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Celebration, U.S.A.: Living in Disney's Brave New Town Hardcover – September 9, 1999
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From Publishers Weekly
Celebration, Fla., is the much-ballyhooed Disney effort to build a walkable hybrid suburb near its Orlando theme park to serve as a showcase for the most cutting-edge ideas about urban planning. In 1997, journalists Frantz and Collins (Teachers: Talking Out of School) moved to Celebration with their two younger children to write an account of one year in the early life of the town. They participated fully in the community and found their neighbors willing to talk, discovering the ups and downs of Disney's well-calibrated logistics, from the pedestrian-friendly town plan to the housing standards and innovative K-12 school. Among the complications were the bewildering array of pedagogical strategies adopted by the school, which drove families away; the homogenous town population, which was almost entirely white and middle class; and the proliferation of rules (residents are forbidden, for example, to park recreational vehicles on the street and to complain about the mosquitoes). But the authors avoid excoriating Disney and its developers, emphasizing that the town still offered a promising model for a "better" kind of American community: they found it "a lovely place physically," whose design did indeed foster a neighborliness lacking in most of suburban America. Readers may wish that the authors had investigated their Disneyphile neighbors more closelyAe.g., only at the book's end is it revealed that almost none of their houses have bookshelves. Nonetheless, this even-handed and thorough account of one family's experience in helping to build a new community from the ground up taps provocatively into a pioneering spirit in American life. (Sept.) FYI: In October, Ballantine will publish The Celebration Chronicles: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Property Values by the cultural critic Andrew Ross, who also spent a year living in Celebration.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
In 1997, New York Times staffer Frantz and wife Collins did a brave thing: they moved into Celebration, FL, created by Disney to serve as a model town of the future by drawing on the best of the past. Something for both Disney fans and bashers.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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When I saw this book about a couple who had lived there and had the inside scoop on the community inspired by Disney's original vision of having people live in Disney world type utopia atmosphere - I had to read it. I wasn't dissappointed. I didn't find like others that the writers bashed Diseny. In fact, I thought it was a pretty realistic picture of how communities develop and that even in one created to be more of a utopia - well, life is life, people are people and the real world still has to be dealt with. Some people have made celebration their utopia - and work to continually improve it, others expected it utopia to be given them from Disney (and well, good luck on that). I thoroughly enjoyed this couples recount of their experiment of living there.
The authors do discuss the very real problems with Celebration's schools and construction; this part of the book could have benefited from a comparison with traditional suburbs, to show readers that Celebration's problems exist in typical suburban sprawl as well -- as anyone who saw what Hurricane Andrew did to Miami's sprawl houses knows!
I found the book provides an interesting and useful introduction to Celebration and New Urbanism. Frantz and Collins provide an narrative history of the development of Celebration as well as an interesting introduction to New Urbanism, etc. We experience alot from the personal leve. They write very well and the book moves readily along. They describe numerous problems with Celebration as well as how the expectations of many residents shaped their reaction to Celebration. It is a fairly fun book, though a little too upbeat at times.
On the other hand, the depth of analysis isn't there and, given the market that this book is directed at, probably wasn't intended to be there.
As an introduction to Celebration and an alternative approach to urban design, this book is worth it. Just don't expect too much.