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!

Holiday Magic at the Disney Parks Book Review

Holiday Magic at the Disney Parks Book Review

Missing the holidays at the Disney Parks this year? Check out George’s review of Holiday Magic at Disney Parks, the new book by Graham Allen, Rebecca Cline, and Charlie Price. The new Disney book celebrating Christmas and Halloween at the Disney Parks features over 1,900 photos!

Disney Publishing sent a review copy and I couldn’t wait to make a preview video for you.

Holiday Magic at the Disney Parks Video Review

If you won’t be able to visit this parks this year, is this book a good substitute?

This large-format coffee table-sized book will enchant you with photos from Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland, and more. It’s hard to imagine that Disney could capture all of the magical details of their celebrations worldwide. They cover the twelve parks, cruise ships, resorts, and shopping districts. There is something for every fan of the parks, including a rich look at the history of the holidays starting at Disneyland.

The price tag seems hefty at first, until you crack it open and leaf through the pages. You’ll notice that there are four to five pictures per page. And at 384 pages, that’s almost as many photos as I take each visit!


Along with the Disney Monorail book, you have two fantastic reads for this holiday season. Are you going to get both? As a general rule, Disney books have small print runs and go out-of-print fairly quickly. If you wait too long, the price will skyrocket.

Are you going to order the holiday book for yourself or as a gift?

FTC Disclosure: A copy was provided by the company 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!

Hats off to Disneyland Hats

Hats off to (Disneyland) Hats

Paying any modicum of attention to social media, and you would think that the ubiquitous Mickey and Minnie Mouse Ears headbands had only been invented recently.

Not so!

The invention of the Mickey Mouse ears is attributed to Mickey Mouse Club Big Mooseketeer Roy Williams who says he was influenced by a gag in the 1929 animated short Karnival Kid. In the short, Mickey tips his ears to Minnie, creating this wonderful sight gag.

Apparently, this gag was also performed by Oswald the Lucky Rabbit while the series was still being produced by Disney.

Oswald tips his ears to Ortensia in a storyboard for Sleigh Bells (1928)

I ran across a one-page piece for Disneyland hats in the Winter 1976 Disney News…years before Instagram-posing became the norm!

Wear a Disneyland hat
With a ribbon or a feather,
No matter the season,
No matter the weather.
All kinds to choose from,
All sizes and styles.
They’re wonderful hats: they
Bring on the smiles.

So once you’ve “ooh”ed the chapeaux
And “ahh”ed the frilly bonnets,
Have priced them in poems
And written cap sonnets,
There’s one thing to do
To honor them: that’s
Bow very low-and take your
Hats of to hats!

At the time, film and the process of developing photos was still an expensive process. A photo shoot lie the one in the one-page piece would have been done with a professional photographer and model. Still, it’s interesting to see that things haven’t changed!

Looking for a great book on the history of Disneyland?

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!

Disney’s America On Parade Celebration

Disney’s America On Parade Celebration

America on Parade was one of Disney’s first “Just-Over-a-Year” celebrations. America was in a frenzy over the Bicentennial Celebration in 1976 and there was no end to the parades and events over the summer of 1976. You could even attribute Liberty Square and the Hall of Presidents to the fervor over the Bicentennial. The Fall 1975 Disney News offered a preview of the parade that was over two years in the making!

COVER STORY: “America On Parade,” Disney’s colossal tribute to America’s Bicentennial celebration, continues to enthrall guests at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. See page 2 for story and pictures.

Every day becomes a Fourth of July celebration as Disneyland and Walt Disney World present “America on Parade,” a spectacular salute to America’s 200th birthday. “America on Parade” premiered last June as a joyful, colorful, wonderful patriotic pageant of the music, people and heritage of America- both past and present.

Thousands of Disney guests have already watched and cheered as Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Donald Duck proudly lead the three-quarter-mile-long procession through the center of each theme park.


The 50 giant-size parade units in the fun-filled musical extravaganza depict a variety of historical and memorable moments in the nation’s 200-year past and highlight the contributions and achievements of the country’s people. They present a stylized, whimsical and never-to-be-forgotten festival of America as only Disney can present it.

Towering above the throngs of young and old who gaze with delight and amusement are Disney’s newest creations, the eight-foot-high, doll-like “People of America’-from Indians to auto drivers, Can-Can dancers to Ben Franklin, a Keystone cop to Uncle Sam—they dance their way through America’s history and into the hearts and memories of those who watch one of Disney’s most unique and delightful creations. The parade, which features more than 150 people, is performed at both Disney theme parks daily at 3:00 p.m. During the summer months and some holidays there will be special evening performances of the parade followed by a red, white and blue fireworks display. As an extra attraction, each week the parade will salute one of the 50 states.

The parade’s grand finale features high school and college marching bands especially invited to take part in this bicentennial salute. From the first strains of “Yankee Doodle” to the closing bars of “God Bless America,” Disney’s “America on Parade” is itself destined to become a part of the Americana it celebrates:
something to be seen, remembered and treasured for years to come.

Did You Ever Get to Experience Disney’s America On Parade?

Check out my book review of Disney’s America on Parade.

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!

2019 Top Disney and Amusement Park Books!

2019 Top Disney and Amusement Park Books!

Looking for a great Disney book recommendation? Check out my video to see what my favorite Disney and amusement park books were for 2019.

There were so many published in 2019, but this is the first year that so many books blew my mind!

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

As I mentioned in the video, I read 23 books related to Disney and themed entertainment in 2019. I’ve listed my seven favorite and one that garnered a special mention.

What do you think about these recommenced reads?

Have you read any of them? There are books on Disney theme parks, the history of amusement parks, Disney animation, Walt and Roy Disney, the Disney Studios, Marc Davis and more!

Check out my other book reviews!

FTC Disclosure: In some cases, a copy might have been provided by the company 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!

Surprise Disneyland and DCA Visit!

Surprise Disneyland and DCA Visit!

On my trip to Southern California to visit Knott’s Berry Farm and Six Flags Magic Mountain, I was able to visit Disney’s California Adventure and Disneyland for a few hours. There were a few overlays that I wanted to check out, especially the Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout re-do of the Twilight Zone Tower of Tower.

And I might just have ridden my favorite coaster in the world…and it’s not what you might think!

Check out my Disneyland and DCA video!

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

It was surreal to be at Disneyland and the esplanade. More than five years  have passed since my last visit to Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure;  I forgot how special Disneyland is. Main Street is charming and even the Esplanade is magical.

What do you think about Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout?

Special thanks to Wes B.,  Aaron R. and Nicole S. for supporting me on Patreon.

Walt Disney’s Disneyland by Chris Nichols, a book review

Walt Disney’s Disneyland by Chris Nichols, a book review

  • Walt Disney’s Disneyland is a must-have for Disney and theme park fans
  • One of the most comprehensive books about Disneyland that is still in print
  • Many never-before-seen photos and images

Is it the best Disneyland book ever?

Walt Disney’s Disneyland, published in 2018, is one of the most important works about Disneyland witten over the past few years. Obviously, The scope of the work captures the breadth of Disneyland in our cultural history and will be an introduction to the long history of the park to many people.

The title goes beyond a 300 plus page book about the world’s most successful theme park. There is so much detailed about the growth of the park and the development of themed entertainment through the lens, or ears, of Disneyland.

But that’s not why you’re going to buy this book.

You’re going to buy Walt Disney’s Disneyland to experience the park through the decades. And because of the incredible number of photos, many of which were published for the first time. You’re going to buy the book because it is the only definitive history of Disneyland that you can purchase in print. And because it is an unparalleled look at Disney’s flagship theme park. Most of all, you’re going to buy this book because it is pretty daggum amazing.

What is Walt Disney’s Disneyland?

Nichol’s tome is a loving look at Disneyland through the career of its namesake. It’s a history book that takes a very deep dive into the development of the idea of Disneyland and its first 11 years. Over 60 percent of the book is dedicated to Disneyland under Walt’s direction. The final 100 pages take a very quick flight through the most recent 52 years post-Walt.

Walt Disney’s Disneyland is the prominent book about the Southern California theme park. It’s the best title that you can buy right now. But like almost all other books about Disneyland, it is the direct descendent of Disneyland: Inside Story by Randy Bright and The Nickel Tour by Gordon and Mumford. Sadly, both of those astounding titles are out-of-print and very expensive on the second-hand market. If you want to read the overarching history of Disneyland, then you won’t find a better book than Walt Disney’s Disneyland. The book avoids being a dense litany of facts by telling the story of Walt and his park and covers most of the major developments of the theme park. Some attractions feel like they were given a cursory glance, but there is a lot to cover for 300 pages. Similar to Jeff Kurrti’s Since the World Began, there is a lot to relate and not enough pages.

The large format of the book lends itself well to the photographic treasures. Disneyland is one of the most photographed places in the world and there were still a handful pf photos that I had never seen before. Nichol’s takes advantage of the large format of the book to display many photos across the fold. Just be careful not to drool on the pages!

Is Walt Disney’s Disneyland Worth the Price?

If you’re familiar with Taschen, the publisher, then you know they publish high quality books. Nichol’s title is no different. It’s a lavish look at Disneyland’s history with an emphasis on the design, building of and first eleven years.

If you own Disneyland: inside Story and The Nickel Tour, then you won’t find anything new, except a smattering of photos. Of course, if you own the Bright and Gordon/Mumford books, then you’re going to own this one, too. If you don’t have those books, then Walt Disney’s Disneyland is a must-have title. You will not find a more complete history of Disneyland anywhere else!

Check out My Video Preview of the Book:

Are You Going to Buy This Disneyland Book?

Special thanks to Wes B.,  Aaron R. and Nicole S. for supporting me on Patreon.

FTC Disclosure: A copy was provided by the company 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!

Walt Disney’s Disneyland Book Preview!

Walt Disney’s Disneyland Book Preview!

Walt Disney’s Disneyland by Chris Nichols was released in September, 2018 and has received great reviews. I just got a copy for Christmas and i couldn’t wait to tear into it. I waited to get home to do a preview video of the new book on Disneyland’s history.

But, it is the best Disneyland book ever released?

Walt Disney’s Disneyland Book Video

Is This the Best Book About Disneyland? What Do You Think?

FTC Disclaimer: This book was a gift from my dad. 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!

Don’t forget to stop by my YouTube channel to subscribe and leave a comment! I post semi-weekly videos about Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens, SeaWorld Universal, theme park history, roller coasters and Disney books.

Join me on Patreon!

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

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