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?


 


 

Inside the Whimsy Works by Jimmy Johnson

I pre-ordered a copy of Inside the Whimsy Works: My Life with Walt Disney Productions by Jimmy Johnson (Edited by Greg Ehrbar and Didier Ghez). 2014. 196 pages.

A full review will be coming soon to Communicore Weekly (the Greatest Online Show) and the Disney Review at Mice Chat.

I’m a huge fan of Mouse Tracks (by Tim Hollis and Ehrbar)  and the Walt’s People series (by Didier Ghez) but I wasn’t sure what to expect from Jimmy Johnson’s biography.

Inside the Whimsy Works

The book is based on the diaries that Jimmy kept and gave to the Disney Archives. Greg and Didier did a bit of editing magic on it and present this amazing Disney resource to us. Jimmy had a pretty amazing career and, at times, seemed to be in the right place at the right time. He really pushed the music publishing for Disney and was instrumental in helping to shape the company.

What truly is spectacular about Inside the Whimsy Works is that you get a really good sense for what it was like to work at the Disney Studios, but not in animation. Most of the memoirs that we see deal with animation; very few step outside and look at other areas of the company. We’re fortunate that Jimmy’s memoir has been released. You get a great feel for how Jimmy was able to grow the fledgling part of the company and turn it into a money-making arm.

I definitely recommend this Inside The Whimsy Works as a purchase, even though I’m not more than two-thirds through it. Besides getting a great book about the history of the company, you’re helping to support more independent Disney-related research and publishing!


Buy a copy of Inside the Whimsy Works today!

Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Reality Available!

Now is the time to get a copy of the fantastic Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Reality Limited Edition reprint.

For many years, Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Reality has been out of print and very expensive to purchase on the second hand market. The owners of Mice Chat have worked very hard with the authors to get a special edition reprinted. This is your chance to own a copy of this amazing book at a regular price.

 
Head over the Mice Chat Store to get your hands on your very own copy!

The following is from a review that I posted in May 2011.

The Review

The book weighs in at an eye-popping 320 pages. It is complete and utter eye candy with beautiful photographs on every page.

After a basic introduction to the development of the of the park, the authors jump right into Main St., USA and follow each land in succession. Each chapter follows a similar pattern: concept art, development ideas, execution, design and final results. The text is very engaging and supports the photographs; you learn more about the development of attractions and lands. Each of the major attractions (Pirates, Haunted Mansion, etc.) is covered in amazing detail. The multitude of concept artwork, construction photos and rare interior shots will astound you.

The real star of the book is the photos. My favorites are the aerial pictures taken of the different lands. It is a rare treat to see a bird’s-eye-view of a Disney theme park and this book offers multiple shots for every land. Seeing how the Imagineers laid out the attractions doesn’t dispel the magic, but creates a sense of amazement at their talents. Disneyland Paris is the first Magic Kingdom-style park that the Imagineers developed, since they were previously known as W.E.D. According to many friends, authors and Disney enthusiasts, Disneyland Paris is the most beautiful of all of the Magic Kingdoms.

Sample Pages From the Book

 

Moonshine Express and Splash Mountain

The Walt’s People series by Didier Ghez is one of the hidden gems of Disney-related literature. Didier has collected hundreds of interviews with animators, actors, employees and Imagineers. He has complied them into a series of books that offer an amazing insight into what it was like to work for Walt Disney. The following quote is from Volume 9 (pp. 380-381).

Didier Ghez: What was the first project you tackled at WDI and what were your main contributions to that project?
Julie Svendsen: My first project at WED as a new show designer was called the Moonshine Express, a ride, which much later morphed into Splash Mountain. My Art Director was Rolly Crump and I contributed story sketches showing various scenes with animal characters that you might encounter along the course of the ride.

Didier Ghez: Can you describe the Moonshine Express and how it was different from the final Splash Mountain? 
Julie Svendsen: I worked on the Moonshine Express for only a short time and my only recollection of it is sketching different forest animals and making them appear to be singing and as cute as possible.

A bit later in the book, Julie discusses working with Rolly Crump (p. 385):
My first encounter with him was when he reviewed my portfolio after I graduated from Art Center and he hired me to work at WED as a show designer in the Model Shop. That’s when I started working with him on a ride, which was then called Moonshine Express. My work on Moonshine didn’t last long because it was determined that I was needed more to work on New Fantasyland and, eventually, to paint colorboards for the pavilions in World Showcase at Epcot.

The daughter of Julius and Carol Svendsen, Julie was born on November 13, 1950, and joined WED in 1970. She spent about 25 years at Imagineering and worked with such legends as Collin Campbell, Marc Davis, Herb Ryman, Wathel Rogers, Yale Gracey, Harriet Burns, Rolly Crump, Jack Ferges, Fred Joerger, John Hench, and her friend Walt Peregoy. A tremendously talented Imagineer, she discusses her career, her parents’ life at Disney, and her friendships with many of the Disney legends she knew.

If you search for Moonshine Express (don’t forget to add Disney to the search terms), you find some interesting information from Jim Hill. Jim recounts:

“And what — pray tell — was the ‘Moonshine Express’ supposed to be like?,” you asked. Well — in this proposed version of a flume ride for Disneyland — there are the good bears that live in Bear Country (I.E. The bruins who live in town and perform at the Country Bear Playhouse) and the bad bears. You know, those bruins who live ‘way out in the woods and brew moonshine.  

Well, the local sheriff (Who — if I’m remembering correctly — was supposed to be a brother of Henry’s? You know, the MC of the “Country Bear Jamboree”?) is asking for our help. Which is why we all eventually wound up in hollowed out logs, floating through the swamps out behind Bear Country, trying to find us some moonshiners.

Jim goes into greater detail on his site. Make sure to read the rest of the article.


 

 

Book Review: Disneyland Paris – From Sketch to Reality

Disneyland Paris – From Sketch to Reality by Alain Littaye and Didier Ghez. 320 pages. 2002. French and English versions available.

Alain Littaye and Didier Ghez are renowned for their books, blogs and research on the Disney Company. Alain runs Disney and More, a blog that focuses on concept art, theme parks and more! Didier runs The Disney History blog. You can find information about new books, rare photos and links to other great blog posts. Didier is also the author of the acclaimed Walt’s People series.

I wish that every Disney theme park had a book like this written about it. The subtitle says it all: From Sketch to Reality. There are thousands of photographs, sketches, concept artwork and aerial photos–more than you can imagine.

If you ever run across a copy of this book–get it!

What makes this book so amazing is the access that the authors were able to procure. I asked Didier about the experience of writing and researching this book.

George: How did you get involved in the writing of Disneyland Paris – From Sketch to Reality?

Didier Ghez: I have been interested in Disney since I was a 7-year old kid and in Disney history since I was a teenager. I had interviewed quite a few Disney artists before I was 20 and had attended quite a few of Disneyland Paris’ press events from 1991 (1 year before the park opened) onwards, writing articles for US magazines like StoryboarD – The Art of Laughter or the NFFC magazine Fantasyline. I am French and had been born in Paris, so as a Disney enthusiast my interest in the park and in the artists who had designed and built it was a given.

In 1997 another Disney fan, Alain Littaye, contacted me to find out if I would be interested in working on a book about the creation of Disneyland Paris. It would be a large, heavily illustrated art book. Alain would do the design of the book, contribute. I would do the many of the photographs and potentially finance the whole project research and write the text. Needless to say I was interested.

It took us no less than 2 years to get the authorizations from Walt Disney Imagineering, Disneyland Paris and Disney Publishing to work on the book. By that time Alain had decided to create a publishing house especially to release the book (Nouveau Millenaire Editions). Getting the authorizations to meet the Imagineers was far from a simple process. At one stage, when we thought that everything was lost, we knew that the only thing that might help us would be for the CEO of Disneyland Paris to step in and push the project. Believe it or not, on a weekend when I was doing some shopping in Paris I came face to face with… the CEO of Disneyland Paris, who recognized me (I had met him only once before) and said he would help. Our lucky star was definitely helping.

Having gotten the authorization to write the book, I was able to travel to Glendale, California in 1999 to meet with the Imagineers. Since we had a limited budget, I could only stay for 10 days. I managed to interview no less than 70 of the artists who had worked on the park in those 10 days, often starting my interviews at 7.00 in the morning and finishing them over dinner at 10.00 in the evening.

The many-hour-long interviews with Eddie Sotto and Tony Baxter remain as the most memorable. The one with Eddie especially so, as the battery of my tape recorder was running out without my realizing it and it took some tremendous efforts to understand Eddie later on when I had to transcribe the tape. His voice was so sped up that you one would have been convinced that I had actually interviewed Chip or Dale.

The year 1999 and the beginning of the year 2000 were spent writing the text of the book over long weekends. It took 2 years for Disney to approve it. Thankfully we were helped by the late Bruce Gordon who guided the revision of the text to fit WDI’s exacting standards.

Believe me: to see the book released after 5 years of hard work was a relief.

The Review

The book weighs in at an eye-popping 320 pages. It is complete and utter eye candy with beautiful photographs on every page.

After a basic introduction to the development of the of the park, the authors jump right into Main St., USA and follow each land in succession. Each chapter follows a similar pattern: concept art, development ideas, execution, design and final results. The text is very engaging and supports the photographs; you learn more about the development of attractions and lands. Each of the major attractions (Pirates, Haunted Mansion, etc.) is covered in amazing detail. The multitude of concept artwork, construction photos and rare interior shots will astound you.

The real star of the book is the photos. My favorites are the aerial pictures taken of the different lands. It is a rare treat to see a bird’s-eye-view of a Disney theme park and this book offers multiple shots for every land. Seeing how the Imagineers laid out the attractions doesn’t dispel the magic, but creates a sense of amazement at their talents. Disneyland Paris is the first Magic Kingdom-style park that the Imagineers developed, since they were previously known as W.E.D. According to many friends, authors and Disney enthusiasts, Disneyland Paris is the most beautiful of all of the Magic Kingdoms.

Sample Pages From the Book

George: Are there still copies of the book available?

DG: Strangely the park does not seem to distribute the English version of the book anymore although we know they still have copies of it in their warehouse. Alain has also run out of copies. I do have a few left that I sell to anyone interested. They will probably run out soon.


George: Any other art books in the plans?

DG: Frankly not at this stage. The approval and financing processes were so complex on that book that I am unlikely to tackle another book of that sort within the next few years. Which might not be a bad thing as I need all the time and energy that I have currently available to edit and publish the Walt’s People book series.

George: Thanks Didier

Bottom Line: This is a must-have bookif you can find it. The images are positively breathtaking and marvel-inducing. It has quickly become one of my most cherished books. For many of us, this might be the closest we ever come to seeing a Disney theme park go from figment to reality. I wish that we could get a book like this for each of the Disney parks across the world.

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

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Book Review: Walt’s People Volume 10 by Didier Ghez

Most tenth anniversaries are celebrated with a gift of tin or aluminum. What do you get a noted Disney historian when he publishes the tenth volume of a critically acclaimed series? Should we get him a Tin Toy? What about something from the Kaiser Hall of Aluminum?

All Giants Among Mortal Men!

Regardless, the release of Volume Ten of Walt’s People should be greeted with hallelujahs and much fanfare. Not only is the series an indispensable tool for researchers, but Didier has compiled an astounding collection of interviews with people that have worked with Walt Disney or on Disney-related projects.

The Tenth volume is special because Didier was able to collect all of the interviews that Bob Thomas did for his seminal biography: Walt Disney, An American Original. The majority of the interviews took place in 1973 when people were still reeling from Walt’s passing in 1966. Artists, family and WED employees are interviewed and provide a fascinating look at working with and for Walt. It is obvious that most of the interviewees had a fondness, if not love, for their boss. The anecdotes provided are priceless and provide an insight into Thomas’ writings and the direction of the biography. I would hope that this volume of Walt’s People will inspire other authors and researchers to share their interviews with Didier.

Interviewees and essays:

Foreword: Diane Disney Miller
Jim Korkis: A history of the Walt Disney biography by Bob Thomas
Didier Ghez: Bob Thomas
Paul F. Anderson: Bob Thomas
Walt Disney
Walt Pfeiffer
Lillian Disney
Edna Disney
Ub Iwerks
Wilfred Jackson
Bill Cottrell
Herb Ryman
Jim Korkis: Walt’s secretaries
Dolores Voght Scott
Ham Luske
Woolie Reitherman
John Lounsbery
Ward Kimball
Frank Thomas
Milt Kahl
Hazel George
Marc Davis
Dick Huemer
Ollie Johnston
Ken Anderson
George Bruns
Larry Clemmons
Bill Anderson
Robert Stevenson
Bill Walsh
Roy E. Disney
Winston Hibler
James Algar
John Hench
Harper Goff
Dick Irvine
Card Walker
Donn Tatum
Wathel Rogers
Roger Broggie
Marvin Davis
Joe Potter
Robert Foster
Joe Fowler

Pretty impressive, no?

The majority of the Walt’s People volumes focus on interviews with artists that worked on the animated films. Occasionally, you find interviews with people that worked on Disneyland. Take a look at the bottom part of the list of interviewees. Most of them were directly involved with creating Walt Disney World after Walt’s passing. As noted earleir, the interviews took place around 1973 and many of the interviews focus on the plans for Walt Disney World and the expansion of the Florida Project.

I will iterate: Didier’s Walt’s People Series is a very important addition to the collected research about Walt Disney. Walt’s People will be used for many years to come by researchers and publishers.

Book Review: Walt’s People Volume 1

Walt’s People Volume 1: Talking Disney With The Artists Who Knew Him by Didier Ghez. (2005, 272 pages.)

Didier Ghez runs two very important sites in the Disney online community: Disney History and the Ultimate Disney Books Network. Didier has been researching Disney animation since his teens and co-authored Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Realitywith Alain Littaye.

The Walt’s People seriesis five volumes with a sixth one on the way. Didier is the editor of the series and has put together some amazing interviews with Disney artists. In some cases, the interviewer is as well-known as the interviewee!

The compilation of interviews that Didier has collected makes this volume so very important to anyone researching Disney. The interviews are not just with animators, but artists that worked with Walt on Disneyland and went on to work on the Walt Disney World project. The stories, recollections and anecdotes are priceless and proffer a view of Walt that you can only get from talking to the people that worked directly with him.

The interviewees include:

  • Rudolf Ising
  • David Hand
  • Bill Tytla
  • Ken Anderson
  • Jack Hannah
  • John Hench (two interviews)
  • Marc Davis (two interviews)
  • Milt Kahl
  • Harper Goff
  • Joyce Carlson

The interviewers are equally impressive: J.B. Kaufman, Michael Barrier, George Sherman, Paul F. Andersen, Jim Korkis, Alain Littay, Didier Ghez, John Province, Michael Lyons and Robin Allan.

In the forward, Didier puts forth some important thoughts about the interviews.

…it is important to always keep in mind that no statement from any interview should ever be considered as the absolute truth, as the interviewee might have misremembered the facts, may have seen only part of the project described, or may have his own personal reasons for representing reality in a certain way. Hence the further importance of the various perspectives provided throughout this series.

Didier’s work is going to play an important role in the future of research into the Disney Company. Many of the artists were involved in classic Disney animation at a time when credit wasn’t clearly given or assigned. It is a chance for the artists to speak for themselves and offer an insight into the Disney Company that we will not likely find elsewhere. You might pass up a book like this if you are a theme park junkie, but reading the stories from artists like Hench, Davis, Carlson and Anderson–that worked on Disneyland and Walt Disney World projects–are wonderful.

Bottom Line: It is hard to place a work like Walt’s People in the overall Disney literature–it doesn’t focus solely on animation or the theme parks. The interviews collected are amazing and offer insight into Disney, the Studios and the theme parks. The volumes are not for everyone, but the Disney historian, enthusiast and geek will take a lot away from Dider’s work. It is a great place to get your Geek on and delve into what it was like to know and work with Walt Disney, Roy Disney and the talented people in the organization.

I can’t wait to start the next volume in the series!

 

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