Samland Grab Bag - Walt Disney Family Museum, Book Reviews and Giving Back.
by, 11-30-2011 at 06:29 PM
Happy Holiday's everyone! With any luck, your Thanksgiving turkey was delicious and you successfully dodged the pepper spray on Black Friday. Here at Samland, we are thankful for having the best readers in the world. . . you really are! Today, I've got a grab bag of items for you. We'll take a look at a book about the Walt Disney Family Museum which contains an introduction by Diane Disney Miller. We'll also discuss why you might benefit from Touring Plans when in the parks, what the Disneyland Almanac is all about, and I make a personal plea about a favorite charity. And, hopefully, you'll stick through to the end for a link to my own book (which is just perfect as a stocking stuffer).
BOOK REVIEW: Picturing The Walt Disney Family Museum
The Walt Disney Family Museum
Photos by Jim Smith, Text by Richard Benefield with an introduction by Diane Disney Miller$34.95
For those who have visited The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, we will all agree that no book could truly capture what a wonderful space the facility is and how it is a proper and fitting tribute to the man. Like the theme parks which bear his name, you just have to be there. However, this book does an excellent job of documenting the ten galleries during the museum’s first year of operation. The Museum does not allow photography within the galleries, to preserve the artifacts. This book will be as close as you can get to a comprehensive memento.
Like a good Disney film, the first shot is wide to provide spatial context. The Museum is located in the historic Presidio of San Francisco, simply one of the most beautiful places on earth. The facility is located inside a refurbished 1890s Army barrack, one of five surrounding a parade ground.
We enter the warm, inviting, lobby and get a close look at some of the more then 900 awards given to Walt Disney as well as the original furniture from the Disney apartment above the fire station in Disneyland.
Each of the ten galleries receives similar treatment. A wide shot of the gallery gives the reader a sense of the space before moving in on individual works. Like the museum, which uses Walt’s own voice to take you through his life’s journey, an inspirational quote describing that period of his life is provided. Close ups of artifacts within the gallery are well annotated. It is an effective tour.
The first two galleries are on the ground floor. The remaining galleries begin on the second floor. One of the museum’s most emotional moments comes in the form of an elevator dressed as the type of railroad car that took Walt from Kansas City to Hollywood.
The photos by Jim Smith do an excellent job of capturing the spirit of each gallery. In some cases, the same gallery is subject to multiple views.
Then you get to the overview photo of Gallery Nine, Walt in the 1950s and 1960s, and his most productive period. Once again, past visitors will likely agree that this space is the most incredible immersive environment that celebrates the achievements and impact of this monumental figure. The room is configured with a ramp from the second floor to the ground floor. The ramp represents Walt’s journey that lead to Disneyland and beyond. At the bottom of the ramp is the Disneyland of Walt’s imagination. A series of shots takes you closer and closer toward Sleeping Beauty Castle. It is easy to admire the level of detail of this model. But that is not all you'll find within this gallery. Television, the movies, technology, the World’s Fair, the Olympics, EPCOT, Mineral King…it is all here. If you have never visited, these photos will get you talking to your travel agent.
I purchased my copy on a recent visit to the museum. It is available in the gift shop or at the museum's online store.
A CASE FOR HAVING A TOURING PLAN:
While hanging out with the in-laws this weekend, my niece told me she was planning on taking a trip to Disneyland sometime between Christmas and New Years Eve. It would be her only chance. Of course, a park going veteran such as myself would try to avoid the place any way that I can at that time of year. I am good about getting around big crowds but even I am not that brave.
However, there is one way I would consider going during such a week. I would follow the first rule of theme park visiting: be prepared to be at the park before it opens and bring along a well thought out touring plan.
What is a touring plan? Think of a theme park as a machine. Each of the attractions has a certain capacity to take people off the sidewalks and put them inside of buildings. The way people tour the theme parks is actually kind of predictable. People are just people and we tend to follow certain patterns. A lot of people have started to craft itineraries that expedite touring and try to minimize the wait in lines. RideMax is one example. Dr. Steven M. Barrett of Hidden Mickeys fame has written a great book called The Hassle-Free Walt Disney World Vacation, which features touring plans. There are many others, but nobody is as obsessed as my friends over at Touringplans.com.
Let’s start with a full disclosure. This will not be an unbiased report. The basic idea is the same – get there early and follow somebody’s plan. But I am going to focus on one particular company. Touringplans.com is an offshoot of the best-selling Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and Disneyland books. Len Testa, the mad mathematical genius that came up with the crowd calendar idea was instrumental in getting me started writing about the design and history of the theme parks. I have contributed to The Color Companion to Walt Disney World co-authored by Len. And if you visit their site, I have little write ups for each of the lands. Although I don’t make money directly from your visit, I do know you are supporting good people.
What makes their touring plans so special is they actually base their recommendations on real data. These are geeks of the highest degree. They don’t assume they know the answers to a question. They continually try and come up with experiments to collect data and understand what it means. For example, somebody asked about the quality of the pillows at the Walt Disney World resort. They found a testing method that was repeatable and sharable and set a standard to measure against. Geeks, remember?
It all started when Len and the others asked the question, “When will it not be busy at Walt Disney World.” After a lot of testing, they came up with a very précised crowd calendar that works for both coasts. You can see which park will be busy and which will be less so. This can be especially important when trying to decide which of the four parks in Orlando to visit on any given day. They compute the data for the crowd calendar by using historical data, and dozens of other inputs such as school holidays, special events, and other things you would never think about. The Disneyland calendar takes into consideration the impact of the large number of Annual Passholders for example. Each day is rated on a scale of one to ten. One equals the lowest percentile of crowds while ten equals the largest percentile of crowds. Each resort is scored as well as each park.
They are constantly comparing their predictions with what actually happens in the parks and then show the users the results. I know this since I have walked around with the researchers on both coasts. Keep in mind that one of the guys who works there won the D23 Trivia contest in Anaheim. Geeks, remember?
If you subscribe to the TouringPlans service, you can create customized an itinerary for your visit. You plug in what attractions or shows you want to see, how many times for each, and the software will spit out a listing that will minimize the wait in time. Of course no system is perfect so they have an online system called Lines that supports the itinerary that you have created. No more, “What are we going to do now” complaints since everybody will know what is happening.
The system has constantly been improved due to user opinions. And they are not shy about showing those who disagree with the recommendations. This free-for-all has made for a better, more accurate product.
Is it for everybody? No. If you just want to amble around you don’t need it. Going on a quiet day? Unnecessary. However, if I was planning to visit when my niece had suggested, I would be all over this tool.
Disney World and Disneyland Touring Plans are available at this link.
BOOK REVIEW : Jason’s Disneyland Almanac 1955-2010
Jason’s Disneyland Almanac 1955-2010
Jason Schultz and Kevin Yee
Last week seemed like a good time for some book reviews. Coming just after I sent the article to bed, I found in the mail one of the most unusual Disney theme park related books to ever be released. And trust me, I have over a hundred books on the subject in my library.
What Jason has done is to create the most accurate day-to-day snapshot of Disneyland since opening day. If you are like me, and like to do research or write about Disneyland, this will become an invaluable resource. This book is something that needed to be done and only somebody as passionate (and obsessed) as Jason could do it. As much as humanly possible, the author has collected the following data points: the park’s operating hours, the local weather, if there was a special visitor or event, and the attendance (Jason found the attendance records from opening day to December 31, 1966). It is a mind-numbing research project with a huge payoff for somebody like me. The book is simply the best record of when attractions or show opened or closed. At the top of each year, the authors provide additional context that relate to current events or overall trends for that year.
Going through it line by line, I found some real thoughtful insights that could only be gleamed by mining through this sort of data. Jason finds that the move away from atmosphere toward stories to drive attractions came about in 1979 with the opening of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or the beginning of major thematic overlays began in 1986.
I do have some gripes. The cover shows a number of pages laid out as if they were a calendar. The data within the book is laid out in two columns with very, very small text. Not sure what that is about. Judging by the cover I was surprised with the format change. Since I am the age of the Matterhorn my reading eyes are not as sharp as they once were. The text is very small by necessity. Be prepared.
Overall, it is a must have for anybody doing serious research about Disneyland. It is an amazing piece of work.
I received the book from the author for the purpose of this review.
A PERSONAL PLEA:
Borrowing from one of my favorite comedy troupes, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, “And now for something completely different.”
It was just over a year ago that I was laid off from the planning firm that I had worked at for years. Like most companies in the industry, cutbacks were necessary due to the economy. One by one, we were let go with no notice and no severance. It was a tough time. I know that many of you have experienced it or know somebody who is going through these challenges.
At the time, I was disappointed and frightened about the future. Then I turned to an amazing resource located in Pasadena, California. It is an organization called Women At Work and they have been around for more then 32 years. Women At Work is a non-profit job and career resource center and they have aided thousands to get back on their feet, help them become productive, and give them back some of their dignity. In turn, many would give back to the organization to help others in need. The whole process reminds me of the spirit of Walt Disney where felt that people of different talents could come together to create something bigger then themselves.
Women At Work clients are a diverse lot. Men make up about 15% of the users. You sure see a lot of people over 50 (myself included) as well as new college graduates who are not getting a break. A growing number of clients are those afraid to loose their jobs or are stuck. At the center, people can find assistance.
Women At Work is a place to network, train, and support one another. It is a unique organization. It has saved many lives. With the need so great and with the disappearance of more and more grant money we need your help. I may be still searching for that elusive unicorn called a full time job but I am luckier then most. Thankfully I have found part time work at a fabulous firm, Katherine Padilla and Associates. Just having the MiceChat platform since the beginning of the year has been a wonderful and rewarding experience. I guess you can say I took advantage of my time searching for work to write Walt and the Promise of Progress City. I think of it as therapy. Maybe now you can see why I have been plugging the thing so hard. By the way, did you know the book makes for an excellent Holiday gift?
So I look to you, the greatest audience a writer could have and ask for your help. Please help support Women at Work, your generous contributions have the ability to change lives. Your generosity will be most welcome.
Member of the Board of Directors
Women At Work
Donate to Women at Work via [email protected]
Of course, there's one more book we'd like you to consider for your holiday shopping this year . . . MINE!
New Book Explores Walt Disney and His Prized EPCOT Project
PASADENA, Calf. (October 22, 2011) –In the middle of Central Florida swamplands and ranch property, Walt Disney aspired to build the greatest American city ever conceived--EPCOT. While Disney would die before realizing this epic achievement, he still left behind the blueprint for one of the boldest and most unique projects ever proposed on American soil.
Walt and the Promise of Progress City is an amazing new book that explores how Walt Disney—the master of fiction—was determined to bring new life to the non-fiction world of city design and development and, in doing so, fundamentally improve the Great American way of life.
Walt and the Promise of Progress City (ISBN 978-0615540245) is published by Ayefour Publishing at a list price of
$19.95 for the book version and $9.95 for the Kindle version.