Monday, April 13, 2009

Today's book; "In the fourth of his books about the Disney empire, Koenig (Mouse Tales: A Behind-The-Ears Look at Disneyland) takes an even-handed approach to chronicling the ups and downs of an American institution. Based on nearly a decade of research and 100 interviews with past and present employees ("cast members" in Disney-speak), Koenig explores the genesis of Walt Disney's east coast outpost. It began as Disney's dream for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or EPCOT: a multilevel, glass encased, climate-controlled city. Part of that dream died with Walt in 1966-less than a year before construction began on Disney World-and it would be two decades before his severely altered plans would become reality. In erudite and fluid prose, Koenig takes readers on Walt's clandestine land acquisition exploits in central Florida, through the chaotic construction and frantic early years of the Magic Kingdom and into Disney's disastrous entry into the hotel business."

I was considering putting up a few pictures from our family's first trip to DisneyWorld for this entry, but there was some really unfortunate clothing choices made on that trip so I decided instead to skip it. I'm afraid to say there were waist packs, and clothes that had bows on them, and some really bad hair moments. And the truly sad part was that I thought my clothes were so attractive when I was packing them for the trip - I have vivid memories of planning out what I was going to wear each day and thinking about how great the clothes would look in the 3 million pictures my Mother always takes. But alas, hindsight is 20/20.

I had a hard time making it through today's book because I had to stop about every 4 pages and relive memories of past trips; the time when my Brother came along and spent the entire time in the hotel room watching sports, the three times in a row we got stuck on the Test Track ride, the look on my Mother's face when she had her picture taken with Mary Poppins (it was a look of pure joy not often seen on the face of anyone over the age of five), my Dad waiting in line with the six year olds to meet Buzz Lightyear (sadly I'm not kidding), the way the chefs at all the restaurants pretend like they've been looking forward to such a challenge when I ask them to make a dairy-free, egg-free, wheat-free meal (Disney is one of the easiest places to travel if you have food allergies).

I really enjoyed today's book, not only because it reminded me of happy vacation times, but also because it was full of interesting information that I didn't now about before (which really surprised me considering I'm related to the human-Encyclopedia-of-all-things-Disney, otherwise known as my Dad). Here's what I learned:

  • Disneyland was originally designed in such a way that the lands (Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, etc.) didn't connect. So if you were at the very back of Tomorrowland you would have to go all the way back to the entrance and then enter Fantasyland. This design had to be revised because it created major traffic jams at the entrances to all the lands. (I managed to stump the human Disney Encyclopedia with that piece of trivia).

  • Disney World is filled with small details that most visitors are unaware, that were nevertheless very important to the Disney family. For instance: When you cross into Liberty Square (the part of Disney World that portrays Revolutionary-era America), there are rocks on both sides of the bridge. Those rocks were bought at great expense from an area about six miles away from where Washington crossed the Delaware. Rocks could have been acquired from Florida, but the Disney company wanted rocks that had some significance. Some of the slate stoops of those buildings were bought in Philadelphia and were in place when our country was still going through it's Revolutionary War. (I told my Dad about this, and he said that he's going to pay much more attention to the stones in that area on our next vacation. I know what this means, we're going to spend 15 minutes staring at the stones and then my Mother is going to try to force us to pose for about 20 pictures with the stones. Crap. I never should have told him about that, I clearly haven't learned anything from the "Let's go take a picture of our feet next the brick we paid to have our names printed on incident.")

  • When Space Mountain was first built the company decided they didn't want to test the ride out just with volunteering employees. Instead they flew in Roy Disney's widow, 83-year-old Edna Disney, to test out the ride. She reportedly loved it. (And now I'm wondering what they would have done if she hated it. Would they have decided, "Oh let's just ignore the old lady" or would they have started over? I can't figure out why I spend so much reading time wondering about things that are so trivial.)

I know I already asked you during the last Disney-themed entry what your favorite Disney ride is - so this time I want to know which park is your favorite; MGM (which has a different name now, but I don't like it, so I'm still calling it MGM), EPCOT, The Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom? My favorite is MGM because I love the old-Hollywood feel is has.