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The Celebration Chronicles: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Property Value in Disney's New Town Paperback – September 5, 2000

3.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In The Celebration Chronicles, Andrew Ross has written a moving and subtle account of his yearlong stay at Disney's glistening suburban development in Celebration, Florida. Readers might expect that Ross, the director of American studies at New York University and a devoted urbanite, would contribute to both the fashionable sport of Disney bashing and the tired genre of suburban reproof. But, like an anthropologist gone native, Ross immersed himself in the community, interviewing dozens of the 20,000 residents, volunteering at the local school, and finding himself pleasantly surprised when his subjects had christened him an honorary Celebrationite.

Celebration, Ross argues, is the latest in a long line of utopian communities built to realize the American dream. Many wealthy and eager romantics flocked to the town with a faith that Disney magic would fulfill their hopes for a perfect community (and increase their property values). When the majority of these people found their dreams dashed against the corporation's bottom line, however, they engaged in grass roots activism that did more to bring their community together than any of the schemes from Disney "imagineers." Moving from a cogent analysis of the town to a multifaceted consideration of the environmental implications of American liberty, The Celebration Chronicles is a masterpiece of American studies scholarship. As astute as it is readable, Ross's book shows how Celebration's high-octane pursuit of happiness resulted in a limited civic culture and contributed to an overall ecological catastrophe that continues to worsen with each new drive toward the American dream. --James Highfill --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The object of unrelenting media scrutiny since its inception in 1996, the small, Disney-built town of Celebration, Fla., has, according to Ross, been portrayed as either a real-life embodiment of a Disney fantasy of good, clean American values or as a haven for slavish Disney devotees who fall in line like dutiful Stepford wives. Like Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins, whose Celebration, U.S.A. (Forecasts, July 26) records 12 months in the life of the town, Ross lived there for a year and came away with mixed feelings. The director of the American Studies program at NYU, Ross points out that the one thing most vividly separating Celebration from other communities is the glare of the media: perennially aware that they're under scrutiny, residents are subject to "performance anxiety" and tend to be highly self-conscious about their actions and decisions. While Disney's ideas about desirable urban designAwhich include such features as Muzak continually piped into the main street from speakers hidden beneath the palm treesAdo suggest a sugar-coated utopia, most of the residents Ross encountered were seeking an alternative to the isolating design of traditional suburbia. In this respect, Ross believes, Celebration is at least "a step in the right direction." Though Frantz and Collins more vividly describe the community and its residents, Ross's writing is refreshingly unacademic as he adroitly analyzes both the various upheavals plaguing this fledgling town and the day-to-day lives of Celebrationites of all ages, providing an astute look at a notable, if in some respects surreal, experiment in community building. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (September 5, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345417526
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345417527
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #970,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on November 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent portrayal of small town USA citizens and at the same time and earnest critique of Disney's capital appetite. Ross weaves these stories together to create a fascinating read.
Celebrationites are a unique crew hailing from all over the country for reasons as varies as hoping the monorail system at Disneyworld could use a retired doctor as the conductor to expecting the cutting edge, progressive school to improve teenage grades and angst. Ross interviews the citizenry allowing them to tell their stories to an honest interviewer and fellow townee as opposed to their usual experience of giving five minute sound bite interviews from media folk in town for the afternoon. Celebration comes across as a town with incredible civic involvement and interesting inhabitants. Most citizen issues seem common to small neighborhoods, although some do have to do with the Disney Company and their poor construction of houses.
Ross demonstrates how the Disney Co. established Celebration as an (overpriced) homestead for varied income level inhabitants and racial diversity. Unfortunately neither was accomplished and the town is largely white and upper middle class. Celebration was designed to combat the ills of the urban sprawl overtaking the central Florida region and to promote clean living, community sentiment and an alternative to the glare of franchise neon lights. Interestingly, Ross points out that at the same time the Disney Co. is daily recruiting underpaid labor from Florida's immigrant pool of Mexicans and Central Americans who are forced to squeeze into tiny apartments on the strip thus adding to the urban sprawl as well as exploited laborers.
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Format: Hardcover
Andrew Ross is hardly the kind of person for whom Celebration was built. He's single, he has no children, and he's apparently an educated intellectual with an abiding love of urban life. Nonetheless, he has done a very capable, skilled job in The Celebration Chronicles. Accurate coverage of the origins and early life of Disney's town required research and synthesis of the huge number of disparate elements - for example, architecural history and Disney's plans for its corporate future - and Ross has risen to the challenge in almost every way.
He does an especially good job - not surprising, for a college professor - of describing and analyzing the parents v. school war that had such an incredible influence on the town's development. Ross covers the external and internal politics, the education theory, and the human details of the school, as well as the many other, varied factors that fed into the battle.
The book also displays the results of the author's wide-ranging, thorough research. Ross appears to have entered into every social circle that would have him and even a few that wouldn't. He attended every town meeting, even those where he was the only resident present. He visited many residents and talked with the full range of social groups. He even carefully documented every rumor that blossomed on the flourishing town grapevine - that chapter makes for humorous reading indeed. All of Ross's research means that this book provides a very clear picture of the range and diversity of the residents and their lives in Celebration.
The book does founder a bit in the places where Ross's own leanings become too clear.
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By A Customer on December 24, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book certainly deserved its place on Amazon's top ten list of the year. I have read many stories in the press about Celebration, and hoped that someone with real feel for the residents would write an in-depth account of life inside that strange place. Ross set aside his life for a year, and dedicated himself to participating fully in all of the activities of the town. His efforts paid off, the book is a real eye opener, and will surprise anyone expecting a simple-minded diatribe about Stepford Wives in a Mickey Mouse town. The Celebration Chronicles gives us all kinds of lessons about urban planning, civil liberties, and public life in privatized suburbia. Best of all, while the book is an absorbing piece of journalism it is also a responsible ethnographic study conducted with several hundred hours of interviews with residents and Disney employees. The reader knows she is getting at deep community truths and not just superficial opinions from a few sound bites. The chapters about the school controversy are worth the price of the book along, but Ross has done a great job throughout, and produced a masterful commentary on America at the end of the century.
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Format: Paperback
Andrew Ross's, The Celebration Chronicles, is a scholarly interpretation of the neo-traditional ideal and how it manifests itself with the development of a Florida community. From the onset of the book, it appears as if Celebration is everything that the Disney executives had envisioned and everything that the residents had hoped ---- but is it?
Ross, however, delays peeling back the town's veneer and instead takes us on a sight seeing tour of Celebration ---- along the way we can see palm-lined promenades, a beautiful lake, neo-traditional homes and stately designed commercial/residential buildings. The author, respectfully, gives deference to the key architectural styles ---- Anglo-Caribbean, Low Country and St Augustine. Ultimately, our travels along Market St take us to the town square and we feel somehow that Disney has delivered.
Then the serious questions begin and the reader becomes privy to a host of controversies ---- shoddy home construction, the prohibitive cost to live in Celebration, conflicts over the educational agenda of the K-12 school and a questionable commitment to social and ethnic diversity.

Ross's observations may reflect an intellectual detachment. But the reader will discover that the book has its share of levity and amusing anecdotes. He notes, for example, the following ---- rumors of gypsies taking up residence and a resident heard to say, "What we need are a few drunks around this town."
This book is a serious study. Forewarned ---- you won't find the vanity-fair critiques so pervasive in glossy journals and travel tabloids. What you will find, though, are the author's lengthy observations that attempt to explain all the factors ---- both positive and negative ---- that impact life in the community of Celebration.
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