Today Sam Gennawey delivers a collection of reviews, just in time for the holidays. There’s something for every taste here including the special treat of streaming Mickey Mouse cartoons!

From Dreamer to Dreamfinder

Ron Schneider

Remember the first time you went to Epcot Center and saw the real life Dreamfinder and his little pal figment in the park? There is a good chance you saw Ron Schneider. Among other achievements, Ron was the first person to portray the character that represented Epcot Center. He wrote the book because, “I never found anything that addressed my area of interest – live themed entertainment.”

He details how he found his way working for Magic Mountain, Disneyland, and Universal. In each case, he plowed his own path. He got to live the dream working at the Golden Horseshoe. He was in charge of the original band of face characters at Universal Studios Florida.

Here are just of few of his observations that I took note of:

• “Back in the ‘80s Future World isn’t just about the future; it’s about your future.”
• “There’s long been a debate among Imagineers as to whether themed attractions can tell a story. Most of what we turn out- and all the landmark Disney attractions – don’t so much communicate a linear tale as create a mood, or generate a feeling in the guest.”
• “Walt used to delight in telling people about his next project, watching their reactions to each new detail as he described it, using their responses to gauge the quality of each idea and to fire his own enthusiasm for the story being told. All Imagineers were like that once, in the days before Disney fans drove them underground as competition and legal concerns made secrecy a necessary priority.”
• “I wanted to be Dreamfinder.”
• Remember “Universal Studios’ Santa-Tastic Extravenganza”?
• “And now a word to Cast Members everywhere who unwittingly employ Theme Park Inflection: Stop it.”

I thought the book was great. An interesting look at three different corporate cultures. It is a backstage peek at the creative process bringing the characters to life.

I purchased the eBook from Amazon.



Cartoon Shorts

When it comes to showing my Disney Side (clever campaign) I tend to lean toward the theme parks. This means I am not usually a first adopter of a lot of products produced by the other divisions. However, there was one new cartoon series that I have been really looking forward to ever since I saw the preview in March 2013.

Under the leadership of Executive Producer Paul Radish, Mickey Mouse has returned, scrubbed of the sanitized corporate symbol attitude, and returned to his roots as a blend of Charlie Chaplin, Errol Flynn, Walt Disney, and the Keystone Cops.

Starting last summer, Disney began releasing 19 of these groundbreaking 3+ minute shorts. Gone is the bland, safe Mickey. Enter the Mickey that resembles the one that first captured the public’s attention in 1928. Set in contemporary times, Mickey and his friends are happy to break into a neighbors house to use his pool on a hot day, cheat in a dog show, and steal an ice cream truck. Creating chaos is a given in each episode and at times resembles the energy of a Tex Avery cartoon or one of the Roger Rabbit shorts. In the end, Mickey does save the day and everything turns out right. Just like the original early classic Mickey Mouse shorts, kids will love these but they really are written for adults.

In the first episode, Croissant de Triomphe, Minnie runs out of croissants at her restaurant in Paris and calls out to Mickey (in French) to bring more. Mickey jets through the streets of Paris, close calls at every turn, as he tries to get to Minnie in time. The storyboard sessions must have been a blast because the gags that made it to the final cut will make you laugh out loud. It is both timeless and relevant at the same time. The animation is fresh, fluid, rubbery, and throughly 2D. I like this version of Mickey.

That was just a start. In No Service we get to see a naked Mickey in a public place. In Yodelberg Mickey gets to meet a yeti and New York Weenie will make you look at hot dogs in a new way. Tokyo Go and Panda-mania show that Mickey is an international star and are set in Japan and China. We have all had a Bad Ear Day. Stayin’ Cool was released when Los Angeles was suffering from an unbearable heatwave and summed up that experience better then anything I have ever seen. Potatoland land will have all theme park fans rolling on the floor. Zombie Goofy. Gubbles. This will all make sense as you watch the series. Mickey is alive and well in the hands of this team of animators.

Here’s a stream with all the new Mickey shorts:




EARS OF STEEL: The Real Man’s Guide to Walt Disney World

Bart Scott

Over the years, there have been many WDW guide books with a very strong point of view. The best are quite enjoyable such as Queens of the Kingdom, Mousejunkies, and now Bart Scott’s Ears of Steel. Scott has decided that he would find a way to appeal to the guy who is being dragged to the theme parks by his family and will just have to make the best of it. Along the way we get honest reviews of the attractions and restaurants and bits of history or the backstory. I found myself craving a beer every time I picked up this thing. If you have a guy who just loves his Lazyboy recliner more than anything else in life, then this may be the book for you.

I received the book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.



Disneyland Disney California Adventure

Nancy Temple Rodrigue

Disclaimer: Nancy and I have been to many book signing events together and she has occasionally asked technical history questions for her books.

Nancy has been turning out some incredibly fun reads with her Hidden Mickey Adventure series. I have joked that she is the Gore Vidal of Disney books combining a thrilling story against an historically accurate portrayal of a location. In this case Disneyland. She was the first to do this sort of thing for adults and has branched off to writing books for tweens as well.

Now she has taken her passion for quests to another level and has put you in the driver seat. Don’t let the title of the series confuse you. This is not just about Hidden Mickeys in the parks. This is an adventure that forces you to closely look at your surroundings and answer questions. Some are multiple choice, others are fill in the blanks, while others use different methods. To get the answers, you have to dial into their website. The books are the right size for this type of challenge and I had a lot of fun with the diverse activities.

There is also a version for the Magic Kingdom but I did not receive that book. I did received the books from the author for the purpose of this review.   Hidden Mickey Books on Amazon Here



never built book cover NEVER BUILT LOS ANGELES
Greg Goldin and Sam Lubell

This is not a Disney book but it does contain projects that are related to the LA theme park industry and would be of interest to Disney history buffs. Los Angeles has a long history of fanciful projects that never became reality. A recent show at the Architecture and Design Museum (show is now closed) built a show around the question “what if” some of these projects got built. The catalog that accompanied the show is wonderful. Short essays and lots of graphics cover hundreds of proposals. Here are some that stood out for Samland:

• CalArts. Yes, CalArts has been built but Valencia was not the first destination. Walt wanted it across the Hollywood Freeway from the Hollywood Bowl. Just down the Street would be the Hollywood Motion Picture and Television Museum. The building, designed by architect William Pereira, would have featured a sound stage and screening room. The result would have been 3 Los Angeles cultural institutions adjacent to each other. For reasons that the book details, neither project happened.

• Music Center Expansion/Walt Disney Concert Hall: Diane Disney Miller was the force that made her mother’s vision for the Walt Disney Concert Hall become reality. The Frank Gehry building has become an iconic structure in downtown Los Angeles. The essay in this book is focused on those proposals that did not happen. Quite a few architects took a shot and now you can judge for yourself if Lilian and Diane made the right decision. (hint: They did)

• Disneyland: The 1952 site plan by Harper Goff was included in the exhibit. This was the little park that would have been built alongside the Burbank studio.

• International Marketland: The success of Disneyland inspired many others to build tourist attractions in Orange County. The International Marketland was a 1959 proposal for the City of Orange. Like the World Showcase at Epcot, the attraction would have featured scaled down versions of famous world landmarks. The biggest structure would a dome painted as the Northern Hemisphere of Earth.

• Bible Storyland: Bruce Bushman was a Disney artists responsible for some of the most memorable drawing of Disneyland’s Fantasyland attractions and many other influential concepts for the park. In 1960, he was asked by Nat Winecoff, one of Walt’s close associates to design a new theme park that as going to be located along Route 66 in Rancho Cucamonga California. The park was laid out in the shape of a heart and the pedestrian flow would be controlled through the use of the hub and spoke, just like Disneyland. In fact, at a quick glance, the plans look like Disneyland except Tomorrowland was going to be Babylon and Fantasyland would have had the Sea of Galilee. As the marketing materials said, “The Bible and all its wonders will literally spring into life.” Oddly, the local churches were the ones to kill the proposal.

• Monorail: Los Angeles has a long history trying to build a monorail system. The offer from Alweg to capitalize on its Disneyland trains and trade for the rights to build a 43-mile system in exchange from the fares is one of the best known. The book goes through a whole slew of proposals.

Great graphics in a coffee table format book.  I purchased the book at the exhibit, which is now closed. The book is available on Amazon.


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Sam Gennawey is an urban planner who has collaborated with communities throughout California over the course of more than 100 projects to create a great, big, beautiful tomorrow. Sam is a member of the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Regional Planning History Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving municipal, county, and private sector planning documents from throughout Los Angeles County. Sam is the author of Walt and the Promise of Progress City which you can find on Amazon.