounded by trains. Family members worked on passing railroads. Both Roy and Walt were news butchers during their teens. Many of the animators at Disney were rail fans: Ward Kimball traveled with Walt to the 1948 Railroad Fair and had his own backyard, full-sized railroad; Ollie Johnston also had a backyard railroad. Many of the Studio employees shared Walt’s love of full-scale and miniature railroading. For the first half of the 20th century, railroads were the future of the country. They symbolized progress and growth.

Who Was Michael Broggie?

Roger Broggie is considered to be Walt’s first Imagineer. A very talented machinist, Roger supervised the building of the Lilly Belle, Walt’s 1/8 scale engine that ran at his Holmby Hills home. He also helped create the first Audio-Animatronic character. Roger’s sons, Roger Jr. and Michael (the book’s author), spent many years “working” at the studios with their father and helping Walt on the Disneyland Railroad. Citing Michael’s close association with the Disney family, the Disney Company and Walt’s railroads, he is uniquely qualified to write a biography about Walt Disney that focuses on how railroading affected his life and drove many of his passions.

Why Should I Buy Walt Disney’s Railroad Story?

Walt Disney’s Railroad Story is a fantastic journey from Walt’s boyhood through the theme parks. We encounter every significant moment of his life in reference to trains and we come to understand his passion for the steel. This is also a treat to read about Walt from a company insider whose family worked and works for Disney.

You get pictures on every page and a chronological look at the history of Walt’s trains and railroads. Michael adds side tracks as needed that go into further detail; whether it is on a railroading term or a person. There is a lot of focus on the Carolwood-Pacific line that was built at the Holmby Hills property. Walt spent a lot of time creating the layout (with Roger Broggie and Eddie Sargent) and entertaining guests. A majority of Walt’s ideas about Disneyland were formulated while conducting the Lilly Belle. Michael covers every train built for a Disney theme park up to the Animal kingdom. Michael includes a glossary of rail terms, a detailed specifications of all the Disney engines and a bibliography. My only negative comment is that there was not a layout of the Carolwood-Pacific line. The author responded to my complaint—there is indeed a layout on page 113. This goes to show that Michael Broggie has indeed created and amazing and fact-filled tome about Walt Disney and his Railroads.

This book has quickly become one of my favorites. Along with The Nickel Tour and Since The World Began, it is one of the treasures in my collection. If you have any interests in Walt’s personal life, railroads or the Disney engines that chug the tracks all over the globe, then you need to own this book.

Do You Own This Book About the Trains and Railroads of Disney?


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Book Review: Wally Boag, Clown Prince of Disneyland

Wally Boag, Clown Prince of Disneyland by Wally Boag and Gene Sands. 2009, 176 pp.

 
More than a biography, this book is a work-ography of the career of the amazing Wally Boag.
 
Wally Boag performed at the Golden Horseshoe at Disneyland for a remarkable 27 years. He debuted at Disneyland on opening day, July 17, 1955. Prior to that, he had spent 15 years traveling the world performing for the King and Queen of England, on the Ed Sullivan show and at clubs on different continents. By his own right, Wally Boag was a star before he joined the Golden Horseshoe Review. He depicts a time in the world where performers spent most of their time on the road and rarely settled down. Thank goodness his two-week contract at Disneyland lasted for more than 27 years! You do get a good idea of how much work went into the life of a comedic artist that also incorporated dancing, singing and balloon animals.
 
Clown Prince chronicles Wally’s life from his birth in 1920 to the publication of this book. Along the way, we meet family members, cherished performers, friends, Walt Disney and other important people in Wally’s life. This book is more than a memoir; it is a scrapbook of a very talented artist. With an average of two photos per page, I would estimate that there are over 200 images. Family and performance photographs, clippings and letters attest to his astounding career.
 
Wally spent 27 years at Disneyland–with a few years at Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland–and was there during the time when all Walt wanted was to make Disneyland the best it could be. Castmembers were given a freer reign and allowed to develop ideas for new shows and skits. In one more famous tale, Wally recounts the creation of the gunfights in Frontierland. He approached the Frontier Lawmen, Marshall Lucky, about staging gunfights:

I would call him out, throw a couple of insults at him, and we would pace off and draw. He, of course, would win. I’d do a dramatic fall and roll over. The people loved it! So did Walt. He saw us do it one day and said, “That’s great! Do it whenever you feel like it.” So, I enlarged our plot by getting up on the roof of the Horseshoe so he could shoot me off of it. We even did some shoot-outs on the railroad circling the Disneyland Park. It was fun doing it, but one day a young man with a clipboard came to see me at my dressing room and informed me that I was scheduled to do gunfights at 1:00, 3:00, and 5:00 pm. I told him that it was becoming too much for me to do in addition to my five shows a day at the Horseshoe. Instead, I thought it would be a good idea for them to hire some professional “bad guys.” He took my advice and the gunfights became a regular part of the entertainment in Frontierland.
Wally Boag, The Clown Prince of Disneyland, p. 88.

This book is marginally similar to Van Arsdale France’s Window on Main Street. They are both fantastic works about working and playing at Disneyland. Van Arsdale presents a behind-the-scenes look while Wally talks about life on the stage. Given my druthers, I would recommend Wally’s book for the humor, heart and soul that is Wally Boag. Wally paints a very intimate picture of working at the Golden Horsehoe and recounts stories that you won’t hear anywhere else.

 
I have always known of Wally Boag, but it wasn’t until I saw the ten-year anniversary special on the Walt Disney Treasures – Disneyland – Secrets, Stories & Magic DVD, that I realized how spectacular Wally was. Even though the gags and one-liners were over 40 years old, he still had us in stitches. Viewing the Golden Horseshoe Review made me long for a time machine to transport me to the Disneyland of the 1960’s
 
Wally can still be heard today as the voice of Jose at the Enchanted Tiki Room and as the voice in the Toucan and Parrot Show (The Electronic Utility Show) on the Walt Disney and the 1964 World’s Fair 5-CD set. He also helped create the dialog for both shows.
 
If you have an interest in Disneyland history, vaudeville or learning more about working at Disneyland during its infancy, then this book is for you. I really enjoyed every page of the Clown Prince and I know it will make a valuable addition to your library.
 
You can purchase copies of the book at WallyBoag.com.



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The Alchemy of Animation by Don Hahn

Book Review: The Alchemy of Animation by Don Hahn

The Alchemy of Animation: Making an Animated Film in the Modern Age by Don Hahn. 144 p. 2008.

Don Hahn is heralded for his animation production work at Disney: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. He is also the first producer of an animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award (Beauty and the Beast). Hahn started his animation career at Disney under the tutelage of Wolfgang Reitherman, one of Walt’s Nine Old Men. He is currently at Disney working on his next animated feature.

I wasn’t sure what I would find between the covers of this book, at first. Due to the subtitle, I inferred that it would be similar to The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation (Thomas and Johnston)—the seminal work on animation. Hahn’s book is a quarter the size of Thomas and Johnston’s work; it really acts as a supplement, an animation Cliff’s Notes and an update to The Illusion of Life.

Hahn takes us through the stages of creating an animated film, whether is is hand drawn, computer-generated or stop-motion. The principles outlined are the basics for creating an animated film and can be used as an animation primer. The focus is creating a film using today’s standards and the book reflects that. A majority of the text (and lavish illustrations) centers on digital technology–not to the exclusion of the other arts, but since CGI has become so popular. Many of the jobs and duties in CGI are unique to that medium.

Another interesting take, is that Hahn has created a work that can be used by people interested in animation as a career. He covers almost every position in the hierarchy and offers details about their duties and general work. (Ever want to be a Look Development Artist?) The only information Hahn doesn’t provide is a link to a pay scale and a road map to making it big. Hahn is able to break down each job and explain it in layman’s terms. If you have a youngster interested in the field of animation, this title is for them.

Animation enthusiasts will relish the concept illustrations and artwork from all stages of animation. Hahn includes anecdotes from Disney animators young and old. The book has three major divisions: Act One (looking at the production team, the story and the major steps of every animated film); Act Two (the differences in production for 2D hand drawn, CGI and Stop-Motion); and Act Three (marketing, roll out and post-production). Hahn also includes a fantastic glossary and bibliography for additional reading. He treats the book just like an animated film and builds the story, layer upon layer.

Bottom Line: If you have any interest in animation or animated films, you will love this book. If you want to be part of the animation field, you need to own this book. It is a fairly straightforward look at creating an animated film with today’s technology and work processes. Hahn’s passion for animation shines and it is evident in The Alchemy of Animation.

Have you read Don Hahn’s Alchemy of Animation?


 

Book Review: The Art of Walt Disney World by Jeff Kurtti and Bruce Gordon


The Art of Walt Disney World Resort by Jeff Kurtti and Bruce Gordon. 2009. 139 pp. Theme Park Exclusive.

Jeff and Bruce have worked together on many projects about Disney. The Art of Walt Disney World Resort is one of the best; not only is it one of the best books they have collaborated on, but it is one of the best works on Walt Disney World.

Jeff Kurtti is a well-known and much-admired name in the Disney community. He has written many of the seminal works on the history of the theme parks, animated films, characters and theater. Since the World Began is one of his more treasured books and one of the few that looks at the early history of Walt Disney World. Jeff is also known for his work on several award-winning documentaries and as a consultant for film and theater. Currently, he is working with the Walt Disney Family Museum. The late Bruce Gordon was an Imagineer and consultant to the Walt Disney Family Museum. He co-authored many of my favorite books, including: The Nickel Tour, Walt’s Time (with Jeff) and Disneyland Now, Then, and Forever.

This book is the sister companion to their previous work, The Art of Disneyland (2006) and carries a similar philosophy of presenting unheralded artwork. One of the unique features off this book is in its presentation–it is a true picture book in the sense that the images are all rotated 90 degrees for our viewing pleasure. In other words, you turn the book sideways and all of the images are presented the same direction.

I wish I could get reproductions of both of these Fun Maps of Walt Disney World.
The Art of Walt Disney World Resort is every Disney enthusiast’s dream; a full-color look at the conceptual drawings, paintings and artwork that helped visualize the Vacation Kingdom. I can’t stress how amazing and beautiful the artwork actually is. Spanning every decade of the Resort, you are introduced to different artists that laid the foundations for the parks, resorts and recreational areas. The visual styles are striking and as varied as the artists themselves.
The text that supports the art is informative and takes the book past being just a picture book. You will learn a thing or two! The accompanying descriptions serve not only to educate but also as mini art-appreciation lessons, as well. Jeff is one of the foremost experts on Disney history and his insight and commentary add tremendous value to the book. For those theme parkeologists this book is a rare treat. A large majority of the art is centered around the pre-opening years and the oft-maligned 1970s. Fortunately for us, Jeff and Bruce were able to collect many images that have not been seen outside of WDI and castmember circles.
Much of the artwork presents a scale and magnitude that was never put into place at Walt Disney World, for whatever reason. You can trace the transitions from Disneyland to the Magic Kingdom through much of the late-60’s and mid-70’s artwork. There is scale and openness that can only be achieved in the space that was the Florida property. Some of my favorite pieces recount the early days at Fort Wilderness when there was only the Magic Kingdom, Fort Wilderness and a growing Village. The days when a vacation was more than just squeezing four theme parks into a trip; when you could ride horseback, shop, eat and spend time vacationing. The images hearken to a simpler time at Walt Disney World Resort.
Enough proselytizing. This is a superb work that everyone interested in Walt Disney World should own. It carries a hefty price tag and it is a theme park exclusive, so it could be difficult to find on the second hand market.
Kudos to Jeff and Bruce for putting together such a massive work centered on the art of Walt Disney World Resort. I can only hope that we will see a second volume soon.

George’s Geeky Gift Guide: Walt Disney Imagineering

The Imagineers have produced another great title about themselves–with tons of behind-the-scenes images and stories. This book should be on every Disney enthusiast’s shelves!

Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making More Magic Real2010. 192 pp.

All you need to know is that you need to have this book!

If you want to learn more about it, though, keep on reading.

Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making More Magic Real is not an update to the seminal 1996release; it is a continuation. It is a look at the Magic that the Imagineers have created since the publication of the first book. Any fan of the Disney Company, the Theme Parks, the Resorts, the Animation or creative environments will treasure this book. Filled with more artwork than you can imagine, most of the pages offer paintings, concept art and photographs that have never been published before. Once again, the Imagineers pull back the curtain to reveal the puttering, popping, whirring, spinning and dreaming that they do to create their magic. You also understand that there are many more curtains yet to be revealed, let alone parted!

The book is constructed of three main parts:

Part I Theory
Over the years, Imagineers have developed ideas about creating great attractions for Disney Parks and Resort Guests. Every project team takes into account some basic notions–the unwritten ground rules of groundbreaking creativity.

Part II Tools
Imagineers make use of a variety of resources to create the magic of Disney Resorts and attractions–tools to visualize, analyze, explain and build.

Part III Portfolio
Recent work, and a look at the mosaic of people, talents, ideas, and projects that is Imagineering.

This book is not as groundbreaking as the 1996 version–it offers a more polished and accepted look at the Imagineering process. Considering the time that it was released, in 1996,  there was nothing that brought us inside the folds of Imagineering; nothing that allowed us to venture into the backrooms and creative side of Disney. The current book takes a different path to show how and why the Imagineers create the amazing attractions and resorts. Its focus is largely on the projects and concepts from the past 15 years of Imagineering. This book is not meant to replace the 1996 title, but to enhance it; to bring us further into folds of Imagineering. That being said, the coverage of attractions is very new and modern. There is not much focus on the first 40 years of Imagineering. The majority of the photos and artwork are from Tokyo DisneySea, Disney’s California Adventure and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

The book is packaged with tissue paper between many of the pages. Instead of offering only large, fold-out pages (like the 1996 book), they have opted for the addition of smaller fold-outs that detail artwork from the same attraction or area. They are like postcard books. There are some amazing, large fold-outs, especially on the Disney Cruise ship. The addition of the extra art really makes the book feel like a family treasure or scrapbook.

Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making More Magic Real, in concert with the 1996version, should be on everyone’s shelves. The artwork is astounding; there are pieces of art that you would love to have in your home. The main author, Melody Malmberg, has done a wonderful job with the text. It is informative, clear and does a fantastic job of describing everything that an Imagineer is and does. They have also included an index and a list of resources for further reading.

This is a book that you need to own!

I did receive a review copy of this book from Disney Press.

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Book Review Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park

Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Parkby Jeff Kurtti, 146 pp, 2008.

This has been an eagerly anticipated book in the Disney community. Since their inception with the creation of Disneyland, the Imagineers have always been the architects and dreamers of Walt’s visions. Many of the names that you read about in the book will be familiar to Disney enthusiasts; as the name of the book implies, these are the legends of Disney Imagineering.

Jeff Kurtti is a well-known and much-admired name in the Disney community. He has written many seminal works on the history of the theme parks, animated films, characters and theater. Since The World Beganis one of his more treasured books. Jeff is also known for his work on several award-winning documentaries and as a consultant for film and theater. Currently, he is working with the Walt Disney Family Museum. The late Bruce Gordon served as editor on the project and his talents are seen throughout the book through the layout and design. Bruce was the author of The Nickel Tour,Walt’s Time and The Art of Disneyland(with Jeff).


In an interview with Didier Ghez, Jeff talks about the motivation behind the book:

The inspiration for Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends was John Canemaker’s Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men. I say inspiration, since my book comes nowhere near the depth and erudition of John’s great work, but the inspiration was to create a work that would familiarize people with the core team of creative people within the initial development of Disneyland.

The animation group, as a rule, is more familiar to people, and the Imagineering group is less well-known, the history of how they came together is much less documented. It’s very important for new generations of fans to get a proper introduction to this information, it’s important for the Company to preserve a record that illuminates and contextualizes key periods of its history.
http://disneybooks.blogspot.com/2008/07/next-month-will-see-release-of-jeff.html

I am not sure I could have said it better myself. In looking at a group as large and nebulous as the Imagineers, it is obvious that any work on them could not be inclusive. Many people have iterated their complaints about the lack of certain key members, but that is to be expected. Jeff has already stated that he hopes to create a second volume.


Imagineering Legends is able to meld several key ideas into one book: an introduction to 30 of the most famous and key Imagineers; an insightful look into the creation of the theme parks; and a journey through a history of Imagineering. There has not been another work published on this scale or within the same pages. Each of the Imagineers chronicled is presented within their holistic context. The classifications are well-reflected and well-thought. Jeff bestows the following categories: the Prototype Imagineers; the Place Makers; the Story Department; the Model Shop; the Machine Shop; the Music Makers and the Unofficial Imagineers. Special places are reserved for Walt Disney and John Hench.


Most of this information can be found in other sources, such as The E-Ticket, Walt Disney Imagineering, The Art of Disneyland, Disneyland: The First Quarter Century, The Nickel Tourand Disneyland: Inside Story. But Imagineering Legends is the only place you will find all of this information. That is the true brilliance of the book. Jeff presents a seamless and well-organized view into the Imagineers and the creation of Disney theme parks.

Bruce Gordon did an amazing job with the layout of Imagineering Legends. There are new photographs and concept art throughout the book. The layout is very contemporary and very appealing; you never feel lost in columns of text (although, Jeff is a great writer). My only issue with the layout is that some of the artwork and photographs are spread across two pages. Sometimes, it is difficult to get a good view of the artwork.

Bottom Line: This work is for everyone. Jeff has created a book that lays a solid foundation of knowledge for Disney enthusiasts of all levels. Whether you are new to the Imagineers or a seasoned researcher, this compilation solidly portrays Imagineering and their importance within the Disney Company. This book will be within constant reach on my bookshelf for many years. It will also be an essential addition to every enthusiast’s library. Future Disney researchers will be thanking Jeff for years to come. You need to own this book.

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Book Review: Warp and Weft, Life Canvas of Herbert Ryman by John Stanley Donaldson

Warp and Weft: Life Canvas of Herbert Ryman by John Stanley Donaldson. 2010. 978-0-9843789-0-6.

John Stanley Donaldson knew Herbert Ryman for over thirty years. Herb was his mentor and friend; a lifelong companion and artistic brother. When I received a review copy of Warp and Weft, it came with a personal note from John detailing that the work has been derided as inflammatory and sparking ill will among Disney’s old guard. Following many other Disney-related biographies, I wasn’t sure of John’s intent, but I was hoping that his book would not follow the same path as The Dark Prince or the Neal Gabler conflagration. Both titles have been scorned and refuted by the Disney Company and the Disney Family. I am glad to say that I enjoyed the book and John’s unique perspective.

I wish that there were more books like this that cover the Imagineers and artists of the Disney Company. Herbert Ryman was a true legend, not just a Disney Legend, but a remarkable legend that influenced and touched everyone he came into contact with. It is easy to stand here and tell you that there would be no Disneyland or Walt Disney Word, as we know it, without Herb. After reading this lyrical tome, you get a clearer understanding of that statement. Herb, or Herbie, was a truly influential person in the life and career of Walt Disney. There was a level of mutual respect, friendship and camaraderie between the two geniuses.

A commonition to the reader: John’s writing style has been described as lyrical and it does fit the form of an artist’s pursuit of painting with words on paper. The style is beautiful at the same time it can be ungainly for an inexperienced reader. John rhymes his text, which can throw off the structure of the sentence. For many readers, his style will be a turnoff, but I urge you to complete the book.

Still, what is important is that John has put down an amazing story on paper; one that shows the amazing life that Herb led. A world traveler, burgeoning artist and friend to everyone he met. Where John’s tale turns decidedly darker is when you learn about Herb’s sister, Lucille. She and her husband are painted as the heavies of the book. Actually, they are more than heavies, they are sinister with no other compunction except money and making sure that they get what they deserve. In the case of the book, it is every last possession of Herb Ryman. By the end of the book, you will see other Disney legends in an entirely different light.

The tale, as it unfolds, is mesmerizing simply by the cast of characters that parade through the weave of the book. Many famous celebrities are forced into a connection, some tumultuous, with the Disney Company through their associations with any of the Rymans. From Marylin Monroe to drug smugglers in Florida. My favorite parts of the stories were the anecdotes of Herbie’s travels throughout the world. He truly had a worldwide perspective in his art.

The Author’s website.

This is a book that you have to take a chance on; one that you will need to work through in order to gain its treasures. You will not regret turning the pages, but you will gain a vastly different perspective on Herb Ryman’s life. And on his various colleagues at Disney.

On a personal note, I would like to thank John for the time he spent crafting this biography. He shares many anecdotes about Herb that would be lost otherwise. He also steps forward to advocate for Herb when no one else is able to.

You can purchase the book directly from the author here.

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