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!

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!

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!

Disney Mountains Book Video Review

Disney Mountains Video Book Review

Love the Disney Mountains?

Does the idea of tackling Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and Splash Mountain make you strap on your Disney lederhosen for a fun day at the parks?

What about Matterhorn Mountain? Or Mount Mayday or Mount Gushmore? Have you ever experienced Mount Prometheus? And don’t forget about Grizzly Peak orExpedition Everest.

And if you want learn everything there is about the Disney Mountains from all of the Disney Parks worldwide…where you look?

Check out my Video Review of The Disney Mountains by Jason Surrell

What’s Your Favorite Disney Mountain?

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!

Cedar Point History Book

Cedar Point History Book

This new Cedar Point history book by Ken Miller is so much more than a history book. Rolling Through The Years: A Cedar Point Atlas & Chronology is probably the greatest amusement park book ever written. Sure, I still love The Nickel Tour and the Marc Davis books, but Ken’s new Cedar Point book is the prototype for how a history and chronology book should be written.

The Cedar Point history book measures in at 12″ X 18″.

I bought my copy online and couldn’t wait to break the spine, so to speak. I’ve visited Cedar Point twice and I had two more trips scheduled this summer, but had to cancel them. I didn’t even read the blurb on the back of the book before starting this video so I could experience it firsthand.

Rolling Through The Years: A Cedar Point Atlas & Chronology Video Preview

Why Should I Buy This Book?

Fans of Cedar Point have to add this book to their collection. Besides offering an incredible history, it is a way to experience the much loved  amusement park like never before. Amusement and theme park fans should add this book to their collection due simply to the breadth and depth of knowledge and history presented in one place. Authors like Ken need the support to create lasting works like this. Die-hard Disney fans need to visit Cedar Point. I know many will scoff at this, but there is a reason that Cedar Point has been around for 150 years.

Check Out My Other Cedar Point Posts

Visit the publisher to order a copy, and tell ’em that George sent ya!

FTC Disclosure: In some cases, a copy might have been provided by the company for the purpose of this review (but not on this post). 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!

Kem Weber Mid Century Furniture Design for the Disney Studios by David A. Bossert

Kem Weber Mid Century Furniture Design for the Disney Studios by David A. Bossert

Kem Weber Mid Century Furniture Design for the Disney Studios is a new book by David A. Bossert, animator, historian and author. If you’re not familiar with Kem, then you are in for a treat! I saw a release about the book and reached out to the publisher for a review copy. It showed up a few weeks later and I knew I wanted to do a sneak peek of the book for YouTube.

Kem Weber was responsible for designing the Disney Studios in Burbank as well as all of the furniture, furnishings and the famous animation desks.

Check out my video sneak peek about the Kem Weber book:

Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel for more videos on Disney parks, Universal, theme park books and more!

Are You Going to Check-out Kem Weber Mid Century Furniture Design for the Disney Studios by David A. Bossert

David also wrote:

Join me on Patreon!

Special thanks to Wes B. for supporting me on Patreon.

Check out the ImagiNERDing Patreon page to be part of the ImagiNERD community. Get special updates, behind-the-scenes information and more!

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!

New Disney Book: Travels with Walt Disney Sneak Peek!

New Disney Book: Travels with Walt Disney Sneak Peek!

A review copy of Travels with Walt Disney: a Photographic Voyage Around the World, the new Disney book by Jeff Kurtti, showed up a few weeks ago. Before I get to the official ImagiNERDing review, I filmed this Travels with Walt Disney sneak peek of the book.

Check out my video about Travels With Walt Disney:

What do you think about this new book about Walt Disney’s travels throughout the world? I have to admit that there were quite a few photographs of Walt and family that I’d never seen before.

Are you going to buy this one?

FTC Disclosure: A copy was provided by the publisher 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!

Iron Man The Gauntlet by Eoin Colfer

Iron Man The Gauntlet by Eoin Colfer, a book review

Iron Man The Gauntlet by Eoin Colfer is another entry in Marvel’s young adult series. I’ve reviewed (and loved) the Black Widow series. When I found out Colfer was writing an entry about Iron Man, I was excited. Colfer should be swell-known name to ImagiNERDs—I’ve both loved his Artemis Fowl and WARP series. Colfer’s style is engaging, witty and, at times, sarcastic. I knew Colfer would be a great person to tackle Iron Man and Tony Stark.

Iron Man The Gauntlet straddles the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the comic books. It’s a great tie-in for both genres and will satisfy fans of the films, comic and cartoons. There’s no direct correlation to the films, but it’s a perfect addition. Fans and newcomers will learn quite a bit about Iron Man.

In Iron Man The Gauntlet, Colfer takes us into Tony’s past and we see a principal interaction between Tony and his father that sets Tony on a more altruistic path. Again, Colfer’s experience writing young adult and tween novels helps him build very believable characters.

Fans of Iron Man tech are going to love the book, especially the moments when Tony is backed into a corner and has to make due with partial suits and equipment. Friday, Iron Man’s artificial intelligence, and Tony Stark’s RoboTony (which does a lot of Tony’s yacht appearances when Iron Man is on a covert mission) both play a large part of the story and act as comic foils.

The gist of the story is that Tony is scheduled to make an appearance at an environmental conference in Ireland. Tony’s yacht, piloted by the RoboTony while the real Tony was on a mission, makes it’s way to Ireland. The yacht is pretty impressive and fans will love getting an inside peak at it. Tony decides to take his party pack suit, which is used for PR and public appearances. While he’s flying to the summit, he gets. ping on a boat on a deserted island. He decides to investigate it and that’s when the surprises happen.

One of the characters that helps ground the book in the teen  world is Saoirse Tory, a young Irish woman who ends up becoming the hero of the story.

Overall, there’s a lot of well-written action scenes in the book, which is expected since it is a superhero novel. But Colfer does take us deeper into Tony’s psyche as well as that of Saoirse. Yes, there is some teen angst, but all of the characters’ emotions lead to a deeper story. As intoned, there are times when Tony is backed into a corner without his suit or with a less powerful suit. We see Tony and Saoirse really depend on their intellects. The villain of the book is different from the movies (he is in one of the Iron Man films) and aligns closely with the comics. He’s drawn very well and an obvious villain to Tony as a hero.

Fans of Iron Man are going to love the book, especially the look at a few of the suits and how they function. If you’re new to the Iron Man universe, Colfer does a great job of bringing you up to speed and not leaving anyone behind.

Iron man The Gauntlet by Eoin Colfer is a wonderful read and I highly recommend it, along with the Black Widow books.

Title: Iron Man, The Gauntlet
Author: Eoin Colfer
ISBN: 978-1484741603
Release Date: October 25, 2016

Have you read Iron Man The Gauntlet?

FTC Disclosure: A copy was provided by the publisher 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!

Maps of the Disney Parks Book Review

Maps of the Disney Parks Book Review

The Maps of the Disney Parks book and the recalled Walt Disney Studios book have been two of the most anticipated books of the year. With the absence of the Disney Studios book due to a mysterious recall, this means the Disney maps book has to be the de facto holiday present for most people.

I could end the review here and just yell for everyone to go out and buy it. But, I’ll spend some time digging a little deeper into the book.

Seriously, guys, this book is worth it!

Yes, that line is intentional. Read on!

Maps of the Disney Parks: Charting 60 Years from California to Shanghai

The book is very hefty, and that’s the first thing that you notice. It feels solid and well-constructed. The front cover is surprising, since the book opens in a non-traditional and charming way (at first). The front cover is bisected and both sides open out. It reminded me of opening a map and really is a wonderful design choice, but not a good choice for a book. Once you start to leaf through the Maps of the Disney Parks book, you’ll realize that the cover makes it a bit awkward. The book does feel like it’s enclosed in a heavy slipcover. There is no book jacket which is probably good for future collectors.

The Maps of the Disney Parks Book: What’s on the Inside?

The content that was pretty amazing. It’s not what I would’ve done with the book but it’s pretty darn astounding nonetheless. Noting the table of contents, the book is broken down into six major sections that closely follow the operating decades and major developments.

The book is large and the publishers took great advantage of the physical size of the book when reproducing the maps. And, of course, that’s what people want to see. I’m sure most theme park fans have maps as treasured mementos. Long before we had the Internet, I can remember just staring at maps of Kings Island for hours trying to plan my next trip.

Many of the maps take up one entire page and a lot of the artwork actually covers two pages. Remember the Disneyland Fun Maps? You’ll find reproductions of many of them by Sam McKim and, most recently by, Nina Rae Vaughn. They also take a section of the map and blow it up on the following page to give you a better view of the art that went into the map.

There were quite a handful of maps that I’ve never seen before and they also offered a lot of preliminary drawings of the maps. It was interesting to see the  process of how they went from simple line drawings to fully-colored, published maps. I did love this aspect but I would’ve almost rather of had more maps or more close-up views of some of the other maps. I really appreciate the artistry that went into these but I would’ve rather of seen more maps overall.

There were some also fairly large reproductions of maps that I’ve usually only seen in a very small scale. There are three maps of the original plans for the parks near the Disney Studios that I’ve always seen fairly small. In the Maps of the Disney Parks book, the maps take up more than half a page.

This is not a joke but you will want to have a magnifying glass with you in order to take advantage of the book. You will get lost in the finer details of the maps. You will spend hours going over the maps marveling at the minutia.

So yes, go out and buy this book. You might actually want to get two copies of it because this one is spectacular. As I mentioned earlier in the review, I think I would’ve created the book it differently; I would’ve spent a whole book just looking at the changes to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. In this case Disney gives a great overview of all the maps in the history of their parks and some beautiful artistry. Grab your copy of the Maps of the Disney Parks book, now!

Title: Maps of the Disney Parks: Charting 60 Years from California to Shanghai
Author: Vanessa Hunt, Kevin Neary and Susan Neary
ISBN: 978-1484715475
Release Date: October 18, 2016

What do you think about The Maps of the Disney Parks book?

Check out my unboxing and first look at The Maps of the Disney Parks book!


FTC Disclosure: A copy was provided by the publisher 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!

Haunted Mansion Book (Grim Grinning Ghosts Come Out to Read)

The Haunted Mansion Book! (Grim Grinning Ghosts Come Out to Socialize—and read!)

The Haunted Mansion book released by Disney is a picture book (or story book) about everyone’s favorite Disney attraction. Although this book is written for elementary-aged children, Disney and Haunted Mansion fans are going to love it!

Disney took the lyrics to Grim Grinning Ghosts and had an illustrator create full page spreads that reflect the lyrics of the vaunted theme park attraction. Buddy Baker and X Atencio wrote the eerie and recurrent theme song that is the basis for the attraction and the storybook. James Gilleard provided the artwork. Gilleard’s style suggests comedy, albeit mixed with the slight darkness of the Haunted Mansion. Overall, the artwork is charming and seems more of an extension than anything else.

From The Haunted Mansion book blurb:

Buddy Baker and Xavier “X” Atencio, both Disney Legends, created “Grim Grinning Ghosts” together, with Atencio writing the lyrics and Baker composing the melody. Baker has composed more than two hundred scores for Disney movies, such as The Fox and the Hound; television shows, such as The Mickey Mouse Club; and theme park attractions, such as The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Atencio started his career with Disney as an animator, working on such classics as Fantasia and Mary Poppins. He later became an Imagineer and scriptwriter and helped create Disney Parks attractions, including Pirates of the Caribbean in Disneyland and Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

James Gilleard was raised in a small village called Garthorpe in the North of England before moving to London to study illustration and animation, which he now does for a living. His love of vintage animation has influenced his retro style. He enjoys old cartoons, pulp comics, birds, dinosaurs, and everything 1960s and 70s.

Each page or spread has a refrain from the song with a marvelous illustration based on the attraction. Gilleard captures the essence of the scene while deftly weaving his own artistic stylings into the mansion.

The book follows the actual attraction, from the Stretching Room to the exit. I’m glad to see this, since an artistic representation could have been just random images.

The Haunted Mansion book is a wonderful read for a kid who might be a little nervous about riding the Haunted Mansion. It’s also a great memento; I’m sure many kids (and adults) will spend hours lost in the book remembering their favorite scenes.

The book also comes with a CD with Grim Grinning Ghosts on it!

Title: Disney Parks Presents: The Haunted Mansion
Author: James Gilleard, Buddy Baker and Xavier Atencio
ISBN: 978-1484727850
Release Date: July 5, 2016

Have you read The Haunted Mansion book?


FTC Disclosure: A copy was provided by the publisher 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!