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Excellent Behind-The-Scenes Tale of Disney World's Creation
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.