Best Disney World Book Ever?

What is the Best Disney World Book Ever Published?

This is sort of like asking who your favorite child is. Well, kinda.

I have over 1,400 Disney- and theme park-related books in my collection. A frequently asked question is which book is my favorite? Many of my favorite or recommended Disney titles offer something unique that you can’t find anywhere else. Does the book contain a unique history or photos? Does the Disney book have a unique perspective?

The Gardens of the Walt Disney World Resort: A photographic tour of the themed gardens of the Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center and other resort areas is a book that takes us back in time to showcase full-color images of Disney World from the 1970s and 1980s. Often, these are photos that you can’t recreate in the parks or resorts any longer.

There are pictures in this book that you’ve never seen anywhere else!

Check Out My Video Review of The Gardens of the Walt Disney World Resort

What do you think about The Gardens of the Walt Disney World Resort?


FTC Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

Tell Your Story The Walt Disney World Way

Tell Your Story The Walt Disney World Way: Using Disney Imagineering to Make Your Message Heard by Louis J. Prosperi

Did you ever want to tell your story the Walt Disney World way? Maybe you want to sprinkle a little imagineering magic into your writing, storytelling, or presentations? Does your corporate marketing need a boost?

Then look no further than Louis Prosperi’s latest foray into his Imagineering Toolbox Series.

Louis has spent years studying and writing about creativity and how to bring more creativity into your life and work. His three books on  Imagineering are a master class on the imagineering process.

Tell Your Story the Walt Disney World Way builds on the previous books, but you don’t have to read them to understand or enjoy this title. (But you should, because they are really great books!)

Imagine getting a personal tour of the Magic Kingdom from a former Disney Imagineer!

Louis introduces us to  group a high school friends that meet years later as adults. The group decides to reconnect and take a trip together.

One of the friends is a Disney travel agent and plans the trip to Walt Disney World, including getting a storytelling tour of the Magic Kingdom by a former imagineer.

Varying degrees of Disney fans, from hardcore to haven’t been before, make up the group. You’re sure to recognize yourself somewhere in the group. The families get together for dinner at the California Grill and Kim, the travel agent of the group, lays out the agenda for the week, including the surprise tour of the Magic Kingdom with an Imagineer.

Sounds like a fun trip, right?

The group meets Jay Lewis, a former imagineer that often gives tours of the Magic Kingdom to explain the Imagineering process and storytelling. (Jay is an amalgam of Disney Imagineers.) The tour begins at Main Street and we are led, chapter-by-chapter, through the lands of the Magic Kingdom.

This set’s Louis’ books apart from other titles that talk about imagineering; he weaves the process of creativity into a narrative that is engaging and enjoyable.

Louis breaks down the creative process into relatable chunks and ties them back into everyday situations based on the characters. During the tour of the Magic Kingdom, Jay explains and points out the magic behind how the theme park was designed and created. Jay leads the group sharing those nerdy details while prompting the group to think about how exacting the imagineers were with storytelling in a physical environment. Jay consistently refers to books that help lay the foundation of the tour (including Alex Wright’s fantastic Imagineering Field Guide books).

For most people, meeting an imagineer would be a highlight; imagine getting a personalized tour!

We come full circle at the end of Telling Your Story the Walt Disney World Way by experiencing lunch with an imagineer. Jay brings the friends back for one last discussion about creativity and the imagineering process. During the discussion at the Hollywood Brown Derby, Louis recounts the lessons, again allowing the characters to relate the process to their own lives, to fuse the lessons of this book with his earlier titles. It is a great way to wrap up the book and get you started thinking about the imagineering process in your own life.

It’s the little details

Throughout the tour of the Magic Kingdom, I was consistently surprised by the little details that Louis incorporated to help tell the story.

I’ve been collecting and devouring Disney- and theme park-related books for over 27 years. It’s rare that I run across a book that brings something new to the table in regards to the hidden details of the park. Through Jay, Louis recounts the storytelling aspects of the Magic Kingdom that often slip by us. I have to admit that Louis surprised me with a few of the details that I never noticed.

Who Should Buy Tell Your Story the Walt Disney World Way?

Fans of Disney parks and Imagineering will glean loads from this book. If you don’t know much about the design details of the parks, this book will open your eyes to a larger world. And you’ll be able to impress your friends and family with nerdy little details.

My advice? Get a copy of this book before your next trip to the Magic Kingdom. Louis spins a narrative that pushes you to a greater understanding of design. He also helps to percolate your own creative juices. You will walk away looking at your own creativity in anew light.

Grab your copy today!


FTC Disclosure: A copy was provided by the author for the purpose of this review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

Florida Before Disney World: Paisley Florida

Florida Before Disney World: Paisley, Florida

About an hour north of the Magic Kingdom is a cemetery located between Altoona and Paisley in Lake County. The cemetery has an incredible connection to Walt and Roy Disney, and Walt Disney World.

The Ponceannah Cemetery is one of the oldest in Florid and the first burial was in 1860.

But what is the Disney connection to Paisley, Florida?

Disney and Lake County?

On January1, 1888, newly formed Lake County gave out its first official marriage license to Flora Call and Elias Disney. Yes, Walt’s parents met and married in Lake County, less than 70 miles from where their children would plan and build the Vacation Kingdom of the World almost 100 years later.

Flora’s parents (Charles and Henrietta Call) moved from Kansas to the Paisely area of Orange County around 1884. At the time, the future Lake County would be comprised of Orange and Sumter counties. They bought 80 acreas about a mile north of the current area of Paisley. The Calls had five children: Charles, Jr.; Flora; Jessie; Grace Lila; and Julia.

Do you know where this sign is at Walt Disney World?

Kepple Disney and his son Elias (Walt’s father) moved from Kansas and settled in the Paisley area around the same time. From what I’ve read, the Calls and Disneys were neighbors in Kansas and Elias and Flora first met there. Elias took a job as a postman and delivered mail by horseback to over 300 families in the area. One of those families being the Calls and Flora Call continued to catch Elias’ attention.

Flora and Elias were married on January 1, 1888, in a small church in Kismet, Florida. Sadly, Kismet is one of the more than 50 ghost towns of Lake County, and it’s exact location, and the location of the church, are unknown.

What Happened to Kismet?

Image courtesy of Lake County Government

It is not clear why the post offices were discontinued at Ponceannah (1887), Kismet (1890), and Acron (1890). These closings left Paisley with the only active post office in the area.

During these years “Crow’s Burial Grounds” had become ”Ponceannah Cemetery”. The residents of the area formed a Cemetery Association. On November 6, 1891 the Association’s Trustees J.C.Hethcox, G.H. Gardiner, J.J. McEwen, Joshua T. Crow, and R.W. Stokes signed Articles of Incorporation for the Cemetery Association, witnessed by Alfred D. Hancock and
L.J. Owens. At this time Secretary of State J. L. Crawford decided the address of the Cemetery Association should be Paisley.

These actions left Paisley the only settlement in the area with a church, a post office, and a cemetery. There were also a number of sawmills, a gristmill, a cotton gin, a general store and a schoolhouse, all of which contributed to the survival of Paisley, while most of the other small settlements disappeared. (History of Paisley and surrounding area : “The Paisley Precinct” by Paisley Extension Homemakers, 1990, pp. 16-17)

Aunt Jessie and Walt Disney

After Elias and Flora were married, they moved to Daytona Beach where their first son, Herbert, was born in 1888. They would move to Chicago in 1889, where Elias and Flora would build a home on Tripp Avenue. The remaining Disney children would be born in Chicago. Interesting tidbit: Elias Disney worked construction at the Columbian World’s Exposition.

(State Archives of Florida)

The photo of Walt with Aunt Jessie Perkins and cousin Irene Campbell sitting on a porch in Paisley has been passed around and is part of the Florida Memory Collection at the Florida State Archives. To me, based on the caption and the style of the type, it was from an internal Disney communication piece, but I haven’t identified the source. From articles in the Orlando Sentinel and the Daily Commercial, it is stated that Walt would have spent summers in Paisley with Aunt Jessie. There are ruminations that Walt eyed the Paisley area and Lake County as a potential site for the Florida Project, but the lack of major highways would have been a deal-breaker.

Let’s Visit the Ponceannah Cemetery

Visiting the Ponceannah Cemetery offers an interesting piece of Disney history that isn’t discussed often.

As you enter through the gates off of State Road 42, you travel down a dirt road towards a gazebo.

There’s a plaque on the gazebo that discusses Aunt Jessie and her contribution to the cemetery.

In 1923 member Jessie Perkins, Secretary/Treasurer of the Ponceannah Cemetery Association 1927-1946, raised money to have this gazebo built. The present day six-sided structure has served well through the years, as a chapel, meeting place, and a shaded rest area for members on work days.

As you approach the gazebo, which is centrally located in the cemetery, you might spy a familiar color scheme through the distance. As you head deeper into the cemetery, be on the lookout for a very unique grave marker with a red and black structure nearby.

The grave marker looks like a tree stump and there is a red and black bench  for visitors to sit and reflect.

The small stone at the foot of the grave site says FATHER & MOTHER.

The monument is a headstone provided courtesy of the Woodmen of the World Life Assurance Society. The organization was a fraternal order that guaranteed the right of a dignified and marked grave. The Woodmen of the World created a unique marker for every member when they passed. Due to the costs associated, the order stopped providing the free monuments in the 1920s.

The top half has the Masonic Symbol carved on it.

  • Charles Call Born Mar. 22, 1823 Died Jan. 6 1890
  • Henrietta Call Born July, 23, 1837 Died Feb 21, 1910

Aunt Jessie and Walt Disney in Paisley

At the bottom of the monument is a plaque, with the following inscription:

Charles and Henrietta Call were the grandparents of Walt Disney. The Call and Disney family [sic] moved to Florida in 1884 from Kansas. The families settled on land about a mile north of Paisley. Charles and Henrietta’s daughter, Flora married Elias Disney in 1888 and later moved to Chicago where Walt was born in 1900. As a child and adult, Walt was a frequent visitor in Paisley with his Aunt Jesse Call Perkins.

The grave for Aunt Jessie and her husband, Albert Perkins, is in the same plot as Charles and Henrietta. Albert was the postmaster in Paisley until his death, when Jessie took over. Aunt Jessie worked in several schools in Lake County, eventually serving as principal of East High School. Aunt Jessie passed away on March 6, 1956.

Have You Visited The Call Family Gravesite in Paisley, Florida?


For more more fantastic stories about the early days of Walt Disney World, heck out Aaron Goldberg’s AMAZING new book: Buying Disney’s World: The Story of How Florida Swampland Became Walt Disney World

FTC Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

Pont des Arts Redux at Epcot

Pont des Arts Redux at Epcot

Back in 2008, I posted about a surprising tableaux on the bridge between the UK and the France Pavilions at Epcot. During subsequent visits, I would check on the area to see if the painting was still there. For a few years, the painting disappeared but returned some time in the past year or so.

It’s a different style than the painting from 2008.

Photo from 2021 featuring a Friendship boat traveling into World Showcase

I took the following photo in March, 2019.

Photo from 2019

I am wondering how many times the Imagineers have changed this painting over the years.

Do You Have Any Images of the Art on the Pont des Arts at Epcot?

Looking for a great book on Epcot?


FTC Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

Designing Disney’s Theme Parks Book Review

Designing Disney’s Theme Parks Book Review

Designing Disney’s Theme Parks: The Architecture of Reassurance was first published in 1997 and was edited by Karal Ann Marling. The book is a collection of essays, including a longer one by Ms. Marling, that takes us in-depth with the processes, thoughts, and philosophies of designing Disney themed spaces. There are 224 pages and the book weighs in at almost 3.5 pounds. It’s a large-format book, which means the concept art and photos are reproduced in a fairly large size.

Disney Disney’s Theme Parks Video Review

Do you own a copy of the book? Did you ever get to the the art exhibit?

The exhibit that spawned the book is one that I wish I’d bee able to visit, especially in the late 1990s. As I mentioned in the video, this book was published near the end of the Disney Decade, when Michael Eisner was touting the modern architecture that the Disney Company was proliferating. Eisner was working with the biggest and most acclaimed architects of the day, whenever it was for resorts, corporate buildings, or planned communities. This was all oa time before the advent of blogging and vloggers, so there were very few places to get information about Disney theme parks. (Seriously, how did you ever find out bout the latest cupcake without vlogging?!?!?!) Designing Disney’s Theme Park was also one of the first forays into the scholarship of Disney. Another great title to check out is Stephen Fjellman’s Vinyl Leaves, one of the very best sociological treatises on Disney World and a walk-through of every queued attraction at WDW around 1990. Trust me, you want both of these books!

Additional authors: Neil Harris; Erika Doss; Yi-Fu Tuan; and Greil Marcus.

Looking for other books about Walt Disney World? Check out my list of WDW books!


FTC Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

A Magical Half-Century: Disney World’s First 50 Years

A Magical Half-Century: Stories Celebrating Walt Disney World’s First 50 Years by Christopher E. Smith, a book review

Isn’t it hard to believe that Walt Disney World will be celebrating a magical half-century this year?

It seems as if we were just celebrating the 40th anniversary and the 50th anniversary was an impossible date. I was hoping that we’d be celebrating the 50th anniversary while wearing jetpacks.

Regardless, we’re here. Despite the shut-downs, the virus, and the social distancing, Disney has been slowly prepping the Florida property for a celebration of sorts. I assume there will be a 50th anniversary celebration at the Magic Kingdom, but no plans have been formally announced (as of this writing). That being said, I imagine that the celebration on Friday, October 1, 2021, will be somber.

Where Are the Books Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World?

I expected many more books published celebrating the 50th anniversary.  That being said, not many are showing up.

Author Christopher E. Smith reached out to me to review his latest book celebrating Walt Disney World’s first 50 years.

The only history book published that documents most of WDW is Jeff Kurtti’s Since the World Began. Jeff’s well done but surprisingly thin history of Walt Disney World set the standard for how to approach a subject as varied and dramatic as Walt Disney World. Hopes abounded for Jeff to re-visit the work and add the second half-century, but plans never came to fruition. I imagine a thorough history of the Vacation Kingdom of the World would be comparable to one of the later Harry Potter novels.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how Christopher put his own spin on Walt Disney World’s history by sharing 16 well-crafted and well-researched stories focusing on Disney World.

A Magical Half-Century

Christopher shares a unique approach to chronicling the first fifty years of Walt Disney World. Don’t expect a run through of the resort or a year-by-year chronology. Christopher weaves a tapestry that tells a larger story. Throughout the 16 chapters, Christopher regales us with historical tales covering different facets of the resort, while focusing on some pretty big milestones and attractions. And some details that you might take for granted.

I’m not a fan of spoilers of any kind, so I will caution you to skip the chapter on Rise of the Resistance until you’ve ridden it (Chapter 4). Rise of the Resistance is stellar (besides being based on the awful sequels) and any little detail gleaned will spoil some of the surprises. But you still need to read the rest of the book! Christopher offers readers some in-depth insight, including a chapter on the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (S.E.A.) that takes around the actual globeto visit some of the other Disney theme parks. Fans of the Adventurer’s Club will love this chapter.

What’s Inside the Walt Disney World History Book?

In the 16 chapters, Christopher visits Sleepy Hollow, the Great Movie Ride, Pirates of the Caribbean and the famed Western River Expedition, the EPCOT film, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, DinoLand, The American Adventure, and some of the littlest details: weather vanes. A Magical Half-Century is more than Christopher reciting a litany of facts; he ties multiple storylines together to present a larger history.  The section on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is really a history of the area and a look at the attraction queue, the ride experience, and the tributes. Christopher travels back in time to share early concepts for attractions that didn’t make the cut, including concepts with Roger Rabbit, Mel Brooks, and Dick Tracy. It’s a very satisfying and engaging read (like the other chapters) that offers much more than you think you’re going to get.

This is the kind of mash-up that is ImagiNERDing approved!

A Magical Half-Century recounts the history through images, as well. Christopher has provided crisp black-and-white photos to accompany the text. He’s also managed to wrangle Rob Yeo to provide the wonderfully retro cover art and line illustrations throughout the book. Rob’s design sensibility and charm help elucidate Christopher’s work.

Christopher includes a lot of details that future researchers and fans will enjoy. In many cases, he includes complete ride scripts and minor walk-throughs of the attractions. Sure, you can find these on the web, but it’s great to have them in a handy reference work.

Disney World and Intellectual Properties

In his regular job, Christopher is a lawyer that works with IP, or intellectual property. One of the chapters looks at IP and the Disney Parks, specifically to counter the argument that Disney is populating attractions solely based on IPs, like Frozen and the Pixar films. Christopher offers unique insight and provides a section at the end of the book replete with tables broken down by era (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom). The author goes a long (and entertaining) way to show how IPs were present well before it was a conflagration.

All-in-all, Christopher’s dive into the first 50 years of Walt Disney World is an engaging and satisfying read. The chapters go deeper than you expect and incorporate more history than you would think. He also provides a select bibliography, which is a must for any good historical work on any theme park.

Christopher used some top-notch titles for his research.

With the obvious dearth of titles related to Walt Disney World history, Christopher fills the void. He shares fascinating reads that will reach out to all Disney World fans, regardless of your experiences and interests. Grab a copy of the book, sit back, and enjoy A Magical Half-Century!

What’s Your Favorite Memory from the First 50 Years of Walt Disney World?


FTC Disclosure: A copy was provided by the author for the purpose of this review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

George’s Favorite Books of 2020

George’s Favorite Books of 2020

Each year, there are more and more Disney- and theme park-related books published. As a theme park nerd, this makes me very happy, but it also means there’s a lot of wheat to separate from the chaff. And that’s part of why ImagiNERDing exists; I always want to present a fair and unbiased look at Disney and theme park books.

With the ease of self-publishing, it means that everyone can tell their theme park story or create their own Disney book. This is a double-edged sword: not only do we get an enormous amount of material, but it also means that quality control (editing, proof-reading, copy-editing, design, etc.) is often neglected. Regardless of the content, grammar, spelling, and style are all important and are a big part of whether a book makes my list.

Books, Books, and More Books from 2020

What follows is the list of my favorite books from the past year in chronological release date.

  • Rolling Through the Years: a Cedar Point Atlas & Chronology by Ken Miller—This is the ultimate history of Cedar Point and might be one of the greatest amusement park books ever written. It’s a huge book and is the most comprehensively detailed book about Cedar Point. And I always recommend that Disney park fans spend time visiting regional parks, like Cedar Point, because they offer a look into the growth and development of themed entertainment.

  • The Disney Monorail: Imagineering a Highway in the Sky by Jeff Kurtti, Vanessa Hunt, and Paul Wolski—talk about the ultimate release for fans of Walt Disney and the history of the monorail! The book takes us on a trip through the different iterations of the monorail through history (no, Disney did not invent the monorail) and the development of monorails at Disney parks. Every Disney fan needs to own this!

  • Holiday Magic at the Disney Parks: Celebrations Around the World from Fall to Winter by Graham Allen, Rebecca Cline, and Charlie Price—this is a book that Disney fans have been waiting years for. It’s a massive book that looks at all the how the holidays are celebrated in all of parks, resorts, hotels, and cruise ships. There is a smattering of history, which is nice, but the majority of the 1900 photos are from the past few years. This is an important release, especially concerning the lack of celebrations happening in the parks in 2020 and for the many fans that aren’t able to travel. I enjoyed the book, mainly for the photos, but really with there had been more of a vogue on the history of the holidays in the parks.

  • Polishing the Dragons: Making EPCOT’s “Wonders of China” by Jeff Blythe—Polishing the Dragons is a perfect example of how small and independent publishing houses can offer incredible content that is well-written, well-designed, and, fortunately, well-edited! Disney fans will relish every sentence and they will devour Jeff’s book about the making of the Circle-Vision film. Seriously, I’m still amazed that there is a whole book dedicated to one subject. The book is awesome.

  • Boundless Realm: Deep Explorations Inside Disney’s Haunted Mansion by Foxx Nolte—I’ve known Foxx for more than ten years and her blog has been one of the main inspirations for what I do at ImagiNERDing. The Haunted Mansion is a fan favorite and the attraction has been plagued by a lack of a stated backstory. Foxx takes us very deep to explore all of the influences of the Imagineers that led them to make the spooky house on the hill. This book is amazing and deserves to be in every Disney and theme park fan’s collection.

Haven’t Quite Finished It Yet…

My Favorite Books of 2020?

There you have it: my favorite books from 2020. I’m often asked what my favorite book of the year is, and I’ve offered the ImagiNERDing Book of the Year in years past. But this year, there are so many books that deserve the title that I can’t make an effective choice. If you’re on a limited budget, the Disney Monorails, Polishing the Dragons, Imagineering an American Dreamscape, and Boundless Realm, are all fantastic titles that shed light into Disney history from vastly different points-of-view and offer a wonderful reading experience.

What Are Your Favorite Books from 2020?


FTC Disclosure: In some cases, a copy might have been provided by the company for the purpose of review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

Polishing the Dragons Making EPCOT’s Wonders of China

Polishing the Dragons: Making EPCOT’s Wonders of China by Jeff Blyth, a book review

Polishing the Dragons is an interesting title for a Disney history book, right?

The subtitle, Making EPCOT’s “Wonders of China,” relates to the Circle-Vision 360 film that played for more than 20 years in the China Pavilion at Epcot. But maybe you’re only familiar with the current film Reflections of China?

Still, I know what you’re thinking…

A whole book about the making of a Circle-Vision 360 film?

Leonard Kinsey reached out to me about reviewing the latest release from Bamboo Forest Publishing; pretty much every Bamboo Forest Publishing book has risen to the top of my favorites list. Leonard and his crew pay incredible attention to detail and have some of the most evocative layouts of any Disney-related book (plus a special shoutout to the mad genius Hugh for his impeccable editing).

What is Polishing the Dragons?

As inferred, the book is about the making of the Wonders of China film that played in EPCOT from the grand opening in 1982 until March 23, 2003 (it also played at Disneyland). The title refers to the extreme steps that the author and film crew took to make Wonders of China. And not just polishing dragons.

As a Disney book nerd, it shocked me that someone could write a book about this. But the book equally shocked me in that Jeff could remember enough about the experience to pen a 248 page work. Polishing the Dragons will surprise you! (And maybe shock you—in a great way!)

Polishing the Dragons starts before the advent of the filming process and offers background on Jeff and his early career. We accompany Jeff as he follows his passion of filmmaking and storytelling. And that’s important to know: Jeff is a storyteller, as it comes through in this book and the projects he has worked on. After completing an IMAX project, the company Jeff worked for came to the attention of Disney. Imagine needing to coordinate the opening of the world’s largest theme park (at the time); you would need to get the best people you can. In this case, Jeff became the best person to coordinate the hauling of a massive Circle-Vision camera around China.

What Is Circle-Vision?

If you’re not familiar with Circle-Vision, it’s a massive camera set-up with nine cameras that offers a 360 degree view. The nine cameras have to be focused and synced (along with other camera and filmmaking techniques). You also have to ensure that you don’t have anything extra that you don’t want in any of the nine images is in the frame. Other Circle-Vision films include the current Oh Canada, Reflections of China, and the former Time Keeper.

The book spends a majority of the time in China as Jeff negotiates (on a daily basis) getting the shots needed. In some cases, the nine camera set-up would be hauled all day for just a few seconds of film. Imagine spending 7-8 hours of physcal labor and hiking to get a few moments captured. This book almost acts as a guide for making a film in a foreign country.

Most modern readers will probably be unfamiliar with the post-Mao China. It’s quite eye-opening to read about how closed off the country was and how difficult it was to complete the project. There were many times it seemed as if the project were going to be stopped.

From what I understand, Jeff kept an incredibly detailed journal, which explains the crazy amount of detail presented to us almost 40 years later. Jeff goes surprisingly in-depth in an almost day-to-day basis. It might seem like overkill, but it’s fascinating to relate his experiences to the finished film.

Why Should You Read This Disney History Book?

Bamboo Forest Publishing has a strong record of publishing engaging, creative, and authoritative books. The Charlie Walker books by Nick Pobursky are some of the best fiction titles related to Disney and the  Drinking at Disney title was my favorite book from 2016. And with Polishing the Dragons, they’ve knocked it way out of the park. Who could imagine a 248 page book dedicated solely to one singular attraction (well, besides the Haunted Mansion).

Jeff has a fantastic writing style and I felt like I was on the trip with him (minus the cold, heat, rain, and unfamiliar food). The book never bogged you down with useless information about the process; he actually keeps you fairly entertained during the multiple visits to China to scout and film. A circle-vision film takes so much work and time! You will never take another Circle-Vision film for granted.

Again, a single book dedicated a theme park attraction seems like overkill, but Jeff makes voyage very entertaining. You will never take the Circle-Vision film for granted. You will also walk away with a deeper knowledge of how a large project comes together and the multitude of people that partook in it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and reading about all of the details that went into the film. If you’re a fan of EPCOT Center or a filmmaker, then you will devour Jeff’s book.

Are You Going to Pick Up Polishing the Dragons?


FTC Disclosure: A copy was provided by the author for the purpose of this review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

Boundless Realm Haunted Mansion Book Review

Boundless Realm: Deep Explorations Inside Disney’s Haunted Mansion by Foxx Nolte

Are you a Haunted Mansion fan?

Then simply visit your favorite retailer and purchase Boundless Realm, Foxx’s deep dive into the history, culture, myths, and designs of everyone’s favorite spooky house.

You will love it and you will glean so much from her nuanced analysis of the vaunted theme park attraction.

I would end the review here, but you might want to read more about it before you take your own deep dive.

Here’s the point to Foxx’s book:

In truth, however, the haunted mansion does not offer us many hints. The great power of the ride is that it suggests leagues more than it shows. Practically every scene offers visual input of imagistic power and internal logic but which has no larger context outside itself. Our brains labor overtime to trace links where they may not truthfully exist. It’s the theme park equivalent of a Rorschach test. —p. 52

Foxx has been pontificating on the Mansion and Disney/themed design for more than fourteen years at Passport 2 Dreams. And I’m not shy to say that she is one of the reasons that I started ImagiNERDing in 2007. Foxx’s words inspired me to look at Disney from a different viewpoint and allowed me to take a discerning look at design choices that I always took for granted. Seriously, the post on fake skylights changed my life.

Why Should You Read This Haunted Mansion Book?

Anyone who has experienced either of the continental Disney Mansions understands that there isn’t much of a narrative. Well, there is, and not the fan-based stories or the retcon that Imagineers have imposed over the ensuing years. But there is a rooted story that is based on the culture and history of the Imagineers that worked on Walt’s haunted house in the 1950s and 1960s. Foxx takes us on the dark and shadowy path that created the 1969 and 1971 Mansions (yes, I know they’re very similar, but there were/are differences).

Foxx did a majority of the 30 illustrations throughout the book!

That’s why this book is spectacular. Foxx takes us by the hand and acts as guide to all that made the Haunted Mansion the Haunted Mansion. She delves into the pop culture of the past few centuries, with a long side track into spiritualism, and brings us into the history of dark rides that led to this one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Anyone familiar with Laff in the Dark and fun house walk-throughs will enjoy these dynamic connections.

Foxx takes these conjunctions, so to speak, and shares how the Imagineers (Davis, Coats, Crump, Gracey, and others) used these influences to design the enigmatic attraction. I searched Google and YouTube for books, songs, and movies mentioned by Foxx that are antecedents to the spooky house.

Boundless Realm and Disney Fans

In Boundless Realm, Foxx’s positions might not sit well with the average theme park visitor or Disney fan (someone who never vacations outside of Walt Disney World). She disregards and destroys fan-based theories (like Constance’s wedding ring), which is a wonderful thing. Some might call Foxx elitist, but there is a reason she is one of the most respected authorities on the Haunted Mansion. Her arguments and theories posit that the Haunted Mansion is a ride that must be experienced firsthand and can only be understood by regular visits.

The book really is for Mansionites that want to experience the attraction from a design perspective in relation to the history and culture of the Imagineers. Casual fans that follow popular vloggers might find consternation in Boundless Realm, but that’s a good thing. I’ve been reading and conversing with Foxx about the Haunted Mansion and themed design for nigh on ten years, and I still felt like I learned some new nugget on each and every page.

Boundless Realm shines when Foxx brings together all of the parts that made the spooky house what it is. We start the journey by discussing how themed entertainment (amusement parks, fairs, carnivals, etc.) and horror films of the early 20th century helped lay the foundation for the iconic attraction. But there are so many more layers to the attraction that Foxx uncovers.

Foxx spends time (and words) imploring readers to discover the world outside of the Disney berms. She discusses the importance of the Haunted Mansion at Knoebels and the Whacky Shack rides, and how their influence is felt in the Mansion.

Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World (And Tokyo, Paris, and Shanghai)

Foxx focuses most of her attention on the Florida mansion. She doesn’t disregard the California attraction; she discusses both attractions when they diverge and offer similar experiences. Her favorite is the Magic Kingdom Haunted Mansion, wherein lies her obsession. And her obsession pays off in spades for us.

In thinking about the book, there were so many parts that stood out in relation to the Magic Kingdom version. Foxx tours us around Liberty Square, and she helps us to understand why the spooky house is situated on a hill and its relation to the rest of the land. (Did you know that you’re not supposed to see the riverboat from the entrance to Liberty Square? It’s the sole reason they built the dock the way it is.) I also loved anytime Foxx stepped out of her role as tour guide and shared anecdotes about time spent working at the Haunted Mansion. There are some fantastic cast member tales in this book. Tales that could not take place today!

We do get sidelines related to the Tokyo Mansion, Phantom Manor, and Mystery Mansion. Foxx doesn’t burrow far into them, but offers cursory glances as to their roles in the evolving art form that is the dark ride. She also tackles a few of the other more prominent haunted houses at Alton Towers, Europa Park, and others.

A Ghost Will Follow You Home

This is only the third title written about the Haunted Mansion. For her, it was a journey that took most of her life to make. It is a work of love, but it’s also a look—no, a gaze into the Mansion and everything that makes the Mansion tick. And why we respond to the Mansion as we do. In one part of the book, Foxx mentions watching people exit the ride, and there is palpable exhilaration on their faces and in their mannerisms. As if they’ve ridden a roller coaster. There is something deeply relatable within the Haunted Mansion that touches so many of us. And many times we simply don’t have the wherewithal to understand why.

That’s what makes Boundless Realm so important.

Are You Going to Pick Up Boundless Realm?


FTC Disclosure: A copy was provided by the author for the purpose of this review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

Imagineering an American Dreamscape, a Book Review

Imagineering an American Dreamscape by Barry R. Hill, a Book Review

The history of Disney Parks and larger regional amusement parks, like Cedar Point and Six Flags, have been well-documented. But what about the other theme parks? The ones that helped usher in the idea of themed entertainment or were part of the 1970s amusement/theme park revival? How does the growth of regional theme parks fit into the landscape of the history of theme and amusement parks? With Imagineering an American Dreamscape: Genesis, Evolution and Redemption of the Regional Theme Park, author Barry Hill shares a well-written and well-presented history of America’s theme parks. One that is sure to intrigue and take you on a wonderful stroll down memory lane of your favorite local park. Or parks.

Why Do You Need to Read This Book?

Contrary to popular belief, theme parks didn’t start with Disneyland in 1955. The term theme park was born with the opening of Walt’s nascent park, but the idea of theme parks had existed in a few parks prior to Walt’s creation. Barry wastes no time jumping into the history of parks by exploring pre-Disneyland, Walt’s influences, and, then, the major players, like Angus Wynne, Busch, Randall Duell, and so many others.

I’ve been a Disney park fan for most of my life and a self-styled Disney historian since the mid-1990s. After being on an award-winning podcast for years and writing weekly histories of Disney, I started to wonder how we got to Disneyland and Walt Disney World. What about other world-class parks like Universal and Busch Gardens Tampa? Where did they start and how did parks change over the years?

And why do so many people know so little about theme park history?

Look at that: almost 100 pages dedicated to an index, notes, a bibliography, and other important background information!

If you’ve ever visited a Six Flags park, Cedar Point, Kings Island, Holiday World, Great America, Hersheypark…or so many others, then this book is a treat. Barry takes the history of theme parks seriously and offers a condensed story of how the parks came to be, evolved, survived, and, in some cases, quietly slipped away.

If anything, this book will afford Disney fans the opportunity to broaden their perspectives and understand the larger tapestry of theme parks that exist outside of Disney and Universal. For most of the parks presented, Barry takes us back in time to wander the opening season of the park to look at the design and early attractions. It really is a stroll down memory lane.

What’s Inside Imagineering an American Dreamscape?

Barry ruminates on the successes and failures of so many parks and the forces behind the parks. When Barry talks about Carowinds (Charlotte, NC), he shares the inside story of E. Pat Hall, the Charlotte-area business man who planned to bring a Disneyland-style resort to the booming city. Massive plans included a short-lived monorail and hotels. The looming energy crisis changed everything, as it did with Taft, Marriott, and other regional parks. Some survived, some were bought out, and some just languished.

Obviously, Barry can’t cover every park, but he does share the ones that influenced the themed industry more than others. My only complaint about the book relates to the lack of maps and photographs to illustrate the work. Barry addresses this in the book by directing readers to his website: Rivershore Creative.

Randall Duell and the Duell Loop: the Ultimate Theme Park Designer

We also get an inside look at some of the most important people in the theme park industry. Barry spends pages discussing Randall Duell, the architect responsible for the modern theme park. Duell was able to take the successes of Disneyland and translate them into early Six Flags parks. He became the most in-demand designer and is responsible for being able to integrate thoughtful design, architecture, and theming.

After the main sections of the book, Barry introduces us to Mel McGowan and Rick Bastrup. Both are McGowan is Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Storyland Studios; Bastrup is President and Head Designer of R&R Creative Amusement Designs. Both offer salient chapters on Duell and other theme park design legends. McGowan and Bastrup share the stories as fans and industry insiders.

In all honesty, Imagineering an American Dreamscape is almost the story of Randall Duell. The warp and weft of the theme park industry is ingrained with so many of Duell’s deft touches and ideas. I’m so glad Barry presented the book in this way.

So, yes, you should grab this book. And, yes, you will enjoy it. Barry has written a work on a staggering subject and he has distilled it to the most important concepts and people. You will learn something from Barry’s work, regardless of your prior theme park experiences.

What is your favorite regional park? Mine is Kings Island.


FTC Disclosure: A copy was provided by the author for the purpose of this review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!