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Designing Disney (A Walt Disney Imagineering Book) Paperback – January 6, 2009

4.8 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

The late John Hench, a true Disney legend, came into his office at Imagineering each day, well into his ninety-fifth year. Although he passed away in 2004, his legacy continues to play an integral role in the design of Disney theme parks and attractions-just as he himself did more than fifty years ago when Walt enlisted him as one of his closest colleagues and confidants.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 1 and up
  • Series: A Walt Disney Imagineering Book
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Disney Editions (January 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1423119150
  • ISBN-13: 978-1423119159
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.5 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #440,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a pleasant little book authored by one of the original Imagineers, John Hench. We are treated to an inside look at the designing of the Disney parks, with an emphasis on the original Disneyland, although pretty much every park, including Animal Kingdom and DCA, gets some mention. There are plenty of color illustrations, mostly concept paintings and sketches, many of which I hadn't seen before.
This is not a book for the casual Disney fan, but if your interest in Disneyland borders on the obsessive, there are lots of nifty facts and anecdotes to be found here.
For example, when Space Mountain was being built, the author insisted the enormous steel T-beams be mounted backwards, to provide a smooth surface to project show effects; the Snow White wishing well was built next to Sleeping Beauty's Castle solely for the purpose of keeping guests from tossing coins in the nearby lake and waterfall; and a pond was built next to the long gone House of the Future to serve as a water supply for the attractions cooling system.
If minutiae like that is your bag, this is the book for you. It makes a nice companion peice to the book "Walt Disney's Imagineering."
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Format: Hardcover
This book is the Disney version of being John Malkavich. More than ANY living person, John Hench, knows Walt's history, philosophy and design theories. In fact, John Hench IS the artist behind much of the how and why of designing Disney theme parks from Disneyland (1955) to Disney's California Adventure (2002). More than just a book of inside trivia on why and how certain attractions look and work this is the observations of human behavior and understanding of all of us that Walt (and Hench) had, and used, to create these magically places we all love. As an Disney Imagineer I was fortunate to have known and worked with John Hench and co-author, Peggy Van Pelt. Herein they tell the real story behind how Disney's magic comes into being. As great as their words, John and Peggy have included lots and lots of John's stunning artwork--much of it never before published or show outside the Disney archives. Walt (and John Hench's) philosophy in this compact and rich book is applicable across the corporate spectrum. This book should set side-by-side with the larger (though less revealing) "Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look..." John Hench once told me, "I make all decisions with my heart." This book is for the heart and your head (left and right hemispheres) will enjoy it as well.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For most Disneyland guests, the nuts-and-bolts details behind the many attractions will ruin their illusions. Most people who are shown the tricks behind stage magic cannot get over feeling cheated. If you had to watch the process of making sausages from birth of the meat animal (pig or whatever) to the grilling of your breakfast in the restaurant kitchen, odds are that you'd enjoy your oatmeal instead.

But I enjoy seeing projects grow from project to fruition. John Hench's "Designing Disney: Imagineering and the Art of the Show" in an insiders peek at the Disney theme parks and cruise line. Concept art is directed at a specific audience. Usually the task for concept art is to sell the idea to the "suits"--who are a very different audience than Disneyland guests. It's been said that executives consider everyone else subhuman--especially their customers and subordinate employees--so what "sells" a concept to a panel of executives will leave the end customer unimpressed. Once the project gets the go-ahead, changes will happen. "No plan survives contact with reality!" At Disneyland, "finished attractions" will continually be changed due to economics or guest feedback until the attraction is replaced. The Disneyland Monorail is a fine example of this. On pages 26 and 27 and on page 33 monorail concept art differs significantly from today's Disneyland Monorail. John Hench wrote about how this occurred.

Many ideas don't make it to the concept stage. Disenyland was very much the experimental community during the 1950's and 1960's. The Enchanted Tiki Room was originally conceived of as a dinner show. Around 1960, the South Pacific was considered romantic and adventurous.
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Format: Hardcover
Let's face it. There are hundreds of books about Disney. The movies... the stage shows... the company... the management style... recipes... fiction... even an incredible collection of Walt Disney World Trivia (currently in its second edition!). Occasionally, a book comes through that fills a unique void.

John Hench was a designer with Disney for over 65 years. His designs are as identifiably Disney as anything else coming from the mouse house. In around 150 pages, Hench shares some of his design work in artist's concepts and blueprints. These are beautiful and rare, but it is his insight into the thought behind the design choices that turn this book from yet another Disney book to a text book worth much study.

Many books discussing Disney magic often push the art of looking around, taking note of details. This book helps you to know "How" to look around and "What" you are looking for... Hopefully, you'll never look at it the same way ever again. Entire sections are devoted to in depth discussion on color, costumes, character, line, layout and most of all, story. With over half a century working for Disney, Hench's resume is able to back it all up with beautiful artwork.

If there is one thing that is surprisingly absent from a Disney legend that spent years working directly with Walt, it is a lack of stories that bring you into Walt's presence. It lacks that emotional touch, but makes up for it in intellectual stimulation that will affect your thinking about Disney for many years to come.
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