Like going back in time to visit Disneyland with Walt.
If you ever wished you could have walked the streets of Disneyland with Walt, you need to get this book. Marcy Carriker Smothers comes out with another wonderful tribute to the man who started it all. Walt’s Disneyland is a true love letter to the legacy of Walt Disney. In it, the people who knew Walt personally tell their stories about those early days of Disneyland, from its creation to the love Walt had for the park and the people who came to visit it. But more than any other book in recent memory, Marcy brings Walt to life through his own words. You can almost hear him speaking as he explains his thoughts and stories about creating the Happiest Place on Earth. It’s a treasure trove of insight into the genius and dedication of the man and the people around him who made the magic happen.
Perhaps what comes across more than anything else is the true love Walt had for this creation of his. The care he put into every detail. The thought he put behind every plan. The intention with which he created it. And the affection he had for the people who would come to visit it. I loved the stories of how Walt always kept in mind the experience of the people who paid to walk through his gates. He wanted to make Disneyland affordable, but special. He would make decisions based on the guest experience. From trash cans to chairs, it was all done with the guest in mind. When Walt came up with the hub and spoke system, he did it so older members of the family would have an easy place to rest while the family was off riding rides. And when it came time to select chairs for Blue Bayou, Walt sat down and rejected them because a woman’s skirt could get caught on it. If there was a way to make the guest experience better or to avoid a bad one, Walt opted in favor of the guest.
Walt loved to play as much as anyone. Reading about his night time explorations, his early morning rides through the park, his love of fresh squeezed orange juice which he always made sure to pay for, showed the fun side of Walt who enjoyed this place as much as anyone. Perhaps the most telling quote of all came from Walt when he said, “I put in all the things I wanted to do as a kid – and couldn’t (p.94).” Although he was talking about creating Tom Sawyer’s Island, it probably held true for most of the rest of the park as well. Disneyland is still Walt’s original creation and the success of every theme park in the Disney family after it owes its success to Walt’s insight and foresight which is so evident in this book.
Marcy obviously poured herself completely into this book. It is crafted with thoughtfulness and care that comes out on every page. The design, the colors, the photos, the quotes – all are selected with an eye toward preserving the legacy of Walt and the history behind his (second) most enduring creation. If Mickey is Walt personified in art, then Disneyland is Walt personified in a place. This is as near to an autobiography as Disney fans are likely to have. Especially from a man too busy to focus on himself but instead who wanted to make the world a happier place. The perfect book for the Disneyland fan in your life!
- Thanks to Disney Publishing and Disney Editions for this copy for review. Walt’s Disneyland will be released November 16, 2021