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The Celebration Chronicles : Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Property Values in Disney's New Town Hardcover – August 3, 1999
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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
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.
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Top customer reviews
Ross' review is multi-dimensional; he shows that he can be both complimentary and critical of Disney at the same time. If he has an axe to grind, it doesn't show, and he gives credit where credit is due, and criticism where it is also due.
It also functions reasonably well as a tutorial on urban planning and New Urbanism, a topic near and dear to everyone who lives anywhere but in the rural world. He only slips off topic occassionally, and even then not for long (and it's still interesting).
I recommend you buy this book; you will be entertained and fascinated, though not necessarily in that order.
Still, a message was clearly conveyed.
If you have the patience to wade through the verbage, you'll learn that Celebration is a place of Disneyesque dreams and high expectations, few of which have been delivered despite the "E-Ticket" price of admission.
Andrew Ross spent half of the book talking about teaching methods and politics.
If reading about Celebration is what you're looking for DO NOT buy this book.
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. Eventually the book evolves into a valuable lesson on urban history and social science. I, as a reader, found the process of getting to this eventuality fulfilling and I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in these topics.