Sam returns after a week of heavy reading to let us know which books are worth adding to your shelves. Find out what Sam thinks of IT’S KIND OF A CUTE STORY,  EPCOT: THE FIRST THIRTY YEARS,  UNIVERSAL ORLANDO 2013,  THEME PARK DESIGN, THE “REVISED” VAULT OF WALT,  STORIES FROM A THEME PARK INSIDER, and LESSONS FROM EPCOT.


Rolly Crump as told to Jeff Heimbuch – 2012-Bamboo Forest Publishing

Disney Legend Rolly Crump has released an excellent autobiography called Its Kind of a Cute Story. Imagine if you will, that you are invited over to his house along with Jeff Heimbuch and they begin to tell you wonderful stories of life at WED, the struggles between the creative people who worked at the place, and showed off rare and exotic artwork. If this sounds inviting then you should pick up this book.

In Crump’s book, he pretty much tells it like it is. His frustrations with WED boss Dick Irvine and his unique relationship with the rest of the creative teams that built the Disney parks.  The book covers his entire career including Knott’s Berry Farm, Steve Wynn, Circus World, and Circus World. Rolly was known as something rather special at WED, someone that seemed to spark Walt’s imagination like nobody else. This allowed him to get away with things unlike many of his peers. As he delighted in this, others were not so amused. This gave Rolly the freedom to work on other projects and bring his magical touch. The book is filled with graphics including a section of his recent fine arts work. Strongly recommend.

Disclosure: I received this book for free for the purpose of this review.


An Unofficial Retrospective Jeff Lange and Kevin Yee – 2012 -Enchanted Swampland Press

The powerhouse Disney-related publishing house of Kevin Yee has produced another winner book. If you are a fan of Epcot and have been visiting for years then this book is bound to spark memories. What Jeff and Kevin have come with is the type of book you wound expect Disney to produce. To celebrate the park’s anniversary they have compiled a brief description of each pavilion along with a history of the shows and attractions. The descriptions are straight forward and without cynicism. Each page is filled with photos that are not from Disney so there are some refreshing new images.

What one begins to understand is just how much change has come to this park. It is rather remarkable. There is very little today that was there 30 years ago. What started out as an attempt to take the Disney theme park formula to the next level has proven to be a project of fitting it in because they could and diluting the original intent. This may or may not be a bad thing. I never rode World Of Motion and Horizons but I wish I did now. Was Food Rocks as trippy as it seems from the photos? What food additives were they ingesting during the development of that show?

The book also deals the various shows. It is hard to imagine that there were daytime shows with light aircraft being flown by the Disney characters. Plus, I always thought Splashtacular was a real show and not just a running joke at WDW Today. There are also photos of a short lived circus. Yes, a circus at Epcot. The timeline at the back of the book will become a helpful resource for Epcot fans.

Should you buy it? If Epcot is your favorite park, then yes. It will bring back memories and become a great conversation starter. Never been before? This may not be the best introduction. I will say as Disney continues to rewrite its own history to meet their needs and not necessarily the truth (this is happening more and more), it is this type of book, written by fans, that will become a critical link between then and now. No wonder the Company did not release a book like this as it shows that change usually only came when forced. The most visionary Disney theme park is the one with the least vision in its current form. And I have the photos to prove it now.

Disclosure: I received this book for free for the purpose of this review.


The Ultimate Guide to the Ultimate Theme Park Adventure Kelly Monaghan and Seth Kubersky – The Intrepid Traveler

Universal Studios in Florida used to be the thing that you did if you had extra time while in Florida. Now it is becoming the first stop for many families. You can see evidence of this at the number of Thing 1 and Thing 2 shirts I see at WDW. I suspect the opening of The Wizardy World of Harry Potter may have had something to do with the new found popularity. Kelly and Seth have been covering the Universal beat just as long as anybody and they have it down pat.

The guidebook is complete, concise, and offers some very handy tips. I got the book just prior to visiting Florida and tested many of the suggestions. The book will come especially handy for those staying on site. Unlike WDW where everything is a drive or a bus, Universal is very compact. Walking is encouraged with beautiful pathways and there are ferry boats from each of the three hotels. CityWalk is so dense with shops and restaurants, the guidebook will help you save a lot of time.

Disclosure: I received this book for free for the purpose of this review.

THEME PARK DESIGN: Behind the Scenes with an Engineer

by Steve Alcorn

This is Steve’s second book that I am aware of. His first book was all about electrical engineering for theme park attractions. Most notably, the American Adventure at Epcot. He made the topic interesting, no small feat. This book is meant for the person who is interested in finding a career creating theme park attractions. The entire process from start to finished is broken down with good humor and the job roles are explained clearly.  Got a kid at home building models or drafting storyboards? This is a wonderful gift. Have you worked at a theme park and wanted to know what all those people were doing? This is a great guidebook.

Disclosure: I purchased this ebook for the purpose of this review.



by Robert Niles

Robert is the caretaker of the Theme Park Insider website and a fine journalist regarding all things themed entertainment related. For many years he worked at the Magic Kingdom and this book is a collection of his thoughts and observations. He supplements his memories with those from readers of his website. This nicely rounds out each of the stories. There is wonderful inside dirt on what Cast Members really think about guests and you will understand why and probably agree with them. Former Cast Members will chuckle and agree with much of Robert’s insights. Those who might offended and think this is all magic should avoid the book. Sometimes the truth hurts.

Disclosure: I purchased this ebook for the purpose of this review.


Jim Korkis – Theme Park Press

Anybody who studies Disney history knows of Jim Korkis. He coined the phrase “Disney Historian.” He is a wonderful storyteller and now his first collection of stories about all facets of the Disney empire has been rereleased with a new publisher. The best way to describe Jim’s writing is he finds the stuff in between the stuff you already know.

The Revised edition is different than the “collectors” edition. The new version has been reedited with some stories removed and new stories taking their place. New stuff includes stuff about Walt’s diet, a detailed look at the Carousel of Progress, and information about Walt and the many Academy Awards he won during his lifetime. I guess the big question is “should you buy it if you already have the older version?” I would say yes. The Carousel of Progress section alone is worth it.

Disclosure: I received this book for free for the purpose of this review.


Jeff Kober is a business training consultant who worked for the Disney Institute for many years. He now runs his own company called Performance Journeys and works with organizations to better serve their customers. In this book, Epcot becomes the living example of valuable life lessons. At the end of each section are questions for you to ask yourself that are not related directly to the topic of Epcot but are useful in self reflection. You can tell that Jeff just loves this Park and has overlaid his professional interests. It is part history book, guidebook, and business book. Very interesting concept. If you are a fan of the park, this is great stuff. It is an interesting mash-up. If you are studying management in school and have a fetish for the parks you may find real inspiration and some great case studies.

Len Testa of once joked that everything in life has a parallel in the theme park world. This book proves him correct.


Got to plug my own work, right? I am very proud of this book and the kind reviews. Here are a couple from Marty Sklar and Lee Cockerell. Thank you to everyone who purchased one over the past year. Here’s to news projects…

Disney Legend Marty Sklar

“[Sam has] captured much of the attitude and events of the times, and hit on much of Walt’s drive and inspiration. [His] research into materials and people who were important in one way or another is exemplary. The notes from Buzz Price, John Hench and Marvin Davis, for example… the apparent influence of Victor Gruen’s theories…a relationship that developed with James Rouse – all insightful. It is clear, well researched and useful and thoughtful to anyone studying urban planning.”

Lee Cockerell, Retired & Inspired WDW Executive VP

“I thought I knew a lot about Walt Disney World and especially EPCOT until I read Walt and the Promise of Progress City. This book really details how Walt Disney thought, which I found fascinating. I will now view Walt Disney World in a whole new way.”

Well folks, that the latest from my library. Are there books on this list you’ve read that you’d like to share your thoughts on? Please comment below.