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Welcome To The Samland Library Of Dreams

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by , 03-21-2012 at 08:45 PM

Sam the librarian is back in the stacks with a look at more Disney books you might want to check out. There's something to do in line, something to marvel and a bit of fantasy in today's update. You're sure to find a little something to enjoy.

Don’t Miss The Magic Before the Ride!

Meredith Lyn Pierce

268 pages
4” x 9”
$12.95 Trade Paperback
The Intrepid Traveler

The FastPass Version: This is the perfect book to prevent meltdowns when you are with a group of people on a relatively busy day at Disneyland. It is also a fun trivia book in a compact, easy to carry format.

The Stand By Version: They say that necessity is the mother of invention and a mother in need was the perfect person to write this book. Although Ms. Pierce had been to Disneyland dozens of times, on her first trip with her daughter Camille she began to see the Park in a whole new way. Boredom and a fidgeting kid will do that to you. Those moments in line became more important.

Like most trivia books, there is a game to be played. In this case, the author suggests three ways to enjoy her book. You can team up with others and answer the questions as you go along. You can compete against one another individually like a quiz show. I like how she suggests, “This method works best when each player has a copy of the book.” Or you can bring it along and use it was a way to fill in time while standing in line. She limits herself to information that you can only see in the line. Ms. Pierce wants you to “forget the questions and enjoy yourself” while you are on the rides.

Ms. Pierce has added another layer to the game playing with Collections. As you step into a land, the group tries to count all of the weather vanes or pin collectors or funny hats or girls dressed as princesses, etc.

For each attraction there are a number of questions that are stacked in the order from the entrance of the queue to the beginning of the ride. Questions range from checklists marking what you can see, yes/no questions, and multiple choice. The difficulty of the questions range from the perfectly obvious to the really having to give it a go.

With complex queues like Roger Rabbit Car Toon Spin the book is an excellent guide and worthy of letting others pass you by so that you can take in all the details. Then there are the queues for the attractions in A Bug’s Land. She tries her best to make something out of nothing.

Speaking of making something out of nothing, she also covers Disney's California Adventure. (I am just joking) Same format, same challenges.

The book also contains Scavenger Hunts for each park.

I tested the book as an individual and as a small group. If your family really likes to look for Hidden Mickeys then you will really enjoy this book. As you can imagine, I am a big fan of anything that gets guests to look around.

The publisher sent me this book for free for the purpose of this review.

BUILDING A DREAM: The Art of Disney Architecture

Beth Dunlop
Disney Editions
208 Pages

Building A Dream is an updated version of a first edition printed in 1996. The two books may share the same title but there are both worthy additions to your collection in their own right. In the fast paced world that is The Walt Disney Company, a lot of things have happened since 1996.

Let’s start with the obvious. The book is beautiful and contains hundreds of photos that show off Disney architecture at its finest. However, I noticed, for good or bad, virtually every photo showed off the building but was devoid of people.

More importantly is Dunlop’s critical eye and talent in describing not only what you are seeing but also what was the design intent. The book is a comprehensive look at Disney architecture that reaches far beyond the theme parks. The book starts with an overview of the grand tradition of architectural design, which began with Disneyland.

“Urban planners study Disneyland to understand ideas of proportion and perspective and to learn, more technically, about the flow of pedestrians and the placement of public spaces. Disneyland simply changed the way we think.”

Disclaimer: In a conversation with Ms. Dunlop she mentioned an analysis I once did applying a planning tool called the Urban Transect that shows the proper hierarchy for town development to Toontown at Disneyland.

“Ironically, Mickey’s Toontown was actually invented for the 1988 movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit. In its three-dimensional form, it actually creates a town real enough that planner and blogger Sam Gennawey was able to create a detailed analysis of the way in which it portrays what New Urbanists call The Transect, showing the proper hierarchy for town development.”

Apparently it made an impression and I am cited in the book on page 26. The fact that my name is mentioned in the book in no way influenced this review other than I think it is pretty cool to make it to the index.

“With its nineteenth-century architecture, Main Street U.S.A. was a major revelation, and in many ways is one of Disney’s great contributions to American life. The small-town sensibility of the architecture reaffirms the beauty and joy of the American streetscape. The buildings represent a pastiche of styles and were built at a scale that reinforces the pedestrian experience.”

From Disneyland we move on to Walt Disney World with plenty of concept artwork and outstanding photos. In some cases the photos are expanded to cover both pages. There are a lot of examples of conceptual artwork placed next to the built product. One entire chapter is dedicated to the town of Celebration.

“By extrapolating familiar approaches to design (among them, the generic late-Victorian style of Main Street), Disney offers up memorable architectural symbols that are much greater than the proverbial sums of their individual parts. John Hench referred to these as “archetypal truths,” adding that the visual symbol is the essence of the painter’s genius.”

Next stop are the hotels. There is an especially loving look at the three hotels from Peter Dominick (Disney’s Grand Californian, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Disney’s Animal Kingdom). There is also a concentrated look at the two post-modern monuments from Peter Graves, the Swan and Dolphin. It is an interesting contrast in how designers go about their work. Most of the resorts at WDW get a treatment. I will guarantee you will not look at these structures quite the same way after reading the book. Dunlop tries to put the hideous design of the value resorts into context with just enough intellectual shine as to build a case. However, I am still not buying it.

One of the legacies of Michael Eisner’s run at the top of the Disney corporate ladder was a commitment to significant architecture. This extended to office buildings. There is one chapter that gives you a chance to peek inside these buildings. Did you know that the Orlando Team Disney building features the largest sundial in the world? Even service structures like the WDW fire stations and the McDonalds get their day.

While I was reading Building A Dream: The Art of Disney Architecture by Beth Dunlop and came to realize that Walt’s vision of EPCOT sort of actually exists and it is in the Marne-la-Vallée region of France. Along with the theme parks and resort hotels there is a 290-acre mixed-use development by the architectural firm of Cooper, Robertson. All of the land uses are within a radial highway and bisected by a mass transit train system (the TGV and RER lines) connecting to other regions. The neighborhood was designed around “a framework of boulevards, streets, and large and small squares and parks.” This vision is much closer to what Walt was seeking then what happened in Florida.

This is not the typical Disney book. It is a serious look at a very narrow topic – architecture and the magic of placemaking. It is stunning to look at and for that reason alone should be a consideration for your library.

I purchased this book at the Disneyana store on Main Street USA using my AP discount.


By L.N. Smith aka Bert

L.N. Smith Publishing
474 pages

There are a number of books on the market that combine the real world of the Disney theme parks with the fantasy world of a good fiction book. Some examples that come immediately to mind include Nancy Temple Rodrigue’s Hidden Mickey series or Ridley Pearson’s Kingdom Keeper books. You can place Sunrise Over Disney by “Bert” in that category. However, Bert goes one step further and tosses in a Disney history lesson along with a personal philosophical journey that takes where no other Disney book has gone before.

The book introduces us to a family of self-claimed “intellectuals” from Madison, Wisconsin. In 2003, a joke becomes serious and the family decides to take an elaborate trip to Walt Disney World in a couple of years. Let the planning begin. I love the City of Madison and the location is frequently mentioned and compared to Walt Disney World.

As fate would have it, Dad would get a pink slip just before the big trip.

Once they decided to go, the parents enter education overload and learn everything they can about the history and development of the Florida resort. They tell the kids bedtime stories about Walt’s early days going all the way back to Alice and Oswald. The author becomes conflicted with his passion for Walt. He quotes Disney biographer Bob Thomas, “[Walt Disney] had an uncanny capacity for reaching the human heart, hence causing nervousness and distrust among intellectuals.”

The history lessons are not limited to all things Walt Disney. There is discussion about the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the company town of Pullman. For me, I thought the comparisons to the World’s Fair and Walt’s vision for Disney World was a treat.

The book is also filled with good Disney trivia bits. For example, Mom (Mary) says this about Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom; “Each peak has an American flag on it because every day is Independence Day here. But how do you suppose Disney raises and lowers all those hard to reach flags each day, in accordance with proper flag etiquette? The answer is, they don’t. Each flag is a forgery of misplaced stars and stripes, allowing Disney to sidestep the rules.” And then they get into a discussion about the names on the windows. They are even inspired by the book Queens of the Kingdom by repeating their observation that Splash Mountain features an awful lot of butt shots. They even go on about the Cast Member training programs and the way Disney delivers services to their customers. This book covers a wide range of topics.

Like Zelig or Forrest Gump the family tends to find itself in wonderful and mystical places while visiting Walt Disney World including the apartment in Cinderella Castle and on a monorail that catches fire.

At one point, the father comes to realize his mission in life is to write a book. A book very similar in tone and style as the one I am reviewing. Is this fiction or an autobiography? Don’t get me started on the Jungle Cruise section of the book. Welcome to World History 101.

The connection for me was the family reflecting upon what could have been at Walt Disney World. The author’s interest is similar to mine and look what happened. I wrote a book with a touch of autobiography. Go figure.

If you enjoy blending fact, fiction, a bit of theology, history, philosophy, personal self-reflection, and almost everything else in one volume then I think you will enjoy Sunrise. The book is well written and it will make you think.

What is quite amazing is the bibliography tops out at eight pages for a fiction book.

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


One of the benefits of writing a book like Walt and the Promise of Progress City is the opportunity to speak to groups about Walt Disney and urban planning. Below are some upcoming events. Sign up to my Facebook or Twitter pages to get updates. If you are a local blogger or podcaster, please contact me and let’s get together.

May 3 @ 10:30 a.m to Noon
460 East New England Avenue
Winter Park FL

May 3 @ 6:00 p.m. to 8:00
Albertson Room
101 East Central Boulevard
Orlando FL

May 5 @ 6:00 p.m.

May 6 @ 2:00 p.m.
Italy Pavilion at EPCOT

May 6 @ 7:00 p.m.
Was Walt Disney a New Urbanist?
With Chad Emerson Project Future

May 7 and 8 Walt Disney World
Meeting with various Cast Member teams.

May 20 @ 11:00 a.m.
Griffith Park in Los Angeles
Home to the birthplace of Imagineering

There's more to come in June and July. Thanks for your support.

If you enjoyed today's article, then you will LOVE the new book written By Sam Gennawey, Walt and the Promise of Progress City.

Disney Legend Marty Sklar said, "[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."

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  1. RSoxNo1's Avatar
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    Thanks for the write up, and also thank you for clarifying how each book was acquired - it's refreshing to see that type of candor in reviews.
  2. Dustysage's Avatar
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    Thank you Sam. I'm interested in the book "Lot's to do in lines," but just ordered the Building a Dream book based upon your review.

    Thank you for doing these reviews from time to time, I really appreciate them.

  3. StrikeYerColors's Avatar
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    Love the book reviews! some of the only disney books i own i purchased based on mice age reviews, so keep em coming!