A Magical Half-Century: Disney World’s First 50 Years

A Magical Half-Century: Stories Celebrating Walt Disney World’s First 50 Years by Christopher E. Smith, a book review

Isn’t it hard to believe that Walt Disney World will be celebrating a magical half-century this year?

It seems as if we were just celebrating the 40th anniversary and the 50th anniversary was an impossible date. I was hoping that we’d be celebrating the 50th anniversary while wearing jetpacks.

Regardless, we’re here. Despite the shut-downs, the virus, and the social distancing, Disney has been slowly prepping the Florida property for a celebration of sorts. I assume there will be a 50th anniversary celebration at the Magic Kingdom, but no plans have been formally announced (as of this writing). That being said, I imagine that the celebration on Friday, October 1, 2021, will be somber.

Where Are the Books Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World?

I expected many more books published celebrating the 50th anniversary.  That being said, not many are showing up.

Author Christopher E. Smith reached out to me to review his latest book celebrating Walt Disney World’s first 50 years.

The only history book published that documents most of WDW is Jeff Kurtti’s Since the World Began. Jeff’s well done but surprisingly thin history of Walt Disney World set the standard for how to approach a subject as varied and dramatic as Walt Disney World. Hopes abounded for Jeff to re-visit the work and add the second half-century, but plans never came to fruition. I imagine a thorough history of the Vacation Kingdom of the World would be comparable to one of the later Harry Potter novels.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how Christopher put his own spin on Walt Disney World’s history by sharing 16 well-crafted and well-researched stories focusing on Disney World.

A Magical Half-Century

Christopher shares a unique approach to chronicling the first fifty years of Walt Disney World. Don’t expect a run through of the resort or a year-by-year chronology. Christopher weaves a tapestry that tells a larger story. Throughout the 16 chapters, Christopher regales us with historical tales covering different facets of the resort, while focusing on some pretty big milestones and attractions. And some details that you might take for granted.

I’m not a fan of spoilers of any kind, so I will caution you to skip the chapter on Rise of the Resistance until you’ve ridden it (Chapter 4). Rise of the Resistance is stellar (besides being based on the awful sequels) and any little detail gleaned will spoil some of the surprises. But you still need to read the rest of the book! Christopher offers readers some in-depth insight, including a chapter on the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (S.E.A.) that takes around the actual globeto visit some of the other Disney theme parks. Fans of the Adventurer’s Club will love this chapter.

What’s Inside the Walt Disney World History Book?

In the 16 chapters, Christopher visits Sleepy Hollow, the Great Movie Ride, Pirates of the Caribbean and the famed Western River Expedition, the EPCOT film, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, DinoLand, The American Adventure, and some of the littlest details: weather vanes. A Magical Half-Century is more than Christopher reciting a litany of facts; he ties multiple storylines together to present a larger history.  The section on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is really a history of the area and a look at the attraction queue, the ride experience, and the tributes. Christopher travels back in time to share early concepts for attractions that didn’t make the cut, including concepts with Roger Rabbit, Mel Brooks, and Dick Tracy. It’s a very satisfying and engaging read (like the other chapters) that offers much more than you think you’re going to get.

This is the kind of mash-up that is ImagiNERDing approved!

A Magical Half-Century recounts the history through images, as well. Christopher has provided crisp black-and-white photos to accompany the text. He’s also managed to wrangle Rob Yeo to provide the wonderfully retro cover art and line illustrations throughout the book. Rob’s design sensibility and charm help elucidate Christopher’s work.

Christopher includes a lot of details that future researchers and fans will enjoy. In many cases, he includes complete ride scripts and minor walk-throughs of the attractions. Sure, you can find these on the web, but it’s great to have them in a handy reference work.

Disney World and Intellectual Properties

In his regular job, Christopher is a lawyer that works with IP, or intellectual property. One of the chapters looks at IP and the Disney Parks, specifically to counter the argument that Disney is populating attractions solely based on IPs, like Frozen and the Pixar films. Christopher offers unique insight and provides a section at the end of the book replete with tables broken down by era (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom). The author goes a long (and entertaining) way to show how IPs were present well before it was a conflagration.

All-in-all, Christopher’s dive into the first 50 years of Walt Disney World is an engaging and satisfying read. The chapters go deeper than you expect and incorporate more history than you would think. He also provides a select bibliography, which is a must for any good historical work on any theme park.

Christopher used some top-notch titles for his research.

With the obvious dearth of titles related to Walt Disney World history, Christopher fills the void. He shares fascinating reads that will reach out to all Disney World fans, regardless of your experiences and interests. Grab a copy of the book, sit back, and enjoy A Magical Half-Century!

What’s Your Favorite Memory from the First 50 Years of Walt Disney World?

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!

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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Have you read Walt Disney World: Then, Now, and Forever? Let me know what you think!

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FTC Disclaimer: 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!

6 Questions Answered About MagicBands

6 Questions Answered About MagicBands

Sarah from Carolina Bloggin’ is back with another installment about her upcoming trip to Walt Disney World. This time she tackles the subject of MagicBands and how her family will use the technology to help plan and make their Walt Disney World vacation one to remember!

Check out her first post, here.

Our MagicBands arrived today! Their arrival signifies that the trip is really happening and check-in is right around the corner.


Our MagicBands are the digital key in to the parks, our hotel room keys, our pass for food and more! We never realized how much magic is really packed in to these little bands until we started researching them a bit further. When I visited Walt Disney World with my parents, MagicBands had not been invented.

Here are a few questions we asked and found answers to about Walt Disney World MagicBands and a quick video when we opened our box for the first time.

What is a MagicBand?
It is a wearable band that includes a icon that is scannable for things like paying for meals, scanning for quick access to rides, hotel keys and more.

Here are a few cool things about them. MagicBands are:

  • Waterproof
  • Adjustable (the  extended band can be easily removed for smaller wrists)
  • Customizable
  • A fun way to start planning your vacation before you leave…and more!

How can I get a MagicBand?
MagicBands are only available for Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. If you stay on property or are a Walt Disney World Passholder, the bands will be included with your stay at no additional charge. If you are staying off property, they are available for purchase and start at about $12.95. MagicBands come in a variety of designs and colors and some of the more detailed bands will cost more. You can order them online or at select retail locations.

Sarah’s Tip: MagicBands are not required to visit Walt Disney World however they sure do make visiting the parks easier!

Check out this link from Walt Disney World for more information on MagicBands – click here

When we planned our trip through Disney we were happy to learn that our MagicBands would be included. It was easy to customize the color and design on the MyDisneyExperience website once we put down the deposit for our trip.

When will my MagicBands arrive?
If ordering as part of a resort Stay at Walt Disney World, your MagicBands will arrive about 25 days before you visit. We payed off our visit on July 5th and got our MagicBands in the mail on July 14th for our vacation the first week of August.

What can MagicBands do?
Here are examples of how we will be using our bands during our stay.

  • A digital key for our hotel room at Pop Century (or any Walt Disney World resort)
  • No need to carry a debit card: we can charge items to our room using our bands
  • Our tickets to the parks (you will have to scan a finger at the turn-style)
  • As our digital Fastpass+ (digital reservations for certain attractions)
  • To pay for our meals as part of our meal plan at the parks and Disney Springs
  • For keeping all of our MemoryMaker Photopass pictures together!

You can also use the MagicBand as your boarding pass for Disney’s Magical Express to the Orlando International Airport!

Are MagicBands reusable?
Per the Disney website, as long as your MagicBand is in good working condition you can use them again while visiting Walt Disney World. (But most people get new ones as a memento.)

Is a MagicBand only available as the band?
You can choose to wear it on the band or remove the icon to put in a key chain. Instructions for removing the chip are pictured on the back of the packaging. This option is available only with the newer MagicBand 2 with the removable center icon.

There are several more questions to be answered about Walt Disney World MagicBands. I found the most accurate answers by speaking directly with a Disney Cast Member or by visiting the MyDisneyExperience website. Questions like: 

  • What if I loose my band?
  • What if my band is not working?
  • How do I load meals and fast passes to my MagicBand?

What are your thoughts on MagicBands? Have you used them before? Any suggestions for using them after a visit as a keepsake? Leave us a comment below.

Here we are opening our MagicBands for the first time!

Do you have any tips or thoughts to share with Sarah? Leave a comment!

Sarah is a frugal and food blogger over at TheHotMessKitchen.com. A corporate employee by day working in the field of technical support and blogger by night; Sarah talks about recipes, kitchen tips, sensible and frugal living on her blog. She can also be found writing about her travels and sharing tips for bloggers at CarolinaBlogging.com.  And now for the fun facts: first roller coaster with her dad was the Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens, first date with her husband was at Howl O Scream at Busch Gardens in October 2004 and one ride she will never ever ride is the Ring of Fire at the fair.


2016 Walt Disney World Earbook Review

2016 Walt Disney World Earbook by Kevin Yee, a review

With the release of the 2016 Walt Disney World Earbook, Kevin Yee has done it again! This is another must-have book for every Walt Disney World fan.

So, what is the ‘Earbook?

If you’re not familiar with Yee’s ‘Earbook series, he’s been producing an annual overview of the Walt Disney World resort since 2010 (this is the seventh title in the series). Yee promotes it as being similar to a high school yearbook; the ‘Earbook is something that you can look at in years to come to remember past vacations. To me, the ‘Earbook is a historian’s dream. Who wouldn’t love a way to look back at specific years at Walt Disney World to see the changes?

The 2016 Walt Disney World Earbook!

ImagiNERDs should be familiar with my lament about the dearth of published information on Walt Disney World over the first 30 years. For example, when searching for the exact opening and closing of a certain attraction or restaurant, even official resources offer varied dates for opening and closing. That’s one of the reasons the ‘Earbook is so important. Yee visits Walt Disney World a few times each month and has throughly documented the changes. Yee knows his stuff.

The March 2016 Walt Disney World Earbook

Yee breaks down the year, month by month, and focuses on all of the changes throughout the resort. Each month has its own chapter with a lot of photographs to offer a visual. The end of each month is a chronological list of all of the changes.

Yee also offers a look back at attractions that have closed with the We Remember… sections, which is a fond look back at the previous attraction. It’s a nice addition and one that will help show the evolution of the Walt Disney World resort.

We Remember the Streets of America from the 2016 Walt Disney World Earbook

I can’t stress how important this series is. Especially, for anyone who has an interest in trying to document the history of the parks. Imagine being able to pick up a book that transports you back to a Walt Disney World from a past vacation. Did you go on a vacation to Walt Disney World in 2016? Then you need to add this book to your collection.

Although 2016 might have seemed pretty bad to the outside world, it really was a very transitional year for Walt Disney World. Yee’s ‘Earbook helps shed light on the changes we’ve seen.

One Day In Detail Section from the 2016 Walt Disney World Earbook

There are some great appendices at the end of the ‘Earbook. Yee lists all of the groups that played at Epcot. He also lists the food and prices at all of the booths at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. Yee even created a snapshot of one full day during the summer at all the parks. He gives us the operating times, the entertainment times and a look at some of the food prices.

If you’re any kind a fan of Walt Disney World then you need to own a copy of this book. It is available in paperback and e-book format.

Title: Unofficial Walt Disney World ‘Earbook 2016
Author: Kevin Yee
ISBN: 978-81541024298
Publication Date: December 11, 2016

Are you going to pick up the 2016 Walt Disney World Earbook? What do you think about this series?

FTC Disclosure: A copy was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

Walt Disney World Souvenir Guide Photos

I’ve talked about my love of souvenir guides before and I constantly find myself pulling those books off my shelves and taking a trip back to vintage Walt Disney World. 1970s and 1980s Walt Disney World was a vastly different vacation than you can have today. It’s not only fun to see the strange fashions, but also to see the attractions and areas that are gone.

I’ve shared photos from the guides on InstaGram and Twitter and thought it would be fun to take a look at the photos in one post. Are you ready for a trip down memory lane?

The cover is pretty spectacular and is representative of the marketing at the time. The focus is very heavy on all of the outdoor activities that you could do at the Vacation Kingdom of the World.

I’ve seen the photo of the cast member holding the balloons in several guides, including the amazing GAF Guides.  Since so many people are lined up along the curb, I assumed that

Who doesn’t just love a random Tiki image!

Ok, so I included this simply for my obsession, er, love of the ill-fated Bob-A-Round Boats. Ever wonder what happened to them? Check out my article on the bob-a-round boats!

I’m almost as obsessed with maps as I am with souvenir guides. I just love how Disney marketed and presented itself. You can see how they represented the park icons, like the Haunted Mansion, Pirates, Jungle Cruise, Space Mountain and 20,000 Leagues in this map.

So, there were opportunities to get dressed up and have wine at the Golf Resort. I guess you didn’t need to spend every spare moment at the Magic Kingdom!

This is a great image of the Empress Lily and the Village. Who knew you could drive right up to the Empress back in the day?

Hahahahahaha! Three days to enjoy all of Walt Disney World?

Who doesn’t love a photo of Goofy waterskiing? Click here to see another shot of Goofy skiing!

This is an image that really confused me when I first posted it. I wasn’t sure which stage it was! I knew it couldn’t be the Hoop-Dee-Doo Review and it wasn’t the Top of the World, so where was it? A really good friend of mine came through and let me know that it was the Ballroom of the Americas at the Contemporary Resort. When I was down there on my last visit, he gave me a tour of the Contemporary and showed me the stage. (It even has a lift that’s big enough to get a car onto the stage!)


Monorail and Hotel Launches at Walt Disney World

I love running across strange little tidbits of information while doing research for various projects. Eyes and Ears, the cast member newsletter of Walt Disney World, had a section entitled Around the World, which featured a glimpse at different cast members and their specific jobs. The March 03, 1973 edition offers a glimpse at two different positions: a monorail driver and a resort launch hostess.

Continue reading Monorail and Hotel Launches at Walt Disney World

WYWHW: The Main Street Flower Market Postcard

The Main Street Flower Market at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World was one of those moments in time that defined an era. When the Main Street Emporium expanded in 2001, the facades and shops of West Center Street were lost forever. In the late 1990s, Walt Disney World moved further away from the more unique experiences of the Vacation Kingdom of the World and into the more vanilla adventures that we would see in the late 2000s. The proliferation of gift shops and moments designed to take your time and money would be a hallmark of the late Eisner epoch at Disney theme parks. 

Continue reading WYWHW: The Main Street Flower Market Postcard

You Can Fly: Dumbo, Mickey and Minnie Postcard

Wish You Were Here Wednesday: You Can Fly (MK-9) Dumbo Postcard

Mickey and Minnie take a spin on their elephant friend, Dumbo, the Flying Elephant.

It’s hard to believe that there are kids alive today that will never get to experience a flight on Dumbo behind Cinderella Castle.



WYWHW: All Aboard Postcard

Wish You Were Here Wednesday: All Aboard! (MK-7) Walt Disney World Railroad Postcard

Take a leisurely ride around the MAGIC KINGDOM on the WALT DISNEY WORLD Railroad or race out of control across Thunder Mountain.

I do love how the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad train shadows the Walter E. Disney as it makes the Grand Circle Tour.

WYWHW: Partners Forever (MK-4) Postcard

WYWHW: Partners Forever (MK-4) Postcard

Wish You Were Here Wednesday: Partners Forever (MK-4)

Mickey and Walt greet guests in the MAGIC KINGDOM as a lifting treatment to their enduring legacy.

One of the more popular photo ops at the Magic Kingdom, there’s often a fairly long line of people waiting to get their photos on front of the Partners Statue.