Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Disney Talk – Read Your Way Through Imagineering’s Secrets

April 6, 2009

Several exciting book releases are in the works from Walt Disney Imagineering.

By Blake

Originally posted April 6, 2009.

In the past, Walt Disney Imagineering – the team of the Walt Disney Company that creates the attractions guests experience in the Disney theme parks – have been the subject of several fascinating books that have given fans a glimpse into what goes into creating some of Disney’s most beloved rides and shows.

There have been looks into Disney’s “mountains,” advice on how to think like an Imagineer, sneak peeks into the making of movies based on some of Imagineering’s attractions, and more. Looking ahead into the rest of 2009, there are several more very exciting books coming from Disney Editions that pertain to Imagineering.

The first is The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The fifth book in the Imagineering Field Guide series by Alex Wright, it will give a look into the creation of Walt Disney World’s third theme park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The book will be released on April 28, 2009*, just three days before the parks’ 20th birthday. Like the other Imagineering Field Guides, this one is expected to include a run-down of the development of the park’s rides and attractions, as well as little details that can be found throughout the park. It will be especially fascinating to see what went into creating Toy Story Mania!, the Tower of Terror, Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage, and Muppet Vision 3-D. The book will sell for $9.95.

*Update from May 15, 2009: The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is now scheduled for a July 2010 tentative release.

The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is coming soon.
Another Imagineering release is scheduled to be published on November 3, 2009. Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making More Magic Real by the Imagineers will be a sequel to a highly popular Imagineering book that was published in 1996. If the new installment is anything like its original, it’s sure to be magnificent. The book’s list price of $60.00 is a bit much, though hopefully a less-expensive paperback edition will be offered like it was for the book’s predecessor.

The next title, set to be published on December 15, 2009, is The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World–Updated!. The first version of this book was the book to kick off the Imagineering Field Guide series, and was published in 2005. Since that time, the Magic Kingdom’s major changes have included the addition of the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor and the refurbishments of Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. Additionally, at the time the book will be published, the Hall of Presidents and Space Mountain are both expected to have finished their refurbishments. I would think that these changes will be covered in the new edition of the book, though nothing has been confirmed. Selling for $9.95, the value of the book is most likely worth whatever changes may be made to its contents.

It should be noted that all release dates are tentative. Books tend to get their release dates moved around sometimes, and the dates listed here are when these books are expected to be released, and should not necessarily be viewed as their definite release dates.

I’m very excited to see what the Imagineers have in store to tell readers once these titles are published. The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making More Magic Real, and The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World–Updated! seem to be like fascinating treats into backstage Disney magic.

By Blake; posted April 6, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

Book Review – "The Complete Walt Disney World 2009"

February 4, 2009

The best Disney guidebook just got even better.

By Blake

Originally posted February 4, 2009.

I really didn’t want to. I didn’t want to give in to purchasing the new book The Complete Walt Disney World 2009 by Julie and Mike Neal. The very informative guidebook with a hoopla of great photos and packed with tips and little-known facts was introduced in 2007 and amazed me. In 2008 the book was updated to include new dining and accommodations chapters and had even more helpful information than the first edition, so I went ahead and purchased the book a second time. I remember telling myself that this was it: I didn’t want to buy a newer edition if it was published in the future. Now here I am contemplating the situation again.

I saw the 2009 version of the book in Barnes & Noble last week and couldn’t believe that that authors Julie and Mike Neal had once again created another brilliant compilation of well-researched information and photos. Outdoing themselves again, the 2009 edition of the book no longer has a dining chapter, but instead divides up the restaurants of Walt Disney World into their respective locations throughout the book as part of new overviews for each of the four theme parks. Also in the new overview sections are outlines for each of the parks, as well as a guide of what characters guests will find and where to find them. Additionally, a “What’s New” section includes information on what’s newly opened, as well as what’s recently closed and what’s coming in the future, including the addition of Barack Obama into the Hall of Presidents at the Magic Kingdom. There’s even a chart of Fastpass return times for every Fastpass attraction, as well as what the expected wait times are for each attraction throughout the day. Lastly, new photos have been added to several of the already-there attraction guides of the book and the look of the book has a sleeker feel.

If you already own a past edition of the book, you might want to consider upgrading, especially if you plan on taking a Disney vacation in the not-so-distant future. I haven’t bought the new 2009 version yet, though I probably will end up doing so, even though I initially hadn’t planned on it.

If you’re a first-time visitor to Walt Disney World and are currently planning your first trip there, I’d suggest picking up a different guidebook. Although The Complete Walt Disney World 2009 is filled with great info, it may seem overwhelming for first-time guests and it often runs through entire attractions, giving away most of the attractions’ surprises. If you are indeed planning your first Disney vacation, I’d suggest purchasing a guidebook that offers step-by-step information without becoming too overwhelming like Birnbaum’s Official Guide to Walt Disney World or contact a travel agent. Or just give me a buzz and I’ll be more than happy to help. However, if you’ve already been to Walt Disney World or are a Disney fan that just wants to learn more about WDW, I’d recommend The Complete Walt Disney World 2009. It won’t ruin the surprises that Walt Disney World has in store for you because you’ve already visited, but will rather enhance your knowledge.

Filled with fantastic information and plenty of great pictures, The Complete Walt Disney World 2009 by Julie and Mike Neal is excellent for Disney fans and those who are planning returning trips to Walt Disney World. However, if you’re a first-time guest, you should sit this one out and instead pick up a more basic guidebook.

How do I rank The Complete Walt Disney World 2009 by Julie and Mike Neal? (Bolded is my choice.)
  • Utterly repulsive
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

The Complete Walt Disney World 2009 by Julie and Mike Neal will most likely please: Disney Fans – Returning guests to Walt Disney World – Kids (the pictures) – Adults

By Blake; posted February 4, 2009. All images (C) Coconut Press.

Disney Talk – Read On

January 30, 2009

Starcatchers, Disney teens, and crime stoppers are all back in a new collection of Ridley Pearson novels, set to be released soon.

By Blake

Originally posted January 29, 2009.

Regular readers of BlakeOnline probably notice that when I occasionally write book reviews, they’re usually concerning a new Ridley Pearson novel written for Disney Editions. Compelling and intriguing for readers of any age and great for Disney fans, I really enjoy them.

I was certainly surprised today when I checked out Ridley Pearson’s official website and looked on his schedule of upcoming events to see that three new sequels to different series will be released on bookshelves soon.

The first is a title that I had no idea about until now: Kingdom Keepers 3. I am thrilled that another installment is being written about the group of middle schoolers who get trapped inside the Disney theme parks. The first two volumes were excellent and mainly focused on the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, so I am certainly excited to see what’s going to happen in round three. It will be released in August 2009.

Returning for fourths is the superb Peter and the Starcatchers series (pictured above). Written by both Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, these novels tell the story of what happened before the original Peter Pan tale by J.M. Barrie. Matching my likability of the Harry Potter series, the Starcatchers stories really are full of Disney magic with plenty of fun and humor. I am a bit curious to see how the fourth book, currently titled Peter and the Sword of Mercy, will be done, however, because the third book seemed to cap off the series nicely and didn’t appear to leave any room for continuation other than the original Peter Pan itself. Though I’m sure we have nothing to fear where that’s concerned, as the first three were just so great that I’m more than happy that we’ll get to read another installment. It will be released in October 2009.

Concluding the round of new Ridley Pearson novels is Steel Trapp 2, to be released in January 2010. The first book (which was released last spring) told the story of a boy named Steel Trapp who has a photographic memory and can recall anything he’s set his eyes on. This eventually led him in an epic pursuit involving criminals. The first book was full of suspense, and it will be wonderful to read the sequel.

I hope you’re as excited for Kingdom Keepers 3, Peter and the Sword of Mercy, and Steel Trapp 2 as I am! They are all sure to be very entertaining reads. If you haven’t already done so, you may want to pick up the previous volumes in each of those three different series, as well as the new book Science Fair, which is written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. I highly recommend them, especially for Disney fans. Also, if you’re in the area and are interested, Peter and the Starcatchers the musical debuts at La Jolla Playhouse in La Jolla, California on February 13, 2009.

Happy reading (or play watching)!

By Blake; originally posted January 29, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

Book Review – The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland

November 30, 2008

The latest behind-the-scenes pocket-sized sneak peek into Walt Disney Imagineering is another treat for all Disney fans.

By Blake

Originally posted November 30, 2008.

I’m really liking Disney Book Group lately, particularly Disney Editions. Not only have they continued to release their successful Disney-related novels, but recently I’ve begun to see a very steady increase in their backstage books for fans that give them a look behind the Disney magic. Out of this wonderful crop of Disney fan books include the amazing Imagineering Field Guide series. The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland follows behind the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom as the fourth volume in a very satisfying book series that began in fall 2005.

Each installment if filled with eye-pleasing art, little-known secrets, and many, many tidbits of trivia facts. Although I thought that the Disneyland volume might be a bit similar to the Magic Kingdom book (since the two parks contain many of the same attractions), it thankfully wasn’t. The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland is its own book in its own right and, although at times a few stories and facts are repeated, it’s mostly not a twin at all.

Some of the very interesting trivia pieces we learn this time around include:
15 attractions that were open on opening day – July 17, 1955 – are still open today.

  • The Opera House on Main Street has held 5 different attractions, making it the most-recycled building in the park.
  • Walt Disney insisted that the windows on Main Street be ground level so that children could easily see inside them.
  • Orange trees in Adventureland were removed and then planted upside-down when the park first opened in 1955 (the park was a mass of orange groves prior to its opening).
  • For the second Indiana Jones film, Steven Spielberg had crew members come to Disneyland to record sounds from Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to use in the movie!
  • Thurl Ravenscroft (a.k.a. Tony the Tiger and the singer of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch”) voices many different Disneyland attraction characters, including Fritz in The Enchanted Tiki Room, a singing tombstone in The Haunted Mansion, a singing pirate in Pirates of the Caribbean, and many others.
  • Several “credit” windows stray from Main Street, including one for Fess Parker (the actor who played Davy Crockett in the Disneyland television series) in Frontierland and a fictional one for the Three Little Pigs in Toontown.
  • Voice actor Paul Frees lends his voice to both the Auctioneer in Pirates of the Caribbean and the Ghost Host in The Haunted Mansion.
  • Pirate sails seen over a rooftop of a building in New Orleans Square actually don’t belong to a ship at all – they’re built in to the roof, but you can’t tell from the ground! This was done to add more theming to the land, but the construction of an entire new ship wasn’t needed in this case.
  • Christopher Robin was discreetly not included in Disneyland’s version of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction because of the ride’s location in Critter Country.
  • The Imagineers felt that any characters other than “critters” would take away from the proper theming of the land.
  • The Dumbo the Flying Elephant attraction was originally going to have guests ride in flying pink elephants (from the “Pink Elephants on Parade” sequence of the film) rather than on Dumbo himself.

These and MANY other wonderful little-known secrets are filled all throughout The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland. Together with short making-of stories for each attraction of how it came from conception to reality, as well as great art pieces, the book is quite marvelous indeed. Although it’s credited to be written by “The Imagineers,” its actual author is Imagineer Alex Wright, who also wrote the preceding three volumes in the series. Any Disney fan will find this and all other three Imagineering Field Guide books amazing. Even though I’ve never visited Disneyland, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I highly recommend it for any Disneyphile. It’s just pure fun.

How do I rank The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland? (Bolded is my choice.)
  • Utterly repulsive
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

The Imagineering Field Guide will most likely please: Disney Fans – Young Adults – Adults

By Blake; originally posted November 30, 2008. All images (C) Disney.

Book Review – "The Disney Mountains: Imagineering At Its Peak"

October 27, 2007

The newest “peak” into Walt Disney Imagineering is informative, fascinating, and fun, but leaves its readers thirsty for more by the time their expedition has concluded.
By Blake
Originally posted October 27, 2007.

The Matterhorn Bobsleds, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, and Expedition Everest are some of the most popular attractions to be found in Disney theme parks worldwide. They’re exhilarating, exciting, fanciful, and fun . . . and they all just so happen to be mountains.

In Disney Editions’ new book “The Disney Mountains: Imagineering at Its Peak”, author Jason Surrell (a Show Writer for Walt Disney Imagineering) delves into the making of these monstrous mountains and tells each attraction’s individual story of its initial conception and journey to open. Quite a fascinating treat for Disney fans, this collection of stories provides a plethora of background information about each attraction, and includes interviews with some of the rides’ key creators.
The first mountain the book delves into is the Matterhorn, a Disneyland original that hasn’t been duplicated at any other Disney park (though, interestingly enough, was at one time scheduled to open at a never-built Switzerland pavilion in Walt Disney World’s Epcot). We learn that if not for Walt Disney’s visit to the set of the 50’s film First Man on the Mountain, the Matterhorn might not have ever been built. Additionally, the Matterhorn revolutionized the concept of a “roller coaster”. Instead of using a wooden track, which wouldn’t be very well managed inside a concrete mountain, the track was built using metal pipes, a concept that has since been used on most roller coasters of today.
Next up is Space Mountain, which was actually originally built to draw an appeal for the teenage audience at the then-four-year-old Walt Disney World. After being put on a hiatus of nearly a decade after Walt Disney’s death, Space Mountain finally opened in 1975.
After Space Mountain is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, probably the most appealing section of the book, as it provides an in-depth look into what this attraction almost became: a part roller coaster, part “Pirates of the Caribbean”-ish journey through the wild west. Originally to be called Thunder Mesa, the main attraction would be a boat ride featuring a full cast of Audio Animatronics portraying a story of cowboys and Native Americans. Surrounding the mountain would be a train roller coaster ride. Eventually, the entire boat ride concept was flushed, and the train concept was conceived into a bigger role; and Big Thunder Mountain was born.
Next is Splash Mountain, which was conceived when the Audio Animatronics show “America Sings” was closing and Disneyland and Imagineers needed a use for the 114 robots used in the show. Hence, Splash Mountain was born. Splash Mountain, though not many guests realize it, is based on the 1946 Disney film Song of the South (which is currently not available for sale in America), which in turn is based on the classic Uncle Remus stories. Originally supposed to be called “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah River Run”, Splash Mountain was also ALMOST going to incorporate mermaids from the Touchstone movie Splash, which, the Imagineers fortunately convinced Michael Eisner, was not a very wise idea.
The final mountain we delve into in “The Disney Mountains” is Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, the newest Disney “E-Ticket” attraction that recently opened at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2006. Probably the most research-driven Disney attraction in history, Imagineers actually went on several voyages to China to explore mountains there and ask local residents just what a mysterious legendary “yeti” figure might look like. And their research paid off, as Expedition Everest is very much the most authentic Disney attraction ever. The queue line is abundant in cultural artifacts and figures Imagineers retrieved on their journeys to China, and the overall attraction experience is stunningly spectacular. Additionally, the yeti revealed at the ride’s finale is rightfully the most complex Audio Animatronics figure to ever be built in history.
Not only are we treated to full-fledged “making-of” stories in “The Disney Mountains”, but also scattered throughout the book are several 2-8 page looks at some of Disney’s smaller, less popular mountains such as Grizzly Peak at Disney’s California Adventure, Mount Prometheus at Tokyo Disney Sea, Mount Gushmore at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, and Summit Plummet at Disney’s Blizzard Beach. Also included is a fascinating look at a mountain that was planned for Disneyland but never built: Candy Mountain.
Although all the components of “The Disney Mountains” add up to an exciting look at some of Disney’s most beloved attractions, it leaves readers wanting more. Surely there is more than 20 pages’ worth each of information on these massive attractions. After all, the book’s author Jason Surrell has recently written entire individual books dealing with the creation of Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as The Haunted Mansion. If those attractions were given the treatment of an entire book to themselves, why aren’t the attractions featured in Disney Mountains given the same recognition?
So, while “The Disney Mountains: Imagineering at Its Peak” is a superlative journey through classic Disney adventures, its lack of full treatment for each of the attractions leaves readers thirsty for more. This is by all means fine for the time being, but hopefully sometime soon full credit will be given for the Matterhorn, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, and Expedition Everest.
How do I rank “The Disney Mountains: Imagineering At Its Peak?” (Bolded is my choice.)
  • Utterly repulsive
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

“The Disney Mountains: Imagineering At Its Peak” will most likely please: Disney Fans – Teens – Young Adults – Adults – Older Folks

By Blake; originally posted October 27, 2007. All images (C) Disney.