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Walt and the Promise of Progress City Paperback – October 4, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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"PassPorter's Walt Disney World" by Jennifer Marx and Dave Marx
Disney World can be daunting — simplify the process with this indispensable travel planner "PassPorter's Walt Disney World".

Editorial Reviews

From the Author

  • Disney Legend Marty Sklar
"[Sam has] captured much of the attitude and events of the times, and hit on much of Walt's drive and inspiration. [His] research into materials and people who were important in one way or another is exemplary. The notes from Buzz Price, John Hench and Marvin Davis, for example... the apparent influence of Victor Gruen's theories...a relationship that developed with James Rouse - all insightful. It is clear, well researched and useful and thoughtful to anyone studying urban planning."
  • Lee Cockerell, Retired & Inspired WDW Executive VP
"I thought I knew a lot about Walt Disney World and especially EPCOT until I read Walt and the Promise of Progress City. This book really details how Walt Disney thought, which I found fascinating. I will now view Walt Disney World in a whole new way."
  • Jim Hill, Jim Hill Media
One of the more interesting aspects of "The Promise of Progress City' is how Sam connects the dots. So to Gennawey's way of thinking, it's a fairly logical series of events that leads from Disney driving the design of his new animation studio in Burbank to him then coming up with a site plan for Disneyland. Then - using the urban sprawl that happened in & around Anaheim in the late 1950s / early 1960s as his inciting event - Walt begins exploring the idea of building a city of the future in Central Florida.
  • George Taylor, Imaginerding
After Sam explains all of the projects that led Walt to want to create a Utopian city, he takes us on a visit to the EPCOT Center of 1982 that could have been. Sam takes us place-by-place through what an average visitor would experience at EPCOT Center. We start wit the jetport and end with the industrial park; in between, Sam covers the governance, living in EPCOT, shopping, entertainment and transportation. It is an amazing journey where you realize, that for every dream Walt had for his new town, at least half of them came to fruition in the first ten years at Walt Disney World.
  • Ryan Wilson, Main Street Gazette

My inability to put a book down is the highest praise that I can heap on a book. In the case of Walt and the Promise of Progress City, I woke up on a vacation at 4:30 in the morning to continue reading and finished the entire 366 page volume before the end of the first week I had it. Sam has something special here, a rare educational text that embodies the spirit of Walt and carries with it the stories that well-versed armchair historians clamor for. This is, without a doubt, one of the best books I've read in the past couple of years. I cannot wait to see what Sam comes up with next.

From the Back Cover


Sam's writing is terrific; he truly enriches the discussion. Not only may you learn something new about the chosen subject, he'll likely open up another perspective on it for you too.
Al Lutz Founder/MiceAge
tour de force. this is a must-read for any urban planner wanting to understand city-building and how people use urban space.  sam gennawey provides a rare glimpse into the creative "backstage" of how walt disney planned his theme parks and the experimental prototype community of tomorrow.  the irony is that the future 21st century 'economy of ideas' is finding a happier home on walt's human-scale main street than in an epcot community, an irony walt would have loved.
Marsha V. Rood, FAICP; Principal, URBAN Reinventions
Gennawey not only provides his readers with a deeper understanding of Walt's vision for Progress City, he offers insight into the world of urban design as it relates to theme park design.  This book serves as an ideal example of how we can apply a wide variety of principles to help us appreciate Disney's dream of a utopian city.
David Zanolla, Department of Communications, Western Illinois University

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 374 pages
  • Publisher: Ayefour Publishing (October 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0615540244
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615540245
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #965,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sam Gennawey is the author of The Disneyland Story: An Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream, Walt and the Promise of Progress City, a contributor to Planning Los Angeles and other books as well as a columnist for the popular MiceChat website. His unique point of view built on his passion for history, his professional training as an urban planner, and his obsession with theme parks has brought speaking invitations from Walt Disney Imagineering, the Walt Disney Family Museum, Disney Creative, the American Planning Association, the California Preservation Foundation, the California League of Cities, and many Disneyana clubs, libraries and podcasts. He is currently a Senior Associate at the planning firm of KPA.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Often I have wondered what the Walt Disney World Resort would have looked like if Walt Disney had lived to see his last dream come to completion. I am sure that many of you have wondered the same thing. Walt Disney's hopes for his Florida property were for so much more than a theme park; after all he did not do sequels. The Walt Disney World Resort we have today is more than a clone of the Disneyland that opened in 1955 due to lessons learned from the California park, but it is still only a shadow of what Walt Disney dreamed.

Sam Gennawey of the SamLand blog provides his insight as an urban planner to detail Walt Disney's dreams for his Florida project, its evolution and its development in Walt and the Promise of Progress City. Gennawey introduces his readers to concepts used by urban planners when developing an area, often referring to specific examples within the Disneyland Resort to demonstrate them in action. This is followed by a detailed examination of Walt Disney's own property development projects including the Burbank studio, Disney's Carolwood Drive home, Disneyland, the failed Mineral King development, and finally the Florida project. This historical journey makes it clear that Disney's projects were becoming more complex and that Disney's true interest in building in Florida was not another theme park, since he had already built one, but the development of a working city that could demonstrate solutions to the problems of urban living through the use of technology. Genneway then walks his readers through the EPCOT of 1982 that might have been, Walt Disney's Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, not the Epcot theme park that we have today.
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Format: Paperback
This book is the first to explain - in basic architecture terms - how Disney's theme parks were designed. It is a fascinating read for anyone who enjoys spending time in Disneyland or Walt Disney World and wants a deeper understanding of why the parks were constructed as they are. While there are other good books on Disney architecture, they tend to describe the parks' architecture along the lines of "The Imagineers chose A and B to represent the American west" without explaining _why_ A and B were chosen. In contrast, Sam's book explains why these choices were made, and from where either Walt or the Disney Imagineers probably saw these architecture patterns in use before.
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This is definitely a very well researched book, and for the most part it manages to maintain an entertaining tone, only occasionally delving into textbook-style territory. Sam definitely knows his stuff and is excited about it, and thus is able to talk about city planning in a conversational tone, which helps keep the subject matter from seeming too dry.

I think the best part of the book is the imagined tour of the unbuilt city, which as Sam describes it would have been spectacular.

I'd highly recommend watching the full "Florida Project" presentation on YouTube as a companion to the book. I'd also recommend checking out what's left of the city model @ The Magic Kingdom and obviously visiting EPCOT to help round out one's appreciation of how, for better or worse, the dream presented in this book went in a completely different direction when Walt died....
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Since 1966, the world has been captivated by the vision that Walt Disney presented in his Project Florida film. It was such an amazing and inspiring vision, that Walt's brother Roy was able to persuade the State of Florida to pass legislation that would allow the Disney Company almost unfettered power to develop the City of Tomorrow. After Walt's passing in 1966 and then Roy's death in 1971, the Company wasn't able to complete Walt's dream as laid out in the film, but many of the innovative technologies found their way into the Vacation Kingdom. Regardless, the Company battled the press, local governments and the public with their outcries of "Where is EPCOT Center?" As we all know, Disney finally opened EPCOT Center, the theme park, in 1982 and it was a far cry from Walt's 1966 vision.

There has been a lot written about the Disney theme parks with an emphasis on the creation of EPCOT Center and the variance from Walt's ideas. Much of the critical writing has focused on trying to dissect where Disney went wrong or strayed from Walt's vision and promise. This is where Sam Gennawey's book differs and offers a new look at what happened and what we might have seen. Sam has had a varied and long career that has led him to being an urban planner. Being a Disney fan and an urban planner makes Sam an obvious choice to postulate on Walt, urban design and what might have been.

Walt and the Promise of Progress City is an exhaustive and thoroughly enjoyable book about Walt's EPCOT City, how the ideas were developed and what a visit to 1982 EPCOT Center could have been. Since Sam is an urban planner, you would assume that he would write with jargon and discuss overly-complex theories.
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