Book Review: Walt Disney World Then, Now, and Forever

Walt Disney World Then, Now, and Forever by Bruce Gordon and Jeff Kurtti. 2008, 184 pages.

This book is a theme park exclusive; getting your hands on a copy might be a little more expensive than other Disney-related books. Unless you are visiting or have a friend there, you will have to pick it up on the secondhand market, which will increase the price. If you are able to visit Walt Disney World, you might need to ask a castmember to get it for you.

Bruce Gordon and Jeff Kurtti should be very familiar authors to Disney enthusiasts. Before Bruce passed away, he was an Imagineer and had created a solid body of work that will be treasured for years to come. Jeff is a Disney historian, author, consultant and award-winning producer. Bruce and Jeff worked together on the book until Bruce’s passing. Jeff finished the title for the July, 2008 release.

The format for this book is based on the impressive Disneyland Then, Now and Forever title that was released in 2005. Throwing out the traditional souvenir guidebook format, the authors chose another path. This book reflects the feeling of a family scrapbook–not just your most recent vacation, but a lifetime of vacations to Walt Disney World. They share the photos and text based on larger themes, as opposed to theme park or resort: imagination, traditions, surprises, adventure, wonder, movies, thrills, music, innovations and dreams & makers. Looking at the resort in this light allows the authors to connect attractions in different ways, instead of geographically.

This book shines as a souvenir guide that highlights the aspects of past vacations. The layout is very appealing and contemporary. It sets itself above most other Disney-related guides through the design and presentation. The book conveys a lot of energy and excitement. The writing is crisp and informative. It is a very general overview of Walt Disney World and a lot is covered in minor detail. There are plenty of photographs from throughout the resort’s history–a few which were new to me.

One of the weaknesses of the book is that 184 pages is not enough space to dedicate to the history and current state of Walt Disney World. You get the feeling that a majority of attractions and resorts get glossed over. This has to be from a space and money standpoint. I imagine that a Walt Disney World version of the Disneyland book would need to be close to 500 pages or sold as four to five volumes. I can imagine that Bruce and Jeff had some difficult choices to make about what to include–overall, I agree with everything presented; I just wish there had been more.
Naturally, I wanted to compare this guide with the Disneyland version. Although the books have similar approaches, themes and DNA, they are covering resorts with differing audiences and histories. Both do an excellent job of catering to their intended audience. The Disneyland version offers more for the hardcore Disney enthusiast and the WDW version is geared more for the lay Disney fan.

Bottom Line: As presented, Walt Disney World Then, Now, and Forever is a fresh breath in the line of souvenir guides. It is rather light-weight on the hidden details and minutiae, but serves the purpose of being a vacation scrapbook very well. I would recommend this book to the completists or if you are looking for a very general look at Walt Disney World. It is a light read that is easy to digest. The pictures are beautiful and you will enjoy this title many years from now.

Other Walt Disney World books I have reviewed:

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