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Walt and the Promise of Progress City Paperback – October 4, 2011
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From the Author
- Disney Legend Marty Sklar
- Lee Cockerell, Retired & Inspired WDW Executive VP
- Jim Hill, Jim Hill Media
- George Taylor, Imaginerding
- Ryan Wilson, Main Street Gazette
From the Back Cover
A 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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Top Customer Reviews
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. Instead this EPCOT is a functioning city with shopping, recreational areas (including a theme park), residential areas and even a theme park much like seen in the Progress City model found in the exit of the Carousel of Progress at Disneyland during Gennawey's childhood. Gennawey concludes his book with a brief answer to if Disney's plans would have worked.
This book is full of the language of the urban planner. And though that could be seen as a drawback, I believe it is a benefit. I do not have a background in planning cities, I am not aware of the vocabulary that urban planners use and I'm definitely not aware of historic urban planning thinkers. Typically when I read a Disney book I learn a few facts that I have never been aware of before, but honestly many Disney books revisit the same material. Instead with Walt and the Promise of Progress City I learned about the world of the urban planner and because of this I was finding myself having conversations using this new vocabulary. And I was able to understand it because of the Disney linkages Gennawey provides his reader. Instead of being intimidated by these new concepts I was learning about them since he presents them in terms I can understand. Concepts like "The Quality Without a Name" can be easily understood when demonstrated in action within the Disney parks.
As a historian I truly enjoyed Gennawey's presentation of Walt Disney's evolution of building bigger and bigger projects eventually arriving at his dream of EPCOT, an entirely new city within the Disney Florida property. By linking together the various building projects that Disney oversaw, the reader can see Disney's desire for the inclusion of new technologies and improving the quality of life even if it was just an animator's desk for his Burbank Studio. Additionally, I found his discussion of the Mineral King project fresh and filled with possibilities of what could have been if the property had followed Walt Disney's designs. It is also clear that urban planners like Victor Gruen who were foremost thinkers in the city planning were influencing Disney's thoughts on cities. But Genneway makes it clear that Disney was not attempting to innovate new ideas about cities but to use the best thinking and technology to create spaces that people could truly use and enjoy. Disney's dream was gift humanity with a model of better ways to live and solve urban problems, not just an enjoyable family vacation.
Genneway's visit to the EPCOT 1982 is inspiring. First, it is not a theme park, but is instead a place where people live and work. Theme parks and hotels do not dominate this space. Instead it is a city with shopping, residential housing, schools, greenbelts, and yes that moneymaking theme park. Most surprising to me was the industrial park where companies would display the latest technology and processes. Though this EPCOT looks different than what we have today, it still includes shopping, hotels, and green spaces that exist today. While Walt's dream of a city is clearly not fully achieved by the current profile of the Walt Disney World Resort, it is amazing how much of the plans for a full city exist. For example as Genneway discusses the reading for the shopping district to be an attraction on its own right, I thought my families inclusion of Downtown Disney alongside the parks as part of our vacation planning.
If I could change one thing about Walt and the Promise of Progress City, it would be the inclusion of an index. There is so much good information about Walt Disney, the Disneyland Resort, the Walt Disney World Resort and urban planning, many readers will likely dog their copy with notes and highlighting and be used as a constant reference for what will have been. This text is an essential for any good Disney library due to its content. Interest for this book also can be found beyond Disney fans, I have friends who are not Disney enthusiasts asking to borrow my copy due to the historical content out of their own general interest. Sam Genneway in Walt and the Promise of Progress City offers a well-written, highly educational and highly interesting book that fans and non-fans of the Walt Disney World Resort will enjoy.
Review copy provided by Ayefour Publishing
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....
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. On the contrary, Sam has written a book dealing with fairly complex subjects that any Disney fan will be able to read, enjoy and digest.
Sam's book takes a different path than what I expected, which is a great thing. I assumed that Sam would just discuss what could of happened and why it didn't turn into Walt's vision. Instead, Sam discusses how everything that Walt Disney did from the first Disney Bros. Studios through the Project Florida film and how Walt applied everything he learned to Progress City. Sam looks at each project and analyzes the steps Walt took and the progression of his ideas. It was quite eye-opening to connect the Burbank Studio, Tom Sawyer Island, the Mineral King project and the World's Fair to urban planning designs and theories.
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.
Walt and the Promise of Progress City is an inspiring tale that any fan of Walt Disney, the theme parks or urban design will enjoy. Sam takes us on a journey through urban design and planning that encompasses everything Walt did to discuss the vision. Although Sam covers some fairly intense theories, the book is not an academic treatise. Sam does a fantastic job of interpreting urban planning theories into a format that is accessible to the layperson.
I applaud Sam for tackling such a divisive subject as EPCOT and the oft-stated Internet battle cry of "What Would Walt Do?" None of us can say for certain what would of happened had Walt lived longer, but it is obvious that Sam understands urban planning and took a storied look at the project and analyzed it with intelligence, thought and a sense of wonder.