In His Own Words Marc Davis Book

Marc Davis In His Own Words: Imagineering the Disney Theme Parks by Pete Docter and Christopher Merritt

I’m not one for hyperbole, but the new Marc Davis book, In His Own Words, is the most important work on themed design ever produced.

Disney Publishing sent a review copy and I spent over a month poring over the two-volume set. There were times when I had to stop and focus on a drawing or painting to just marvel at the themes and design. And there were times when I needed to check the internet to look up more information about an attraction.

Clocking in at over 740 pages, with more than 1500 images, the two-volume set is a masterpiece.  I can safely say that more than half of the images (concept art, paintings, thumbnail sketches, layouts of attractions, etc.) were new to me.

The book also features other WED artists that help illustrate Marc’s thoughts and opinions. This photo shares artwork from Dorothea Redmond.

From Master Animator to Master Imagineer

The book focuses on Marc Davis’ work throughout his long career at WED Imagineering. We follow as he evolves from a master animator skilled at human characters to a master imagineer that can define a scene in one simple sketch. Davis’ character designs are powerful, moving and iconic.

One of the most charming aspects of the set are the anecdotes from people that worked directly with Walt and Marc. They discuss how Imagineering worked and how many of our favorite attractions came to life. This includes stories from Alice Davis, Rolly Crump, Bob Gurr, Blaine Gibson, Joe Potter, Lee Nesler, Wayne Jackson, Marty Sklar, Tony Baxter, John Hench, Wathel Rogers, Mary Blair, Orlando Ferrante and so many more. It really is a who’s who of the first generation of Imagineering.

The stories take us behind the creation of all of the attractions that Marc had a hand in or designed outright. The authors dedicated many pages to planned and unbuilt attractions with artwork that I had never seen before. Beyond the amazing concept art, what drives the book are the stories, comments and anecdotes from Marc Davis.

Imagine sitting with Marc Davis and hearing his personal thoughts on Disney attractions.

Marc’s thoughts, recorded by Chris Merritt at Marc’s house, provide the meat of the book. To read Marc’s unedited words brings the projects and art to life in a way I’d never experienced before.Or expected. There are times when you can sense Marc’s happiness with a project as well as his disappointment when things changed after Walt’s death.

This is basically a master class in how to design a Walt Disney theme park attraction.

The first volume introduces Marc as an animator and proceeds through his early career at WED (Walt Disney imagineering) by showcasing the work on Nature’s Wonderland, the Jungle Cruise, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, Pirates of the Caribbean and the beginnings of the Haunted Mansion.

The second volume continues with the Haunted Mansion and dives into the Country Bear Jamboree, the Western River Expedition, America Sings and other ideas for expanding Florida and unrealized projects. The book also dedicates a chapter to the Enchanted Snow Palace and the Kachina Doll Diorama.

Have you ever heard of the Fort Wilderness Fun House?

Over the course of the books, you see Marc’s growth through themed design and character building. You also experience the changes that happed at Imagineering before and after Walt’s passing. Marc recounts how Walt was a champion for Imagineering and no one quite knew what to do after Walt.

Unbuilt Concept Art

Most of the chapters featured full or partial page reproductions of concept art. Candid photos taken by Marc and Alice are featured. The photos are from Disney parks and from their various trips around the world. The chapters on the Western River Expedition, Expanding Florida and the Unrealized Projects shared concept art that I had never seen before.

In as much detail as possible from notes, storyboards and conversations with Marc, the authors put together as full of a ride-through as possible with some of the more famous never-built attractions. The chapter on the Western River Expedition is a scene-by-scene look at the entire attraction. It’s the most detail that Ive seen on the Western River Expedition in one place.

The book covers so many other works, including Marc’s ideas for plussing Fort Wilderness, the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland. Marc also took a stab at the American Adventure Pavilion at EPCOT Center and developed three different scripts. One of his ideas was to have three narrators: Benjamin Franklin; Mark Twain; and a third host (either Robert Benchley or Will Rogers.)

Can you imagine a Silly Symphonies dark ride?

Video Sneak Peek of the Marc Davis In His Own Words Book

What do you think about the Marc Davis book?

Marc Davis In His Own Words is one of the most remarkable Disney-related books that I’ve experienced. I’m amazed at the scope and breadth of what Merritt and Docter were able to present. This isn’t a book that you’re going to blast through; you’re going to have to savor each and every page. It’s an en eye-opening experience to see how a Disney attraction is designed, especially from the point-of-view of a first generation Master Imagineer.

Although the two-volume set has a hefty price tag (retails for $150.00), you are getting a work of unparalleled vision. The authors have crafted a masterpiece covering all of Marc Davis’ WED Imagineering career. I guarantee that you will learn and discover things about Marc, Imagineering and the Disney attractions that you’ve never seen before.

Are You Going to Pick Up the Marc Davis In His Own Words Set?

Check out these other titles related to Marc Davis:

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!

Magic Journey: My Fantastical Walt Disney Imagineering Career by Kevin Rafferty

Magic Journey: My Fantastical Walt Disney Imagineering Career by Kevin Rafferty

Stop. Go purchase your very own copy of Magic Journey by Kevin Rafferty right now.

Seriously. This is one of the best Disney-related books that I have ever read.

Disney Publishing sent me a review copy of Kevin Rafferty’s book and the new Marty Sklar book. Instead of flipping a coin, I decided to read Kevin’s book; I knew he did a lot at Imagineering, but I was completely surprised by the depth and breadth of his career. If you’ve set foot in a Disney park (or some of the resorts), then you’ve experienced something that Kevin worked on.

For most of his career at Imagineering, Kevin was a show writer and worked in story development, sort of. Kevin dreamed up, developed and helmed sone of the biggest attractions at Disney California Adventure, Disney’s Hollywood Studio and more. The book is a memoir that follows his 40-year career from his first job at Disneyland to his final moments at 1401 Flower Street.

Kevin, as you would guess form his years of writing, has an honest style and he wears his emotions on his sleeve. You genuinely feel his excitement, nerves and pride as you ride alongside him throughout his career. And it’s a long career that takes up the 300 pages of the book; one that seems as magical as the attractions he worked on.

He also regales us with stories of the Disney legends that he worked with and learned from. His excitement is palpable as he relates every turn his career took, from his first moments at Disneyland, through multiple attractions, to designing an entire land. Kevin’s story is epic and he tells it as only a true imagineer can.

You won’t believe some of the stories the Kevin has in the book!

I recommend Magic Journey without hesitation; you need to add this book to your collection right now!

Are You Going to Pick Up a Copy of Magic Journey by Kevin Rafferty?

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!

The Imagineering Process by Louis Prosperi

The Imagineering Process by Louis Prosperi

The Imagineering process is magic. And art. And science.

Imagineering is a process and it’s a system that you can apply to your life and creative work.

Louis Prosperi is a fan of Imagineering and has spent years studying and documenting the art of Disney theme park design. He sent me a review copy of his latest book, The Imagineering Process: Using the Disney Theme Park Design Process to Bring Your Creative Ideas to Life, which is the second title in his Imagineering Toolbox Series (I reviewed The Imagineering Pyramid, here).

The Imagineering Pyramid (book one) spotlights using Disney theme park design principles to develop your creative ideas. The Imagineering Process focuses on the steps to bringing your creative ideas to fruition.

The Imagineering Process: Bringing Your Creative Ideas to Life

The book is divided into three parts with fifteen chapters that take you step-by-step through the development of bringing your creative ideas to fruition. Louis does a tremendous job of distilling a daunting process into one understood by the general reader. The Imagineering Process is also a great title for anyone who has to work with a creative team.

Louis offers insights into the creative process from the Disney organization, other creative fields and his own endeavors. In some cases, the anecdotes are from Louis’s own personal experiences.

What I found most valuable about the book are the concrete examples that Louis offered. They helped to solidify the concepts as well as share real-life examples that you can follow. In some cases, the examples are famous Disney attractions, but Louis also shares projects that he worked on that are more relatable.

Each chapter is constructed like the book; he introduces the topic, gives examples, shows us how to implement them and wraps up the chapter with a checklist and questions. Louis sends us on our way with all the tools we need to take our creative ideas and implement them in our personal and professional lives.

The Imagineering Process: Disney Fans!

Just like in The Imagineering Pyramid, Louis proves he’s done his homework and provides a few gems for the Disney fans and historians. At the back of the book, you’ll find Appendix A and a Bibliography. Appendix A is Louis’s Imagineering Library. It is seven pages of books, periodicals, websites and other sources that Louis has collected over the years about Imagineers and Imagineering. Trust me: it’s an incredible list and you won’t find a better one outside of my personal collection.

The Bibliography is a five page list of all of the resources that Louis used in creating the book. Sadly, like most Theme Park Press titles, Bob McLain (the editor), doesn’t believe in endnotes or footnotes, which makes it difficult to verify what his authors are purporting. The lack of notes also diminishes the historical value of the titles for future researchers. I support Bob and what he’s doing, but I wish he would let his authors notate their sources. This really is important.

The Imagineering Process: Final Thoughts

The Imagineering Process is a must have for anyone working in a creative industry or  wants to get their creative juices flowing. The book is not full of exercises (which is good), but it’s full of solid advice and real-world anecdotes that will help you down the (often scary) path of creativity. People who manage creative groups will also find this book very helpful. Louis peppers the book with solid advice on managing creative projects from the perspective of a team leader. This book is a great addition to a manager’s toolbox!

Are You Going to Pick Up The Imagineering Process?

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!

The Imagineering Pyramid by Louis Prosperi Book Review

The Imagineering Pyramid by Louis Prosperi, a Book Review

Wonder how the Imagineers design all of the amazing Disney attractions and resorts? Do you want to add creativity to your life and work?

Louis Prosperi is fascinated with the Disney Imagineers and the creative process. (Trust me, I’ve known him for years and he is as nerdy as me.) With his book, The Imagineering Pyramid, Lou takes his passion for Disney, mixes in his quest for creativity and creates a manual for developing and manging the creative flow. Lou takes us inside the world of imagineering and breaks down the creative process. He presents it in a way so we can use the same tools that Imagineers use to create the Disney magic we all love.

The Imagineering Pyramid is the first volume in the Imagineering Toolbox series. With the release of the second volume in the series, The Imagineering Process, I thought it would be a good time to re-visit the first book and offer a review (also, I realized that I never reviewed the first book – the review of the second volume will come soon).

The Imagineering Pyramid – What About Creativity?

Creativity is a big topic in the business world. It’s also something which many of us strive for in our personal lives. In the Imagineering Pyramid, Lou leads us through the process of adding creativity to our lives and work by understanding how the Imagineers create the magic of Disney theme parks. Through decades of research, Lou has scoured books and articles about imagineering and creativity. He translates that work into the fifteen principles which sets the imagineers apart from other creative industries. In the book, he offers concrete examples of how Disney puts the steps into practice. Lou demonstrates how we can, as well.

The Imagineering Pyramid surprised me on a few levels. The big surprise was how much I used the building blocks of the book without knowing it. Years of reading about Disney (some say obsessing over) allowed me to internalize without realizing it. Lou’s book solidified the concepts in my mind and reinforced the concepts on a grander scale. There were also many examples, which helped to ground the book in the real world. The book is not an academic treatise; it’s something you can apply and use often.

Lou submerged himself in the literature (trust me, I know every resource he listed) to pull out every detail. He created a workflow that made sense with most any creative endeavor even if it’s as simple as making a presentation! The Imagineering Pyramid is a resource you will use if you’re writing a blog post, working on a YouTube video or a corporate budget. The book also offers insight into managing the creative workflow for supervisors.

The Imagineering Pyramid – Why Should I Read This Book?

Reading The Imagineering Pyramid won’t make you an imagineer, but it will help you understand the creative process. The book will start you on your creative journey and you will think and feel creatively in your life and work. You will use these principles every day!

Fans of imagineering will love Lou’s approach, but the real treat is his bibliography and all of the resources he’s listed. If you can add these books to your library, you will be a thrilled Disney enthusiast.

Pick up The Imagineering Pyramid and add it to your Disney library; you won’t be disappointed. It’s one of the better titles from Theme Park Press and shows how passionate Lou is about the subject.

Have you read The Imagineering Pyramid? How have you added Disney creativity to your life?

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!

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 Park by Jeff Kurtti, a book review

Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends is a book that’s going to make many theme park fans very happy! Disneyland, as we know it, would not exist today without the handpicked group of men and women that shaped the nascent theme park. 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 Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park will be familiar to Disney enthusiasts. As the name of the book implies, these are the legends of Disney Imagineering.

Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park

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 Began is one of his more treasured books. Make sure to check out the Art of Walt Disney World, too. Kurtti is also known for his work on several award-winning documentaries and as a consultant for film and theater. He has also worked 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 Kurtti).

Kurtti mentions that his inspiration was John Canemaker’s Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men. Except he felt he came nowhere near the depth of Canemaker’s seminal work.

Many fans complain about the lack of certain key members, but that’s to be expected. Researching and writing a book about a group as large and nebulous as the Imagineers, it’s obvious that many of them could not be included or mentioned.  Kurtti has stated that he hopes to create a second volume.

Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park

Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends melds many key ideas into one work: an introduction to 30 of the most famous and indispensible Imagineers; an insightful look into the creation of the theme parks; and a journey through a history of Imagineering. There is no other work published on this scale or within the same work. Each of the Imagineers chronicled is presented within their holistic context. The classifications are well-reflected and well-thought. Kurtti 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.

You can find a lot of this information in other sources, such as The E-Ticket, Walt Disney Imagineering, the Art of Disneyland, Disneyland: The First Quarter Century, the Nickel Tour and Disneyland: Inside Story. But Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends is the only place you will find all of this information. That is the true brilliance of the book. Kurtti presents a seamless and well-organized view into the Imagineers and the creation of Disney theme parks.

Bruce Gordon did an astounding job with the layout of Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends. He truly was an incredible Imagineer and layout specialist. At the time of publication, there were new photographs and concept art throughout the book. Some of them haven’t been published elsewhere since then. The layout is very contemporary and very appealing. You never feel lost in columns of text (although, Kurtti 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 and you’ll want to study these images.

Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park is for everyone.

Kurtti 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 singular 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 Kurtti for years to come. You need to own this book.

Have you read Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park? Who is your favorite Imagineer?

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?

WED EPCOT Center Countdown Calendar

WED EPCOT Center Countdown Calendar

Did you ever have a billion dollar project that you needed to complete at a certain time?

How would you motivate your creative team to finish by the deadline?

Imagine trying to motivate a massive design and construction team to finish one of the largest construction projects in the world. You’d read all the books about management and hold meeting after meeting, right? Can we do it?

Well, how about a 10 month calendar that counts down the days until the deadline?

This was a WED EPCOT Center Countdown Calendar that started on January 1, 1983 and ended October 31, 1983. January 1 was 273 days until October 1.

WED EPCOT Center Countdown Calendar January

What’s more motivational than buttons? Especially buttons you can snicker at more than 30 years later.

WED EPCOT Center Countdown Calendar February

A great reflection of Spaceship Earth from the Universe of Energy.

WED EPCOT Center Countdown Calendar March

We are doing it! This is a great image of some EPCOT Center buildings under construction. Can you imagine if they had built a better mouse?

WED EPCOT Center Countdown Calendar April

A very interesting image, don’t you think? I’m surprised that the minute hand wasn’t pointing to May in this one. I guess that the hour hand is on October and the minute hand would be sometime around the beginning of the month. It also has a strange sort of TRON and Dali vibe to it.

WED EPCOT Center Countdown Calendar May

Hey, look! It’s Equatorial Africa! This is one of my favorite months because of the iconic representations of the logos for the World Showcase countries.

WED EPCOT Center Countdown Calendar June

America. ‘Nuff said. Although I do wonder if anyone took off the Fourth of July during the construction.

WED EPCOT Center Countdown Calendar July

A fairly iconic shot for August.

WED EPCOT Center Countdown Calendar August

I love the 16 images presented for the month of September. I have to imagine that Card Walker and Donn Tatum were pretty nervous at this point. Or just yelling at everyone. Knowing Card, though, he probably spent a lot of time on the links!

WED EPCOT Center Countdown Calendar September


I wonder where all the Imagineers went on vacation after EPCOT Center opened?

WED EPCOT Center Countdown Calendar October

Sadly, after reading Building a Better Mouse, many of the Imagineers that weren’t involved with the Tokyo Disneyland project were laid off.

So, now you can print out your own version of this calendar and relive the glory days of trying to open the world’s largest theme park (at the time). Which one is your favorite month?

Looking for a great book about EPCOT Center? What about two books?

Steve Alcorn and David Green wrote an amazing book about their time creating the American Adventure at EPCOT Center. Building a Better Mouse is a wonderful look at what it was like to work and live at EPCOT Center during its construction. Check out my review!

Check out Richard Beard’s seminal book about the venerated theme park. Check out my article about the three different versions of this book!

I’ve just provided links to the EPCOT Center books, but there’s no way to guarantee which copy you’ll get without contacting the seller, directly.

Disney Mountains by Jason Surrell, a book review

Disney Mountains by Jason Surrell, a book review

Wearing your lederhosen? We’re going to climb some Disney Mountains!

The Disney Mountains: Imagineering at Its Peak was published in September 2007 and has 128 pages. Jason Surrell might be a familiar name to most cadets. He also wrote the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean books—the ones that have the subtitle From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies! (They’re pretty amazing and the de facto histories of those attractions.) He was an Imagineer in Florida and currently works for Universal Creative.

This book is one of my favorites. I know, I say that often, but it’s true! Basically, Jason looks at all of the Disney mountains, their history, how they transformed Disney parks and theme parks worldwide and their litany within the company.

The first mountain is Matterhorn Mountain at Disneyland. Jason spends a lot of time on this section and with good reason. The Matterhorn was the first in so many areas. We learn about the initial spark for the mountain, how it was built and the changes throughout the years. We start the journey with Walt’s need to fill an empty spot at Disneyland that was created by removing dirt from the moat around the castle. Originally named Holiday Hill and then Lookout Mountain, not only was it an eyesore, but the Park Operations staff continually had to keep a look out for some of the park’s more brazen guests. Unofficially, the area became known as lover’s lane. After a trip to Switzerland to oversee the filming of Third Man on the Mountain, Walt fell in love with the Matterhorn. Thus began Walt’s quest to build a mountain at Disneyland.

Through each chapter we’re introduced to the Disney legends and Imagineers that made these mountains real. There’s concept art, drawings and stellar paintings—my favorites are the ones from the different Splash Mountains all over the world. Jason interviewed a lot of Imagineers and the stories shared are wonderful. There’s not another resource that looks at the Disney mountains in such an in depth manner.

So, here’s the list of the mountains covered: Matterhorn, Space, Big Thunder, Typhoon Lagoon (Mount Mayday) and Blizzard Beach (Mount Gushmore), Splash, Grizzly Peak, Mount Prometheus and Expedition Everest. There’s even a few pages dedicated to Candy Mountain, which had been shown at Disney California Adventure.

A majority of the book is dedicated to concept artwork instead of behind-the-secenes or narrative-style information about the Disney mountains. It makes sense in this case, simply because Surrell has to cover so many Disney mountains in so many Disney parks. The concept art is simply amazing. Works by John Hench, Herb Ryman, Mary Blair, Tony Baxter, Clem Hall and Dan Goozee are scattered throughout the book. The original concept art for Space Mountain called for parts of the track to circle outside the lower part of the building and near the spires. Mainly to entice people to ride it. The Imagineers feared that people would shy away from the ride if they didn’t know what to expect. The ride tracks at the top would have simply been a smaller version of the ride tracks and vehicles with small dummies in them. Weather, costs and engineering kept the original idea from fruition.

It’s a great title and one that I’d like to see Disney (or another publisher) do more of. Jason is a natural storyteller and highlights a lot of the anecdotes from the Imagineers that show how special the Disney mountains are. That’s what makes this book so entertaining. Not only are you learning Disney history, but you’re enjoying yourself, too! Just like listening to Communicore Weekly (the Greatest Online Show).

This is a definite must have and should be part of every cadet’s library. It is out-of-print, so it’s fairly expensive on the second-hand market.

Do you own this book? Which one of the Disney mountains is your favorite?

My Disney Library: Designing Disney by John Hench

Designing Disney: Imagineering and the Art of the Show by John Hench has seen two releases. The purple one (referred to as Hench Purple) was 2003 and the orange version was released four years after his death in 2008.
The purple cover is classic Hench and shows how much power he wielded at Disney. Even in 2003, it wasn’t a modern cover and felt dated. After his passing, Disney re-designed the cover to make it more modern, especially with regards to color. There’s not much difference between the two editions, text-wise.

When I am asked, “What is your greatest achievement?” I answer, “Disneyland is our greatest achievement. Disneyland was first and set the pattern for others to follow.” Disneyland has been an example for many enterprises in the entertainment industry, and its design principles have been embraced by other industries as well. The concept of “themed” environments–places designed so that every element contributes to telling a story–was developed and popularized by Walt Disney. Its influence has been extraordinarily widespread, and can be seen today in many aspects of our daily experience–in shops and shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, museums, airports, offices, even people’s homes. –John Hench, p. 1.

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

DVD Review: Magic Kingdom Imagineering the Magic

Imagineering the Magic

Magic Kingdom: Imagineering the Magic. Theme Park Exclusive. 100 Minutes. 2009.

I picked up Magic Kingdom: Imagineering the Magic DVD on our last family trip to Walt Disney World. I bypassed it several times, previously, after hearing a negative review from a friend.

I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the material presented. It is obvious that it is geared towards the more casual Disney fan, yet I found enough geeky, Magic Kingdom-goodness to watch and enjoy the entire two-disc set.

The first disc is the main feature: Imagineering the Magic of Magic Kingdom. The feature is 64 minutes long and serves as an introduction to the history of Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom. By introduction, I mean a five-minute segment covering pre-Disneyland to October, 1971. The rest of the chapters look at each land and focus on one or two major attractions in the area. Within each section, they do share historical information and photos as they explain how the attraction may have changed over the years.

The usual Imagineers and Disney employees appear as talking heads and help to present the limited, behind-the-scenes information. Marty Sklar, Bob Gurr, Tony Baxter, Tom Fitzgerald, Kevin Rafferty and other current Imagineers help set the scenes. There is more time spent on covering the revamp of Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion, which is understandable, since the DVD was released in 2009. It was bittersweet to see the segment on Mickey’s Toontown Fair, especially since they shared some stills and video footage from the first years of the land’s existence.

The real geek moments of the feature are from the videos and stills from the 1970s and 1980s and ones from the long-gone attractions. I found myself pausing the disc repeatedly to soak up all of the details and scenes. I know that my family was annoyed every time I paused the disc to point out Martin Davis, Herb Ryman, Claude Coats and the early Imagineers.

The second disc is the real treat for most Disney enthusiasts and historians.

  • Imagineering the Dream: a look at creating the suite in Cinderella’s Castle.
  • Disney News Conference: most of the press conference at the Cherry Plaza Hotel on November 15, 1965. Footage of Walt, Roy and Governor Hayden Burn as they make the historic announcement.
  • Project Florida: part of the Project Florida film shown in 1968 at the Park East theater. We get to see Don Tatum introduce executives from US Steel and RCA who announce their partnerships with the EPCOT project.
  • Roy Disney’s Dedication Speech: a montage of stills and clips of Roy as he dedicates Walt Disney World.
  • Mickey’s Triva Tour: 14 questions covering material presented in the Imagineering the Magic of Magic Kingdom feature. (I did get all 14 correct!)
  • Imagineering Art Gallery: 42 images that span the Magic Kingdom’s history.

In the Project Florida featurette, we get to hear from executives from RCA and US Steel about their innovative services and products that will debut with the Florida Project. Edwin H. Gott, Chairman of the Board of U.S. Steel, shared a short film that showcased the plans for one of the two hotel projects that will use modular construction.

This is an enjoyable DVD set; if you happen to see it in the parks, then I would pick it up. You might know everything that is presented, yet there are some hidden gems and rare photos. It is still geared towards people who are just discovering that Walt Disney World has a history. The inclusion of the press conference and the Project Florida footage definitely add some geek cred.

Have you seen the Magic Kingdom: Imagineering the Magic DVD?