Customer Reviews: Project Future: The Inside Story Behind the Creation of Disney World
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on March 19, 2010
I kept thinking over and over again; this could never happen today. Walt Disney World in Orlando is a testament to the creative genius, tenacity, and fantastic reputation that Walt Disney and his hand-picked team possessed at the time that this book takes place. For those looking for a big, glossy, picture-laden coffee table book, this is not the read for you. There are no pictures or diagrams in this book, but truly, it does not need them. Instead, you have a very easy read (took me four bus commuter trips to read this; I couldn't put it down) that documents the why and how of Walt Disney World Resort.

It is fairly common knowledge that Walt Disney was not happy with the less-than-desireable businesses that sprung up around Disneyland in Anaheim back in 1955. These tacky motels and cheap restaurants were not up to the quality of Disney's park, yet they reaped the benefits of proximity. Vowing not to let this happen again, Walt made sure that his next venture would have plenty of land not only for what he wanted to build, but also enough to create a buffer between his dream world and the land speculators who wanted to ride on his coat-tails. Reading almost like a mystery story, you'll learn about the other locations Walt first looked at for his next park (St. Louis, Niagara Falls, New York, and more) and most interestingly of all, the many layers of secrecy that were created to keep the Disney name out of the papers during the negotiations to purchase the property in Florida. The amount of time, research, and effort that went into creating the Orlando Resort is most likely never thought of, but here it is expertly outlined in under 200 pages. The end of the book also features a timeline of important dates in WDW's history as well as a list of key players involved and their roles in "Project Future" as WDW was dubbed back in the day.

Even when the land was purchased, there was much to do; the political machine had to be dealt with, as the Disney team wanted to create a Utopia with revolutionary ways of doing things. Too much government and/or taxation could have meant the downfall of the entire project. I was pleased that author Chad Emerson also gives facts and figures of the actual financial and environmental impact that Walt Disney World had on Florida; these numbers are truly staggering. Walt got the ball rolling and his team carried (most of) his vision forward. With special interest groups and the political climate today, I seriously doubt that a company could step forward and purchase 27,000 acres of swamp & farmland and turn it into one of the top vacation spots in the world. For better or worse, those days are gone. Fortunately, we have Walt Disney World, a living monument that is a testimony to the brilliance of Walt Disney. Thank you Mr. Emerson for this well-written glimpse into the hard work it took to make it happen.
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on March 17, 2010
Even after four decades, one of the most incredible things about Walt Disney World is its sheer size: 43 square miles. Take a look from the top of the Contemporary Resort or Bay Lake Tower some night at all the miles of darkness around you; or take a ride in the Characters in Flight Balloon at Downtown Disney to get a sense of what all that land looks like. Chad Denver Emerson's book explains down to the individual parcels and tracts how Disney managed to acquire this spread in the mid-1960s under the code name Project Future. But even more impressive is the story of the Reedy Creek Improvement District and the novel legislative and legal pixie dust that created it. What's refreshing about Emerson's book is that he doesn't see control as a bad thing, at least when it is Disney who is exercising it. As America's cities were crumbling Walt was attempting to create something beautiful and new in Florida. Emerson concludes that "the Reedy Creek Improvement District, and Project Future in general, demonstrated that unique allocations of public and private governance can, in appropriate instances, promote visionary efforts."

This book provides plenty of new material even for those who have read Married to the Mouse and Realityland. There's the story of how the mineral rights became separated from the surface rights and how Disney gained control of both. There's the story of how the Florida Supreme Court eventually pronounced that the private/public structure of Walt Disney World was neat and pretty under the Florida Constitution. I learned details about the runner-up project in St. Louis that I had never heard before. And the lengths to which the company went to make sure no one traced the land purchases back to California is something out of the Bourne movies and certainly has never been told so cogently before, complete with an appendix of key players. The only thing missing is a map of the parcels.

The first two thirds of this book, as Walt achieves his manifest destiny, moves like a Space Mountain rocket. The last third moves more at the pace of the Magic Kingdom Railroad as it details legislative battles, legal challenges and the long-term impact of Project Future. But as the recent launch of D23 shows, Disney's fans love this kind of insider knowledge and will no doubt devour Project Future as they wait in ln line for Soarin'.
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on May 27, 2010
Bottom line: I enjoyed this book. That being said, you need to know that the author has chosen to focus on the legal, political, and real estate aspects of the founding of Walt Disney World. While those aspects are fascinating, he gives very little (almost no) attention to WDW's creative, design, engineering, or construction aspects. A few chapters on those additional aspects would have earned a four-star rating. Also, I deducted a star from the rating for the amount of typos. The book would have benefited from one more copy edit. All in all, this is an unique perspective on an unique place.
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on April 12, 2013
This books gives you a great background on what it took to put together the land mass that would become the Walt Disney World Resort. It is also gives tells you what other cities were being thought of before Walt Disney settled on Central Florida. The only drawback is that there is a lot of legal talk which some people might find tedious to read (not me however).
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on December 16, 2010
The information presented is very interesting, but be warned - the book focuses almost exclusively on the legal proceedings of purchasing and then governing the Walt Disney World area. You either have to be really interested in legal history or the Disney corporation to enjoy this book. I would say the book lacks a few key items that could have made it vastly better:

- MAPS! There are so many references to parcels of land that it would have been incredibly helpful to have map references somewhere in the book, rather than trying to describe locations.

- A good editor/better writer. The writing style comes across as very elementary - almost as if a high schooler was writing a book report.

- The cover was printed crooked in my copy. Maybe this is a really cheap publisher or something, but you'd think things like that would be avoided.

There's some fascinating research that was done and I have to give the author credit for that, but I feel the book could be improved and will have limited appeal for most people. It's a quick read though - the font is huge and it's only about 150 pages of content.
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on April 4, 2013
After a recent trip to Disney World, I was curious about the actual buying of the property and logistics of running the huge resort. This book is essential in understanding the political and legal aspects of buying 27,000 acres in secret. It also touches on how the resort consists of 2 towns that Disney created to help with logistics. Very little is given to WDW after it actually opens. But if you are curious, as I was, about logistics, this is the book for you.
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on January 17, 2011
"I'm doing this because I want to do it better", Walt Disney on the Florida Project.

Project Future: The Inside Story Behind the Creation of Disney World by Chad Denver Emerson. 2009, 185 pp.

Any serious student of Walt Disney World history bemoans the dearth of information available outside of the corporate archives. There are some fantastic resources in print and I have complied a bibliography of titles that focus on Walt Disney World history. Still, there are many gaps and many unanswered questions.

Chad Emerson is a Professor of Law at Faulkner University. He is also a lecturer, author and consultant in the area of amusement and hospitality law. His interest in piecing together the tale of Walt Disney World began when he stumbled across information about the Reedy Creek Improvement District and his wife thought that it would make a fascinating read.

Chad took her advice to heart and began researching the book.

Most of us are aware that Walt began to secretly purchase land in Central Florida for his Disneyland East idea, which blossomed into the City of Tomorrow. Before the publication of Project Future, very few of us were aware of the political machinations, maneuverings, time and money that went into the acquisition of the land that we call Walt Disney World. Project Future has been described by other reviewers as "spy-like" and full of intrigue--they are correct, but it is also full of anecdotes from former employees and government officials.

Chad's book fills a very important vacuum in the time-line from Disneyland's inception until the opening of the Vacation Kingdom. The style of the book is very straightforward and most lay people will be able to consume the work without consulting a legal dictionary. The language, tone and writing are one set of the book's strengths.

Included is a listing of key players, which is very helpful. Many times, I found myself flipping to that section to refresh what a certain player's role was. Chad has a detailed time line that focuses on the major events of the land acquisitions and lobbying efforts.

In all, this is a pleasurable read that paints a picture of how daunting a project like Walt Disney World actually was. You will never take the 43 square miles purchased in the mid-1960's for granted again! You will also come to realize that a project of this size and scope will never be duplicated.

You can learn more about the book by visiting [...]
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on October 21, 2013
This book is a short and sweet history of Walt Disney's plans and first efforts to construct Disney World in the swampland of central Florida after his first theme park, Disneyland, was seen as only a moderate success. After its opening, Disneyland's shortcomings were quickly realized. The main disappointment was that the company had failed to secure enough land to expand the park after its initial success on a commercial level had become apparent, and Disney was also disappointed to find so-called 'leech' businesses (bars, strip malls, and motels) springing up close to the property and ruining the aesthetic experience Walt had initially envisioned. For his east coast sister theme park, Walt Disney was determined to avoid similar issues. This book details the clandestine nature and ingenious legal structures that the Disney company used to prevent a land grab in the years leading up to the groundbreaking on Disney World. The book also discussed other concept projects that never came to fruition.

Unfortunately, where the book succeeds in documenting the business and legal sides of the history of Disney World, it fails in discussing the actual planning of the property itself (which for an avid fan of Disney World might be interesting). This book is not a "behind the scenes" or "behind the magic" history book. It is very much a lesson in strategic planning.
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VINE VOICEon September 23, 2012
"Project Future" is a specialist book, a nuts and bolts account of how Walt acquired the land needed for Walt Disney World and how Roy finished the work of getting the Florida legislature on board. The ambitious E.P.C.O.T. project needed enough land for a city--and the WDW property is twice the size of Manhattan Island. Walt and Roy had a limited budget. How did they manage to buy land without being gouged? For one, Florida real estate was depressed, the result of real estate scams. Many states other than Florida had this sort of boom and bust--Arizona for one. Judgemental people may fault Walt for using a false identity and multiple deceptive tactics to buy land at under $200 an acre (1965 dollars). Walt Disney World wouldn't have been possible if the Disney Company hadn't been able to aquire about 27,000 acres of swamp wasteland for slightly more than $5,000,000.
The plots chosen were at the center of Florida and at the crossroads between east and west coast and the traffic flowing south from other states. Location was important--more important than how easy it was to build. Building would take an estimated $500 million--and $100 million was the start-up costs.
Land at a price within the budget was one hurdle. Next were the legal and political environments. Several Disney projects across the United States foundered before the Florida Project because of excessive taxation, zoning restrictions, and even protests against "eyesore amusement parks" conducted by environmentalists. The back room deals might be illegal today, but look what the Mouse did to Florida. WDW contributes about 8% of the total tax revenues in Florida. People come to WDW and do other things. The WDW complex employs more than 50,000 workers--and those workers use goods and services that keep other people employed. WDW may be why Florida is #4 in population among states in America--a major player in national elections. Otherwise, Florida might have remained a backwater rural state much like Georgia outside of Atlanta. Walt Disney World's success spurred additional theme parks in the Orlando area. Walt's vision included 'buffer zones' of undeveloped land and these are important 'wet land nature preserves,' though not public nature preserves. That's right--most of Walt Disney World is 'unproductive wasteland' that the Disney Company keeps undeveloped on purpose. The Disney Company could liquidate that asset for considerably more than $200 an acre today!
This book has a table of contents, but no index. Appendix A lists the "key players and their roles in Project Future." Appendix B is a timeline. The bibliography and notes section provide sources for more information.
I don't believe that creating a Walt Disney World is possible today. The political and legal and economic environments have changed. Environmentalism has eliminated 'swamps;' they're now 'wetlands.' Most of all, there's no Walt and Roy to make their vision a reality.
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on July 4, 2010
With his background as a lawyer, the author naturally concentrates on many of the complex legal issues that enabled the Disney Corporation to acquire both the land it needed and the quasi-governmental powers it desired to build Walt Disney World.

Although many of the elaborate steps Disney planners took to hide their activities have been described elsewhere, this account relates the names of the participants to a reasonably concise timeline of events. This book is most interesting when the author describes the intricate planning and attention to detail that the Disney Company and their associates employed to accomplish their goals. However, this book also has a number of errors and omissions that weaken its presentation.

First, there are two notable and inexcusable errors. As anyone familiar with Disney history knows, Disneyland opened on July 17th, not July 7th and Walt's name is "Walter Elias", not "Elias Walter". How such fundamental errors could have made it into print is beyond understanding and caused this reader to wonder what other errors exist with less well-known names and dates.

One also wonders why certain details were omitted. For example, although Billy Dial is frequently mentioned as an Orlando-area banker who assisted in acquiring property and who was ultimately chosen by Roy Disney to handle WDW's banking needs, why was the name of his bank never mentioned? Much time was spent on the fact that Tufts University owned the mineral rights to a large portion of the land Disney wanted to purchase, but we were never told why a university in the Boston area owned such a large tract of land in Florida.

Noting that this book was released under the "Ayefour Publishing" imprint, I was disappointed that the author failed to explain the role that the "Ayefour Corporation" played in the land acquisitions, but merely mentioned it once in a list of corporate names used to disguise the identity of the Disney Company.

Although the author is a respected Law Professor who has written a number of academic papers, the bibliography is lacking many sources and few of the quotations are cited. For example, the memoirs of both Gen. Joe Potter and Robert Foster are mentioned as sources of information, but neither is referenced in the bibliography. Also, many of publications listed in the bibliography are not specifically cited, leaving the reader to wonder what relevant information they contain. Several large bodies of reference materials are listed as "on file" in a University's reference collection with no information as to which parts were relevant to this research. Omitting these details makes this book almost useless as a reference for further study of this interesting subject.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in knowing more about the early history of Walt Disney World, with the warning that it is rather narrow in focus and omits many details that a little more research, or care, could have provided.
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