The Art of Disneyland Video Review!

The Art of Disneyland Video Review!

The Art of Disneyland is a much sought after book by collectors and fans. Published in 2006 to help celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Disneyland, the book flew under the radar and was only sold at the park at first. Eventually, it made its way to the second-hand markets (like amazon) and the price skyrocketed. I’ve seen it go as high as $400.00, but recently, it’s been around $125.00.

What Makes The Art of Disneyland So Special?

At the time of publication, much of the concept artwork and paintings had never been seen before. The presentation by Kurtti and Gordon left fans and enthusiasts stunned. The only book to come close is the sister publication: The Art of The Walt Disney World Resort.

Check Out My Video Review:

Do you own this title? What is your favorite Disneyland book?

From my 2007 review of the book:

The Imagineering roll call is inspiring: Ken Anderson, Claude Coats, Mary Blair, John Hench, Harper Goff, Marc Davis, Peter Ellenshaw, Sam McKim, Herbert Ryman and so many more. Seeing all of this artwork in one place, by so many different artists, is like having a conversation about what Disneyland might have been. But then we actually know how it turned out. Most of the artwork is so true to what was developed, though. If you have ever spent any time at Disneyland, you will enjoy this book.

Yes, this is concept art from The Art of Disneyland. It features a large show building with a runaway mine cart ride (like Temple of Doom), a version of the current Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, and a section or two in which the Jungle Cruise can be seen. This would have changed the landscape of theme parks forever!

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!

Art of Walt Disney World Resort Book

Art of Walt Disney World Resort Book by Jeff Kurtti and Bruce Gordon

I’ve had a request to do a page-by-page look at The Art of Walt Disney World Resort by authors Jeff Kurtti and Bruce Gordon. The book was released in 2009 and immediately became a collector’s dream. Jeff and Bruce presented a book that curated images, concept art, paintings and more about the development of Walt Disney World. And not just the first few years, but also the 1980s and 1990s.

The coffee-table sized book presented many images that had never been seen before. It was also presented in a different format to showcase the stunning art.

Check out my video featuring The Art of Walt Disney World Resort book

What do you think about the Art of Walt Disney World Resort book?

The book includes concept art by: Tony Baxter; Mary Blair; Collin Campbell; Marc Davis; R. Tom Gilleon; Paul Hartley; Sam McKim; Dorothea Redmond; and Herbert Ryman.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Then, Now, and Forever

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Then, Now, and Forever

Let’s continue my series of Essential Walt Disney World books with a wonderful read by Bruce Gordon and Jeff Kurtti. Released in 2008, Walt Disney World: Then, Now, and Forever is not your traditional guidebook. Check out my video review of the Disney World history book to find out more.

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

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Essential Walt Disney World Books

Essential Walt Disney World Books

There are a few essential Walt Disney World books. Especially if you’re doing any serious research about Walt Disney World. Or even if you’re the world’s biggest Walt Disney World fan. I’ve been collecting Disney-related books for 30 years and I’ve amassed over a 1000 individual titles in my personal library. I’ve published a fairly complete Walt Disney World bibliography but I wanted to offer a more concise list of Walt Disney World books that everyone should own.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Since the World Began: Walt Disney World – The First 25 Years by Jeff Kurtti

I wax about this book at every opportunity. It’s the only official history of Walt Disney World and covers the first 25 years. To me, this represents the one book that all Walt Disney World enthusiasts, researchers and fans should own. Jeff’s book takes us on a fantastic overview of the Florida property and he’s able to dispense such a large history into a single volume. There were hopes that Disney would update this title for the 40th Anniversary but there wasn’t an interest from Disney. Let’s hope for a 50th Anniversary edition although this might need to be an independent publication.

Essential Walt Disney World Books:  Disney A to Z: The Official Encyclopedia by Dave Smith (2006)

This is a must have for anyone researching Disney. I have all three editions, but the third one (2006) is the preferred title. Dave’s encyclopedia offers short entries detailing the opening, closing and general history of parks, resorts, restaurants and attractions. I’ve run across a few discrepancies in the book, but overall, it’s the go to resource for quick information and for finding out those small details. In case you didn’t know, Dave did start the Walt Disney Archives and is pretty much the de facto authority on Disney history. There is a fourth edition available exclusively from Sam’s Club.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Walt Disney’s Epcot Center: Creating the New World of Tomorrow By Richard Beard (1982)

This book is pretty indescribable. If you love Epcot Center, then you need this book. It’s 240 pages dedicated to Epcot. The concept artwork is incredible and the narrative behind each pavilion is eye-opening. Disney had a hard time explaining the concept of Epcot Center to the world so this book was part of the PR campaign, so to speak. It’s a one-of-a-kind resource; Disney hasn’t published anything like it before and probably never will again. There are at least four different versions of the book, as well (You can read about three of the different editions, here).

Essential Walt Disney World Books: The Art of Walt Disney World by Bruce Gordon and Jeff Kurtti (2009)

This is one of the more expensive Walt Disney World books, and with good reason. When it was released, it was a theme park exclusive, so it had a limited run and few people picked it up. This book is amazing and offers some of the most incredible artwork anywhere. Jeff looks at each of the artists, as well, and offers insight into the creation of the work. Most of the images center around pre-opening and the 1970s Vacation Kingdom of the World. If you can find it, grab a copy.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Walt Disney World Then, Now, And Forever by Bruce Gordon and Jeff Kurtti (2007)

This is almost a follow-up to Since the World Began, but not quite. It’s a general look at what makes Walt Disney World  such a special place. Jeff and Bruce, well known to Disney book fans, offer a look at Walt Disney World through the years, including sections on long gone attractions and what replaced them. It’s a great addition to your collection. This one is geared more to the casual fan but it’s still a fantastic book.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Vinyl Leaves: Walt Disney World and America by Stephen Fjellman (1992)

This is a sociological treatise on Walt Disney World. Stephen spent a lot of time doing in-park research and offers insight into how Disney looks at Americana and how American society reacts to Disney in a theme park setting. At times the book can be fairly dense but what are the shining jewels of the title, simply, are the attraction walk-throughs from the author. It’s an amazing time capsule of the attractions from 1989-1991 Walt Disney World. As far as insight into these attractions, there’s nothing better.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Gardens of the Walt Disney World Resort: A photographic tour of the themed gardens of the Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center and other resort areas by Dee Hannaford (1988)

This book has always been one of my favorites. Before the days of digital film and the interwebz, there wasn’t a place where you could spend months on end just looking at photographs of Disney parks. This book offers stunning images of Walt Disney World pre-1988. These full-page (and larger) images showcase the resort and what a vacation was like before the expansion of the Disney Decade. Not a lot of historical information but the photographs do show a lot of areas of the parks that are gone or have changed. I love this book.

Seriously, it is amazing.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Building a Company: Roy O. Disney and the Creation of an Entertainment Empire by Bob Thomas (1998)

This official company biography of Roy O. Disney really shares a lot about the creation of Walt Disney World from the perspective of Walt’s older brother. Bob interviewed many company officials and people that were directly involved with building Walt Disney World. Beyond the Walt Disney World history, it’s a great book about Roy and all of the amazing contributions of the more silent partner of the company.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World by David Koenig (2007, 2014)

David is well-known in Disney circles. He’s a journalist who’s written a lot about Disneyland (re: Mouse Tales). In Realityland, David looks at the first 20 years of Walt Disney World with the creation of the Vacation Kingdom and Epcot Center. He interviews many cast members from all levels and presents some amazing anecdotes. David is not a fan of Eisner and it’s apparent in this book. Again, it’s a work that seems to stop in the late 1980s leaving us with gaps from the 1990s and 2000s that need to be filled in. It’s a definite for your collection and has a great notes section.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Story of Walt Disney World Commemorative Edition (Various Years 1971-1982)

A lot of people remember this book fondly and I know that it inspired a few current Imagineers to follow their dreams and work for the company. This is a rare look at the construction of the Vacation Kingdom and offers some amazing photos of the the property, resorts and attractions being built. There are two versions (almost identical) that offer different fun-style maps of Walt Disney World.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Walt Disney World the First Decade (1982)

A fascinating book from Disney that covers the first ten years of the Vacation Kingdom. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes information and some amazing photos of attractions and lands. Unlike the current souvenir guides, Disney shared a lot of more random photos and more information detailing the attractions. There are also fifteen- and twenty-year titles but the First Decade one is my favorite and offers more information on 1970s Walt Disney World. Epcot fans will want to pick up the fifteen-year title, too.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions and Other Tributes by Kevin Yee (2014)

Kevin is one of the more prolific independent authors. Hidden History is a good look at the hidden (or unfamiliar) details at the parks. Kevin also looks at tributes of former attractions that can be found today. It’s a quick and easy read and is sure to increase your nerdy status with all of your friends. Kevin visits Walt Disney World on a weekly basis and this work helps to document a lot of the changes over the years.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: The Disney Mountains: Imagineering at Its Peak by Jason Surrell (2007)

This book covers the nine mountains at Disney parks around the world and focuses on their history and development. Six of the mountains are at Walt Disney World and offer tremendous insight into the attractions and their differences. Lots of great artwork abounds.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic (2015); From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies (2009 Updated Edition) and Pirates of the Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies (2005) by Jason Surrell

Jason writes the unparalleled histories of these two vaunted and inspiring theme park attractions. Covering the earliest concept artwork and inklings of the attraction, Jason shares how the attractions evolved and the Imagineers that worked on them. The spectacular feature of the books is the scene-by-scene narrative of the attractions and the differences between the version in each park. Jason covers the films, as well, but they offer little insight into the theme park attractions. Great for fans of the attractions and for researchers wanting more information on the development of the attractions. There have been three editions of the Haunted Mansion book. I recommend getting the 2009 and 2015 editions.

Essential Walt Disney World Books: Walt Disney World Railroads, Part 1: Fort Wilderness Railroad and Walt Disney World Railroads, Part 1: Fort Wilderness Railroad Gallery Companion by David Leaphart. (2010)

I’m including this two-volume set by David because it’s an area that not many people have covered, especially not at this level of detail. The amount of photographs (mostly from the 1970s) and the maps that David shares is unprecedented. It’s an expensive set, based on it’s size, but the information presented is fairly unique. Sadly, it’s a LuLu imprint so you have to order it directly from them. If you’re a serious historian, then you need to own it, otherwise it’s a little too expensive. Read my full review, here. There has been an updated version, but I have not had the chance to review them.

I could have included at least 20 more titles in this list. To me, these are the most crucial and offer the most information about Walt Disney World.

What’s your favorite of the essential Walt Disney World books? Is there just one must-have book?

Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making the Magic Real

Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making the Magic Real, a book review

Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making the Magic Real was released in 1996 and was, truly, one of the first books to take us inside the hallowed halls of Imagineering. It’s not a tell-all, behind-the-scenes book; it is more like a this is what Imagineers do and have done book. Clocking in at 192 pages, it is another must have for every Disney park fan.

So, how would you approach the idea of writing a book about Walt Disney Imagineering? The Book Team (Bruce Gordon, David Mumford, Kevin Rafferty and Randy Webster) sums it up as follows:

Rather than a chronological history, the book would try and capture the spirit of Imagineering—what it’s like to be here, to walk sown our hallways, and most importantly, to be an Imagineer. The story could be told through quotes and anecdotes, as if the reader was really here, looking over our shoulders while we work.

The book comes pretty close to that.

The 192 pages are divided into five major chapters that purport to cover every aspect of Walt Disney Imagineering (although, there was not a section on politics or backstabbing). As expected, the Imagineers make fantastic use of the Walt Disney Imagineering and Company archives to share concept artwork, paintings, drawings, sketches and some jaw-dropping art, in general. Not to slight the text in any fashion, but people will be drawn more to the lavish images. The narrative (really, it isn’t too technical) runs along the same lines as other titles by Bruce Gordon and David Mumford; you will not be disappointed and will learn a lot about the process of Walt Disney Imagineering.

The Spark

The first chapter looks at creativity and defines what the Imagineers consider brain storming. No idea is ever thrown away and they live in a corporate culture where there are no bad ideas. This section has some fantastic conceptual artwork, sketches, story ideas, paintings and more. Did you ever hear of the Herb Ryman designed House of Cheese? You do get to see a lot of concept work for current (and long gone attractions) as well as as some attractions and parks that never made it past the drawing board.

The Fantasy

The second chapter is the largest and the meatiest. We take the next step towards the reality of the ride and progress with more concrete ideas, artwork and concepts. It comes down to trying to define how the story will be told in a 3D world. There are a lot more paintings presented that showcase an idea that is almost more emotion and feeling. The Imagineers really seem to revel in this area, due in large part to the copious amounts of artwork that is shared. Beyond the artwork, attention is paid to the entire creative process at this point. Anecdotes, storyboards and scale models help to walk you through the development of the final product.

Blood, Sweat and Tears

We start to see increasingly solid plans in the third chapter. Whereas the previous section looked at the larger picture, here we see more of the individual details as they start to emerge. Instead of seeing a large painting of a building, we are presented with the architectural sight plans. We also see a lot of artwork on ride vehicles and color schemes. At this point, the Imagineers are working off of pretty solid ideas and most of the artwork presented is easily recognizable in a current form.

Towards the end of the chapter, we get to see some of the cutting edge technology that the Imagineers were developing and using. At the time it was pretty spectacular and fifteen years later it feels more like a historical piece. Still, there are a lot of jobs and positions within Imagineering that are are discussed (including the librarians in the Information Research Center).

Making it Real

The fourth chapter is all about constructing and installing the show sets, vehicles, buildings…and everything else! The Imagineers delve into their archives to pull construction photos from every era in the Disney Parks, from Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris. It is a fun chapter that doesn’t get too technical but still gives you a good idea of how encompassing the work is when you’re a Imagineer and in the field.

The Magic

The fifth and final chapter is short but very sweet. Basically, the Imagineers dedicate two pages to every Disney theme park (that existed prior to 1996). There are a few historic photos for each park, but the majority are more current photographs. You know, since the book is over fifteen years old, all of the photos are historical! Also, it is an interesting look at what the Imagineers think defines the magic of the theme parks.

This is an important work about the Imagineers, Disney theme parks and, to some extent, the history of the Disney Company. It is one of the few works to step inside the environs of Flowers Street and share how the Imagineers do their jobs. If you can find a copy for under $40.00, go for it; you will not be disappointed.

Another reason to like Walt Disney Imagineering is that the Imagineers hid a copy of it in the single rider queue in Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You might miss it, but it has been there since 2007 (if not since the opening). Not the first hidden book, but it is a great one!

Are you a Walt Disney Imagineering fan? Have you read this book?

Top 5 Disney Books

I had a great question on Twitter from @heathhunziker about the Top 5 Disney Books that I would recommend to any Disney fan. The question made me think about my absolute favorite books and it was a very difficult decision. Let me know what your favorite Disney book is in the comments!

My Top Five Favorite Disney Books

5. It’s Kind of a Cute Story by Rolly Crump as told to Jeff Heimbuch


Yeah, I know: I’m biased. Jeff is my best friend and we do a weekly podcast together. Still, It’s Kind of a Cute Story is the way a memoir should be presented, especially a memoir of an artist who’s visual style changed the face of themed entertainment and has influenced generations of artists and imagineers. 

The artwork is presented stunningly and Bamboo Forest Publishing should be commended for doing everything possible to keep Rolly’s art in the foreground. Jeff took hundreds of hours of interviews and conversations and created a compelling and through-provoking title. I wish more artists associated with Disney had the ability to tell their story without interference (or without being white-washed).


4. Gardens of the Walt Disney World Resort

This book is a hidden gem that many people never find out about. It was published in 1988, just a few years before the major changes that we would see as part of the Disney Decade. To me, the book is amazing because it’s a photographic journey with over 200 images of Walt Disney World before digital cameras. The photos are gorgeous and it’s a Walt Disney World that we can no longer visit.

You will spend hours just perusing the images. You can thank me later.


3. The Art of Walt Disney World Resort by Bruce Gordon and Jeff Kurtti

Jeff Kurtti is one of my favorite Disney-related authors. His history of Walt Disney World, Since the World Began, is an essential title. The Art of Walt Disney World Resort that he wrote with Bruce Gordon is spectacular. Jeff and Bruce assembled concept art spanning the 40 years of Walt Disney World that is truly impressive. May images were seen publicly for the first time in this book. The concept artwork is as varied as the many different imagineers and artists that worked on the Vacation Kingdom of the World.


2. Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Reality by Alain Littaye and Dider Ghez

This book is one of the most expensive that you’ll find. It’s also a book that I wish I had for each one of the Disney parks. (Richard Beard’s Walt Disney’s EPCOT Center is a great book, too.) Alain and Didier take us inside the park to look at it in such incredible detail, including sharing art from Imagineering. It’s hard to explain how gorgeous the book is, until you hold a copy in your hands. The aerial photos are magical and each land is looked at in vivid detail. Mice Chat offered a reprint of this book a few years ago and you still might be able to find a copy for less than $300.00 that way.

Seriously, this book is that good.


1. Disneyland, The Nickel Tour: A Postcard Journey Through a Half Century of the Happiest Place on Earth by Bruce Gordon and David Mumford.

This book is amazing on so many levels. First of all, it’s one of the best histories of the first fifty years of Disneyland. Second, it has so many unbelievable postcards. Third, Bruce and David were incredible.

Sadly, both authors passed away, so we won’t see another edition of this book. The Nickel Tour tells the history of Disneyland through postcards (and very smart and humorous text) without losing sight that it’s all still about Disneyland. The insight and knowledge that Bruce and David shared was unparalleled at the time; you won’t find another book with as much wit or charm. It is really expensive, but worth every penny.

Also, the postcards are incredible. In some cases, you will never see a few of these postcards in person.


What are your top five Disney books?



Sherman Brothers Book Walt’s Time, a Review

Walt’s Time – From Before to Beyond by Robert B. Sherman & Richard M. Sherman. 1998, 252 pages.

I originally posted this review in 2008. With the passing of Robert Sherman on Monday, March 5, 2012, I felt like it was appropriate to revisit this phenomenal title. It is out of print and, as can be expected, I assume that the price is going to increase over the next several days. It truly is a fantastic title.

The Sherman Brothers need little introduction to Disney fans. Prolific composers of music for films and theme park attractions, they have written some of the most memorable songs in Disney history, not to mention film history and theme park history in general..

This book, which looks at their long career, finally saw the light of day after the Sherman Brothers met Bruce Gordon and Dave Mumford. Just like The Nickel Tour, publishers felt that there was no commercial appeal in this book. Bruce and David had self-published The Nickel Tour and thought that they could do the same with Walt’s Time. The Sherman Brothers, after shopping the book around since 1981, had worked with Jeff Kurtti to write the majority of the text. Bruce and Dave met with Jeff and they agreed to self-publish. The Sherman Brothers were thrilled to work with Bruce, David and Jeff.

The book was created to resemble a scrapbook of their career. It starts with their first day on the Disney lot where they land the title song for the Parent Trap while auditioning a song for the Horsemasters. It then launches through the highlights of a majority of their works written and published at the Disney Studios. The middle section is dedicated to their father, Al and looks at everything that he published and his successes. During the section on their father, they look at their family history and how Al Sherman influenced his children. It is obvious from Walt’s Time that the Sherman Brothers were profoundly influenced by their father and Walt Disney. When the brothers speak of either man, the text is filled with love, gratitude and wonder.

The third section details more of their work with the Disney Company, before and after Walt’s passing. It also looks at the body of work they have done since leaving the company. Stage productions, theatrical work and animated films make up the bulk of their work in the ’70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

The Brothers spend a lot of time discussing their interactions with Walt Disney and how Walt was an amazing and optimistic person. The song There’s a Great, Big Beautiful Tomorrow was inspired by Walt Disney. Their proudest moments include It’s a Small World and Mary Poppins. They wrote the songs for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang after receiving Walt’s blessings to work on the outside project. Albert Broccoli (producer of the James Bond movies) also owned the rights to Fleming’s children’s novel about the car. Broccoli brought the idea to Walt, who declined saying he had too much on his plate and wanted more creative control. After the success of Mary Poppins, Broccoli gathered most of the creative team that had worked on Mary Poppins. The Brothers were also involved with two of the biggest animated films of the 60’s as well: The Jungle Book and Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree.

Obviously, the Sherman Brothers’ influence has been felt greatly in the theme parks. The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room, Magic Highways, Magic Journeys, Makin’ Memories, Astuter Computer Review, the Best Time of Your Life and Miracles From Molecules are songs that have resonated with fans for years and will continue to inspire us and make us sing.

I had the opportunity to see Richard Sherman perform at the D23 Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th Anniversary Celebration. It was an absolutely enchanting and heartwarming moment.

Disney Legend and Academy Award® winner Richard M. Sherman charms audiences with a lively performance of some of the film and attraction song hits from the Sherman Brothers’ Disney songbook. © Disney

There’s not much one can say about seeing Richard Sherman perform the songs that he wrote with his brother. He played more than 15 songs and each one brought back a specific memory from a film, theme park or time of my life (Now is the time, now is the best time!). Tim O’Day did a marvelous job acting as the emcee and he helped Richard tell the stories behind the songs. Probably the biggest surprise of the evening was when the original Dreamfinder, Ron Schneider, joined Richard Sherman to sing One Little Spark. The whole crowd rose to their feet and sang along.

Looking at everything the Sherman Brothers have done is a tad bit overwhelming!

Bottom Line: I enjoyed this book and was completely astounded by how prolific the Sherman Brothers actually are. The book is designed beautifully and features awards, personal recollections and photos from every period of their career (just like a scrapbook!). This is book is clearly for music fans, fans of the Sherman Brothers and fans of Disney films from the 1960’s.

Don’t forget to stop by our site and leave some Disney Geek love!

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.

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.

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: 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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