Disneyland the Nickel Tour by Bruce Gordon and David Mumford

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

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Published on December 22, 2012 at 4:01 am with 12 Comments

Let me start this review with the following statement: This is the most prized book in my collection. I have over 650 Disney-related books and picking my favorites is always difficult. Disneyland the Nickel Tour: A Postcard Journey Through a Half Century of the Happiest Place on Earth has consistently been a favorite since the first time I cracked its spine.

I’ll try not to be too biased. It’s also the most expensive and one of the hardest to come by. In the Afterwords section of Walt’s Time, Bruce explains how The Nickel Tour came to be:

We talked to every publisher we could find, and heard the same story, word for word.

No Commercial Potential. No audience. No Market. No Deal.

They put the book together themselves: Scanned all of the cards, did the layout of every page and had it printed in Italy. They lugged the books to every convention and sold them through mail-order.

And guess what: we sold every book we printed.
–p. 241, Bruce Gordon, Walt’s Time – From Before to Beyond

Disneyland, the Nickel Tour is a look at the first 45 years of Disneyland’s history seen through the hundreds of postcards of the park. Besides Randy Bright’s wonderful Disneyland the Inside Story (1987), The Nickel Tour stands as one of the two most comprehensive books about Disneyland’s history. Where it edges out Randy’s work is that The Nickel Tour does cover the 1990s. Unfortunately, Randy passed away in 1990 and a second edition of his book isn’t forthcoming. Bruce Gordon, the primary writer of The Nickel Tour, was an Imagineer and started with the Company in 1980. Bruce passed away in November 2007. David Mumford worked with Bruce on several Disney books and projects. David passed away in 2003. As it stands, the second edition of The Nickel Tour will probably be the last.

The Nickel Tour is an amazing work on so many levels: the postcard images, the photographs of attractions that weren’t released in postcard form, the historical information and the writing. They begin by sharing pre-opening cards and work their way, year-by-year and attraction-by-attraction, through the history of Disneyland. One of Gordon and Mumford’s strengths is that they write well and can take something as simple as post cards and turn them into an epic look at a theme park. The writing never gets technical and is always filled with reverence, love and some remorse. Occasionally, they slip in some humor. It is always fitting and they obvious love word-play. The following paragraph could have been presented as just a litany of facts, but they went a different way with it.

On the left hand side of Main Street, we encounter the Sunkist Citrus House. Long before this view was taken, the Citrus House had actually been two separate stores, one housing “Sunny View Jams and Jellies” and the other housing the “Puffin Bake Shop.” By October of 1958, Disneyland had canned the jam and jelly shop and opened a candy store in its place. It was a sweet deal until June of 1960, when the Puffin Bake Shop went stale. (It seems they just weren’t making enough dough to stay in business.) And even worse, it wasn’t long before everyone was beginning to sour on the candy shop next door. So the two shops were joined together, and in a dedication ceremony held with Walt on July 31, they finally became the home of the Sunkist Citrus Shop. Things were calm until 1990, when the time was ripe to spin around in a circle once more – only to find the Sunkist moving out and the Bakery moving back in! Well, that story certainly had a peel. Orange you glad we wasted all this time? Meanwhile, here’s the scoop on the Carnation Ice Cream parlor: in 1997 they split from their original parlor and (having lost their Carnation along the way) floated into the home of the bakery. Then, with perfect Disneyland logic, the bakery moved into – the ice cream parlor! If that doesn’t get a rise out of you, nothing will! p. 121

The sense of history that you get from The Nickel Tour, through the postcards and photographs, hasn’t been presented in any other form. Gordon and Mumford worked in the park and have an intimate knowledge. They worked and lived Disneyland and were a few of the people qualified to write this book. Not just qualified academically but also emotionally. It’s quite obvious that they loved the park. Besides being a reference work for postcards, it’s like a wish book; one you can flip open to any page and see a favorite or long-gone attraction and dream about visiting or re-experiencing. The images are stellar and your appreciation of postcards as art and history will grow. Some people will think of it solely as a postcard catalog, but it is so much more.

This work was obviously a labor of love for Gordon and Mumford. It’s hard to stress how important this work is in the Disney literature. Beside being one of two major historical works about Disneyland, you get a feel for how Disneyland evolved, how Walt plussed the park and how the Disney Company moved forward after Walt. It’s the most cherished book in my entire collection. If you are lucky enough to find a copy, get it. This is a book that I always recommend to die hard Walt Disney World fans. The history of Disneyland offers a lot of insight into the growth of Walt Disney World as well.

There are two versions of the book. The one with the red cover is the first edition (1995) and the one I featured in this review is the second version (2000). Either one is a great addition to your collection.

This book is simply amazing!

Do you have a copy of it? What’s your favorite Disney book?

By George Taylor

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

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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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  • Fukai

    This is indeed a wonderful book.
    With the drop in collectible prices, the book can now be bought for half of what it was selling for a few years ago.

    • George Taylor

      I’m glad to see the drop in price. Still, it’s a book that every Disneyland fan should be able to get their hands on!

      Thanks for the comment.

  • jcruise86

    It’s also the best Disney book in our family. I got a copy at the Disneyana show in Garden Grove and gave it to my brother and spend 30+ minutes looking at it on most visits.

    • George Taylor

      Thanks for the comment!

      I hope your brother is taking good care of your amazing gift! ;)

  • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

    Agreed. The Nickel Tour is a prized book in my collection. I feel very lucky to have both editions. However, I can’t help but feel sad when I open the book, as it reminds me of Bruce and David who were lost so young. True Imagineers and Disneyland historians. They are missed deeply even to this day.

    • George Taylor


      I have a feeling that meeting Bruce and David would have been positively amazing.

  • jazzbanjo

    The Nickel Tour is also a prized book in my collection. Thank you for revisiting this book. David Mumford had one goal in life from the time he was a young boy. He wanted to work for Disney and be a part of an amazing heritage of talented people. He fulfilled that dream and shared it with others. When I was young, I didn’t have a camera so I spent my money on postcards to take home pictures of the park. They would have to last for a year since our family only visited the park once a year. The pictures were saved in a photo album book just like people used to do with family pictures. The Nickel Tour is the same thing but only on a much larger scale. I’ll never forget the Christmas that David gave me a copy of his and Bruce’s book.

    • George Taylor

      Thanks for the comment and the great story!

      It’s truly an amazing work of love. I wonder if a lot of people collected Disneyland postcards for the same reason.

  • OriginalMousekteer

    I met David Mumford around 1971 or 72 when we were both in high school. We met at the Anaheim Public Library, which was a depository for the Walt Disney Archives. I remember from our earliest meetings his collection of Disneyland Souvenir Maps and Postcards.

    I need to dig out my Disneyana boxes–If I’m lucky I still have his postcard to me when his father took him and his sister to WDW in 1972. The comment was “you have got to see this place”.

    We lost touch over the years, but his friendship was an important part of my early Disney dreams. I agree with earlier posts–we lost them both far too young.

  • mhinrichs

    Thanks for your write-up on this wonderful book. Clearly it was a labor of love, and it showed on every page. About 10 years ago, I checked the second edition out from my local library and devoured every page. It’s a nice collecting guide, but what really makes it special is the history and getting a feel for how Disneyland presented itself in the postcard format throughout the years.

    Disney needs to take it upon themselves to re-print and update this book.

  • hornedking

    This is such a great book! I bought my copy from Bruce himself at the Disneyana show. I can’t remember what the price of the book was, but I do remember that I only had $40.00. I asked Bruce if he would sell it to me for the $40 and he politely declined. Right before the show/sale closed, I approached him again and asked if he would reconsider. He kindly acquiesced. I remember being hesitant to buy it because it was sealed in plastic and there wasn’t an open copy to look at. He assured me that if I liked Disneyland I would like the book. He was right, of course. It’s a beautifully crafted book. I didn’t know he was one of the authors until I got home and opened it and saw his picture on the dust jacket.

    It’s definitely one of my favorite Disney books and since you asked, my other favorites are “The Art of Walt Disney” and “The Illusion of Life”.

    Thank you for reminding me to pull my copy out again to flip through!

  • keslick

    Thank for the wonderful article about the Nickel Tour. My husband Ken collected Disneyland Postcards for the last 16 years. He created a website of his cards: DisneylandPostcards.net. You wrote your article on what would have been his 60th birthday. He passed away last August of a sudden heart attack. My daughter and I hope to continue on with his work and keep the website active. We will be selling vintage Disneyland postcards at the DFC collectible show and sale February 17th in Anaheim. We own the collector’s edition, bound in leather, and several of the other editions as well. Thank you for keeping the magic alive.