Mission: Disney Overload
November 8, 2015 2:13 PM   Subscribe

Please recommend background material about the Happiest Place on Earth TM. There are a ton of books and articles out there so I'm hoping to narrow things down.

I'm in the midst of planning a family vacation to Disney World and I am seriously geeking out on the details. If it continues like this the actual time at the park may be a let down. Something about the combination of reading articles, digging through message boards, and booking rides and restaurants through the Disney app is scratching just the right spot for me. In addition to combing the web for hints, tricks and touring ideas I'm enjoying reading up on park history as well as new innovations and some plain old fun stories. My partner is not a Disney fan, so any info I can slip into conversation about the logistics of the parks, how the magic bands were developed and so on will be a welcome distraction from the fact that we are spending an obscene amount of money to jump into the middle class consumerist Disney fantasy. None of us has ever been there before.

Please recommend informative or humorous books, podcasts, documentaries, essays and articles on the subject. Here on Mefi I've enjoyed this, this, this and I've gone through AskMeFi quite thoroughly.
posted by Cuke to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Well, you could buy my book. It will give you an in-depth level of detail on a ride that no longer exists at WDW.

Brent Dodge has a website FromScreenToTheme.com as well as several books on the subject that are a little off the beaten path.

Blogger and author Kevin Yee also has several excellent books with the kind of detail you are looking for.
posted by Lokheed at 2:46 PM on November 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The Unofficial Guide to WDW's Disney Dish podcast will give you lots of history and anecdotes about the park. There's lots of details about things that were never built as well as why certain things are the way they are now. WDW Today is a podcast more in the line of advice for the traveler coming to the parks.

In terms of blogs, if you want to get into the minutiae of theme park design with a heavy emphasis on how things have changed in the past then Passport to Dreams Old and New is where you want to go. This is the kind of place kind write 50+ pages on how the public spaces of the Contemporary Hotel changes through time all illustrated with lots of photos and diagrams. It is also the kind of place that discusses in great detail why the light fixtures in one area of the park look different than in another and how the designs of the transitional areas between the parks are made up such that the shock of the change is lessened.
posted by mmascolino at 2:51 PM on November 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Mouse Tales contained all the stories that Disneyland employees told each other. It's on-the-nose accurate, too; I was personally present for some of the stories in the book.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:57 PM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

There's some good stuff on Pinterest. Just search for Disney.
posted by MexicanYenta at 3:10 PM on November 8, 2015

You could spend your time there looking for Hidden Mickeys.
posted by MsMolly at 5:05 PM on November 8, 2015

Best answer: The disunplugged podcast is done by the folks who run disboards.com and it's great. You probably know about it already, but I bring it up because one of their Disneyland podcast era, Michael Bowling, is doing a short series of podcasts called Connecting with Walt, focusing on the planning and construction of WDW-it's getting raves. Also echo Disney Dish with Jim Hill-he's fascinating and Len Testa, one of the main guys behind Unofficial Guide series, is a great, enthusiastic audience.
posted by purenitrous at 7:41 PM on November 8, 2015

Best answer: Books!

It's Kind of a Cute Story Is Rolly Crump's Biography. He was a Disney imagineer that worked on "it's a small world," The Haunted Mansion, The Tiki Room, and lots of other stuff.

Walt and the Promise of Progress City is ostensibly about Walt's original vision for Epcot, but has a lot of background on Disneyland and the '64-'65 World's Fair. This one maybe spends too much time on how Walt Disney's ideas were similar to the ideas of the New Urbanists, but if you skim those parts it's a good book about how Walt's obsession with transportation technology and urban design shaped the parks. It's very good, but very in-depth.
posted by a dangerous ruin at 8:05 PM on November 8, 2015

I think being a first-time visitor to Disney is not a problem at all, and can in fact be an advantage if one understands how to use FastPasses and plan a visit. So I'm sure you're on the right track.

If you want the backstory, this Wired.com article discusses the development of Magic Bands. The other resource I really enjoy is that the galleries in the parks often have pre-production sketches and models exhibited, in addition to the cel art, etc. If you're lucky you'll find something like a complete scale model of Space Mountain (the indoor space "coaster") annotated with the exact speeds at each turn.

My other favorite thing is to look for all the hidden fixtures for crowd control, hurricanes, etc. If you look pay close attention you can see spots for stanchions, tie-downs, etc. absolutely everywhere. Watching them prepare for an incoming Category 3 hurricane, there's so much that's right in front of your eyes but hidden unless you look for it.
posted by wnissen at 1:39 PM on November 9, 2015

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