More New Items in My Imagineering Library

I recently added a few more items to my Imagineering Library, and thought I’d share some pictures.

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

Disneyland_The_Nickel_Tour

I found this on eBay at a “reasonable” price, and can’t wait to dig in. Most of the books in my collection are focused on Walt Disney World, and I’m glad to be adding some Disneyland books to my library. This also includes this next one…

Next is The Art of Disneyland by Jeff Kurtti and Bruce Gordon.

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I got this one from Jeff Heimbuch, who is selling off some of his collection of Disney and theme park books. This book is filled with gorgeous concept art from Disneyland and it a welcomed addition to my Imagineering Library.

Last is Jack of All Trades: Conversations with Disney Legend Ken Anderson by Paul F. Anderson.

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This is a new release from Theme Park Press (the same company that published The Imagineering Pyramid), and explores the life and work of Walt’s “10th Old Man”. Ken Anderson worked on several classic animated films including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and One Hundred and One Dalmatians and as an Imagineering working on Disneyland (including early designs for the Haunted Mansion) and Epcot Center. I’m looking forward to digging into this one too.

Thanks!

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New Items in My Imagineering Library

I recently added a couple of new items to My Imagineering Library.

The first is The Hidden Mickeys of Walt Disney World by Kevin and Susan Neary. As the title suggests, this book is a guide to Hidden Mickeys at the theme parks, resorts, and other areas of Walt Disney World. I picked this up during our recent trip to Walt Disney World.

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I haven’t had a chance to compare this side-by-side with the original Hidden Mickey book by Steven Barrett (which I referenced when writing The Imagineering Pyramid and is a must have for those interested in Hidden Mickeys), but I expect that together they form are a pretty exhaustive look at Hidden Mickeys at Walt Disney World (as least as of when the books were printed).

Another new addition to my Imagineering Library is The Magic Kingdom Storybook, written and illustrated by Imagineer Jason Grandt. I’ve been wanting to pick this up for a while, and planned to buy it at Walt Disney World during our recent visit. Unfortunately, I was not able to find it while there (I wasn’t able to check every shop, but couldn’t find it at either The Emporium on Main Street, U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom, or at the World Of Disney story at Disney Springs). I ended up buying this through the Shop Disney Parks smart phone app.

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I’ve only had a chance to flip through this so far, but this book features lots of gorgeous artwork with hidden surprises (or Five-Legged Goats) for fans of the Disney parks.

Take care!

My Imagineering Library – The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney California Adventure at Disneyland Resort

Here is a look at another item in My Imagineering Library: The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney California Adventure at Disneyland Resort by Imagineer Alex Wright.

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The Imagineering Field Guides are some of my favorite books in my Imagineering Library. These small pocket guides provide concrete examples of Imagineering principles in practice. Don’t be fooled by their small and simple appearance; they contain a wealth of
information about Imagineering, as well as lots of excellent photos and art work.

A Great Addition to my Imagineering Library!

Another great entry in the Imagineering Field Guide series that book should be in the library of any fan of Disney theme parks or any student of Imagineering.

Imagineering Field Guides provide a look at the Disney theme parks through the eyes of the Imagineers who design and build them. They focus on the details and stories that many Guests often miss as they explore the Disney parks. This entry in the Imagineering Field Guide series looks at Disney California Adventure (at Disneyland Resort), the “newest” Disney park in North America.

Like all of the other Imagineering Field Guides, this book is written and designed by Alex Wright, a Creative Director at Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI), and follows the same basic format of all the previous entries in the series: an Overview of Imagineering (Imagineering 101) followed by an overview of the park, followed by chapters for each “land” within the park, including:

  • Buena Vista Street
  • Condor Flats
  • Grizzly Peak
  • Paradise Pier
  • Pacific Wharf
  • Cars Land
  • “A Bug’s Land”
  • Hollywoodland

For many years Disney’s California Adventure (its original name) was one of the more controversial or “infamous” of all of the Disney parks. The park was originally designed to celebrate the state of California and capture “the energy and excitement of the Golden State…”, but for several years after its opening in 2001 the park had its share of critics (among them some Imagineers) who felt the park didn’t embody the same charm, theming, attention to detail, and storytelling found in other Disney parks. To address this, starting in 2007 the park was subject to one of the largest scale updates/re-imaginings of any Disney park in the company’s history. To quote the author: “They (the Imagineers) worked with our partners in the Parks and Resorts division to fundamentally remake the Park to a degree that had never before been attempted in the history of Disney Parks.”

When I first learned about this book, I wondered if and how it would address this issue, and I liked that this book noted that there were issues with the original version of the park, and that the Imagineers, working with other divisions in the Walt Disney Company, took on the massive effort needed to update the park and bring it more in line with the other Disney parks around the world. I think if Walt Disney were to see the changes made to the park as part of this update, he would be smile, as this change truly embodies the concept of “Plussing” (Walt’s term for constantly trying to improve things). The changes brought about in the recent makeover of Disney California Adventure represent Plussing in its purest form.

One of the things I like most about the Imagineering Field Guides is that they provide great examples of many of the design principles that are at the heart of Imagineering and theme park design, and the author’s choice of examples in each field guide is based largely in part on the specific character of the park in question. In this case, a couple of the design principles explored tie directly to some of the “lands” within the park. In particular, “Cars Land” provides an opportunity to explore the use of “atmospheric perspective” (the idea that “as objects get farther and farther away from us, they tend to become less saturated in color and have less contrast between the highlights and shadows”), while the design of “A Bug’s Land” employs an architectural idea known as “kit-of-parts” (where “a defined set of elements – which can be configured in multiple ways to achieve the intent – is available to the designer”). Other examples of Imagineering design principles and techniques highlighted in this book include the use of “night visions” and storyboards.

In addition, this book also addresses a subject near and dear to many fans of Disney parks and Imagineering, that of “storytelling” and what it means to the Imagineers. While WDI has been using story as its “essential organizing principle” since its earliest days, the emphasis on story was made popular during Michael Eisner’s tenure as CEO and Chairman of The Walt Disney Company. Eisner frequently commented on the importance of stories in the Disney theme parks, to the point where it has become almost a cliché. As a result, the terms “story” and “storytelling” and the strong emphasis on story employed by WDI is somewhat controversial on some blogs and discussion boards on the Internet. Many online commentators believe that to say that all Disney attractions tell a story is to overly simplify what WDI does. Further, some critics even go as far as to suggest that WDI relies too heavily on telling stories with their attractions.

In an essay entitled “A Story By Any Other Name”, author Alex Wright explores this idea and explains how WDI employs a broad definition of “story” that is intended to encompass all manner of experiences that Guests encounter in Disney parks. In his words, “It’s often said that everything we do at Imagineering is about story – and it is. But that phrase in and of itself is really just shorthand for a much more nuanced idea of what “story” mean in our medium of Disney Parks. It doesn’t mean the same thing that it would mean if we were writing a book, making a movie, drawing a comic strip, or even standing on a stage telling a story to an audience. None of those media are approached in exactly the same way by the creators in those fields, so why would we expect that this one wouldn’t follow its own path?” Following this introduction, the author examines how “story” can have different meanings depending on the type of attraction or venue, and how Guests in fact serve as collaborators in the “storytelling” that takes place in the parks.

It’s because of essays like this that the Imagineering Field Guides are among my favorite books in my Disney/Imagineering library. They not only spotlight interesting details about the parks, but also are great guides to the design principles and practices employed by WDI in the design and construction of the Disney parks, and provide excellent insight into the art and craft of Imagineering. I’ve read, and re-read, all of the Imagineering Field Guides many times, and each time I come away with a new insight or distinction.

As you can probably tell from this review, I strongly recommend this book to any fan of Disney theme parks in general and Disney California Adventure in particular.

[The above review was first published in April 2014 posted on Amazon and Goodreads.]

Thoughts? Tell me what you think in the comments!

My Imagineering Library – Jack Blitch, Walt Disney Imagineering

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In an earlier post, I mentioned that most of My Imagineering Library is comprised of books, but some of the “items” are in fact online resources, including websites and videos. One of these is a presentation from the NASA Information Technology Summit in 2010 featuring Jack Blitch, Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering in Orlando.

During his presentation, Blitch describes the process Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) uses when they design and build attractions, with a specific emphasis on their use of technology and modeling software.

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Video of the summit is available online here. The portion of the video featuring Jack Blitch starts at the 50:00 minute mark.

This is a great resource to help anyone understand Imagineering and what WDI does. I recommend this video to anyone interested in learning more about Imagineering.

Thoughts? Tell me what you think in the comments!

My Imagineering Library – Dream It! Do It!

Here is a look at another item in My Imagineering Library: Dream It! Do It!: My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms by Marty Sklar, former Imagineer and Disney Legend.

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A great Disney book by a true Disney Legend!

Marty Sklar started his career with Disney in 1955, one month prior to the opening of Disneyland. He remained with the company until retiring in 2009, and is the only Disney employee to have participated in the design and opening of all 11 currently operating Disney theme parks (Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea, Disneyland Paris, and Walt Disney Studios Park). Though he started in marketing, he quickly found a home at WED Enterprises / Walt Disney Imagineering where he eventually ended up leading the organization for more than 30 years until his transition to “Ambassador for Walt Disney Imagineering” leading up to his retirement in 2009.

This book is a “memoir” of the author’s 50+ years working for Walt Disney Productions/The Walt Disney Company, and includes chapters about the development of all of the theme parks, as well as a chapter about the author’s time at UCLA and his association with Coach John Wooden. It also includes “Mickey’s Ten Commandments”, a list of ten key principles for theme park design that have become legendary in their own right. The book also includes 3 additional lists of “Mickey’s Ten (more) Commandments”, focusing on leadership and followship. Because of the close working relationship the author had with Walt Disney, this book provides an intimate look at the impact of Walt’s death on the company.

The role that Marty Sklar has played in the success of the Walt Disney Company and Disney Theme Parks can’t be understated. In his early days at WED, Marty wrote many of Walt Disney’s speeches, presentations, and film scripts, including the script for the Epcot film (which was the last film Walt recorded before his death in December 1966). It was Marty Sklar who coined the famous definition of imagineering: “the blending of creative imagination and technical know-how.” Later he was pivotal in the design and creation of Epcot and every other Disney theme park since.

As a fan of Disney theme parks in general and Imagineering in specific, buying and reading this book was a no-brainer for me. Despite that, I was initially somewhat skeptical about this book, thinking that it wouldn’t provide the level of detail and insight that I like most in books about Disney parks and Imagineering. I was worried it would be a white-washed memoir that would retell the stories found in the other books in my Disney/Imagineering library. I needn’t have worried at all.

After reading the introduction, I was hooked. While many memoirs like this tend to gloss over details and omit “unpleasant” or controversial stories, this isn’t the case with this book at all. This book is a welcomed addition to my library, and one that I expect I will read and re-read again and again.

If I have one minor quibble with the book it’s the lack of an index, which would be helpful in finding stories about the many people that the author worked with during his time at Disney.

I strongly recommend this book to any fan of Disney theme parks. You won’t be disappointed!

[The above review was first published in August 2013 on Amazon and Goodreads.]

Thoughts? Tell me what you think in the comments!

My Imagineering Library – It’s Kind of a Cute Story

Here is a look at another item in My Imagineering Library: It’s Kind of a Cute Story by Rolly Crump (a former Imagineer and Disney Legend), as told to Jeff Heimbuch.

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I could tell you a little about Rolly and this book, but I’ll just let my review speak for itself.

A Great Book from one of Disney’s Early Imagineers

A great book full of stories about one of the early Disney Imagineers and his work at Disney and beyond.

As a self-styled “Student of Imagineering” I had to add this book to my Imagineering library, and I’m glad I did. While the book doesn’t delve into details around design process and principles that some Imagineering books do (the stuff I like most), it does provide a higher-level look at the Imagineering process, and for that alone it’s valuable to anyone interested in understanding the art and craft of Imagineering.

This book is in essence a series of stories told by Rolly Crump, one of the first generation of Disney Imagineers. Rolly worked on many classic Disneyland attractions, including the Enchanted Tiki Room, it’s a small world, and the Haunted Mansion. These stories trace the path of Rolly’s professional life working for Disney (starting in Animation and later moving to WED/Imagineering), as well as his work outside of Disney, including projects for Circus World, Knott’s Berry Farm, Steve Wynn, the Cousteau Society, and others.

This book really showcases the breadth of Rolly’s portfolio, and it’s clear that he’s done an amazing amount of work in the themed entertainment world, including some of the better know Disney attractions.

Much of this book is based on some of the stories that originally appeared in “A Walk in the Park” an audio tour of Disneyland in which Rolly talks about the various projects he worked on at Disneyland, but this book elaborates on most of those stories. I also recognized several stories from an interview Rolly did with his co-author (Jeff Heimbuch), but again, the book expands on many of those stories.

I recommend this book to any serious Disney park fan and fans of Imagineering and themed entertainment.

[The above review was first published in August 2013 posted on Amazon and Goodreads.]

Thoughts? Tell me what you think in the comments!

Video of Southborough Library Talk

As I mentioned in this post, last week I gave a talk about The Imagineering Pyramid at the Southborough Library.

Southborough Access Media recorded the talk and has posted it on their YouTube channel, or you can watch it here:

I think the talk went pretty well.

Once again, I want to say a public Thank You to the Southborough Library for hosting me, and to everyone who attended.

Take care!