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

Written by George Taylor. Posted in Disney, Disney Parks, Disneyland Resort, Features, The Disney Review, Walt Disney World

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Published on November 03, 2012 at 5:02 am with 5 Comments

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.

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 Dsney World, too.Jeff 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 Jeff).

In an interview with Didier Ghez, Jeff talks about the motivation behind the book:

The inspiration for Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends was John Canemaker’s Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men. I say inspiration, since my book comes nowhere near the depth and erudition of John’s great work, but the inspiration was to create a work that would familiarize people with the core team of creative people within the initial development of Disneyland.

The animation group, as a rule, is more familiar to people, and the Imagineering group is less well-known, the history of how they came together is much less documented. It’s very important for new generations of fans to get a proper introduction to this information, it’s important for the Company to preserve a record that illuminates and contextualizes key periods of its history.


I am not sure I could have said it better. Researching and writing a book about a group as large and nebulous as the Imagineers, it is obvious that any work on them could not be included or mentioned. Many fans complain about the lack of certain key members, but that is to be expected. Jeff has already stated that he hopes to create a second volume.

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. Jeff 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 Imagineering Legends is the only place you will find all of this information. That is the true brilliance of the book. Jeff 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 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, Jeff 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 will want to study these images.

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

Jeff 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 Jeff for years to come. You need to own this book.

Have you read this book?

Who is your favorite Imagineer?

Check out my list of books on the history of Walt Disney World.

By George Taylor

The Disney Review is written and edited by Jeff Heimbuch and George Taylor

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email us at
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About George Taylor

George has been obsessed with Disney theme parks since the first time he saw a photo of the Haunted Mansion in the early 70s. He started writing about Disney in 2007 and has amassed one of the world's largest Disney-related libraries.

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  • Royce

    Jeff Kurtti falsely labels and calls Marc Davis and Claude Coats, “STORY DEPARTMENT” – (see above photo of the book’s index – Chapter Four). Excuse me, but weren’t Marc & Claude illustrators/graphic artists who created characters and backgrounds and settings? Even when various places showcase Marc Davis’ career, it is his ART WORK. Yet since my lawsuit against Disney over Pirates, Jeff also now proclaims in this book that “Davis felt the show (Pirates of the Caribbean) owed much of its success to its reliance on strong story and characterization.”

    In comparison, check out what Marc Davis said about Pirates of the Caribbean to E-Ticket magazine. – Marc Davis: “…All of these attractions is that they are a series of experiences. You aren’t telling a story in the Haunted Mansion anymore than you are trying to tell a story in the Pirates of the Caribbean. You’re showing some pirates in a lot of interesting situations, but you don’t really have a beginning or an ending. They’re a series of situations, not a story.” (1989: E-Ticket issue 7 – pages 9 – 10

  • Joshnyah

    I love the history within the Disney company and those who influenced so much. Great book.

  • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

    Looks like a great book! Adding it to my Christmas list right now. :)

  • Jeff Heimbuch

    I absolutely adore this book…definitely one of my all-time favorites. Kurtti did a great job with it.

    As for my favorite Imagineer…well…I *guess* it would have to be Rolly Crump ;)

  • Ravjay12

    Great review! I haven’t read the book, but it looks great! My favorite imagineer of all time is the great Tony Baxter. He’s always been my favorite since I was a kid, and I finally had the pleasure of meeting him at a Cast Christmas party in 1995 at a preview of the Indiana Jones Adventure.