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

4.4 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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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 (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,145,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Daniel Butcher on November 7, 2011
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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I took my title for this review from a section title in Chapter 14 and page 269--Walt's city designs evolved. The "revolution" was that Walt's cities worked. Oh, not perfectly--his Burbank studio experienced a labor strike in 1941 that tore the Walt Disney Studios apart, rifts that spawned multiple independent companies, but that also never healed. Sam Gennawey briefly mentions this strike on page 76 and states that one of the factors leading to that strike beginning May 28 was lack of contact between Walt and his "boys." The worst thing that can happen to government is losing touch with the governed. Being out of touch with the electorate happens to all of our national leaders--when they were in touch to begin with! Though stung by his beloved animators' walk-out and angry demonstrations, Walt did learn one thing from that strike--when he built Disneyland, Walt designed his Disneyland management team's work environment to be in the park, on stage and back state--and NOT in manager's offices! Walt's first city? Why, the Walt Disney Studios at 2719 Hyperion Avenue, of course--the official home of Disney cartoons from 1926 to 1940. That first city grew up organically, without plan--and the shortcomings and charming inefficiencies of this studio lead to Walt designing a "film machine" from the ground up (page 72), and ever the showman, Walt developed a studio tour on film, "The Reluctant Dragon" (1941)Walt Disney Treasures - Behind the Scenes at the Walt Disney Studio. Walt's Disneyland was a city, too, without permanent residents--only Guests and Cast Members.Read more ›
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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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