BooksJason's Thoughts & Observations

Book Review: Marc Davis In His Own Words: Imagineering the Disney Theme Parks

Marc Davis Book CoverMarc Davis In His Own Word: Imagineering the Disney Theme Parks by Pete Docter & Christopher Merritt is a two volume nearly 750 page work chronicling the Disney Legend’s theme park projects.

Marc Davis is a Disney Legend in multiple fields.  Many know him as one of Walt’s Nine Old Men.  He started in Disney Animation in 1935 on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and went on to work on key characters in several Disney classics including Bambi, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmatians and many other animation projects.    In 1960 Marc started working on some WED projects for Walt Disney at Disneyland and transferred full time to WED soon after.  He went on to become a pivotal Imagineer for many Disney Classic Attractions including Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, and the Country Bear Jamboree.  He worked on the 1964 World’s Fair Pavilions as well as plussing several attractions such as the Jungle Cruise and Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland at Disneyland.  Marc Davis was described as a Renaissance Man by Walt Disney and the variety of projects, skills and interests Marc had support this.

These two volumes are filled with quotes from conversations with Marc Davis and many of his fellow Imagineers about the various projects he worked on.    I found the narrative device of relying on direct quotes for a vast majority of the content to work really well.  Many times you felt as if Marc was across from you and talking about a drawing or project.  The narrative from the authors is kept to a minimum throughout and quotes from others are used to add color or highlight a point.

The books contain a large number of illustrations and pictures in a variety of sizes.   For the artwork and photographs the team had access to Marc’s personal collection as well as pieces from the Walt Disney Imagineering and Walt Disney Archives.  As you read through the book you will see some familiar pictures but many more you had not seen before and many pieces of artwork you most likely have not too as this is first time most have been in a publication.

Chapters are organized around projects for the most part.  There are 17 total with a majority of them devoted to a single project which is explored in depth within the chapter.  For example Pirates of the Caribbean & Haunted Mansion each span nearly 100 pages.   The book opens with a quick biography of Marc and how he found his way to WED (his second career).  This biography is only a couple dozen pages long then you dive right into his Imagineering projects.  Starting with the updating of existing Disneyland attractions then moving on to new attractions and the 1964 New York World’s fair projects.    Later in the book there are some chapters that combine projects such as unrealized projects or his contributions to Epcot or Tokyo Disneyland.

When I first heard about this book I was interested in it. Then in 2017 at the D23 Expo I went to a presentation – Marc Davis Goes to WED – The Amazing Artistry and Designs of the Legendary Disney Imagineer – on the book and the authors shared their concept as well as some pictures/artwork they had gathered at that early phase of the project.   I could not wait for it to come out.  Finally in September 2019 the book was released and it went to the top of my list.  I was sent a review copy and set off reading it.   The book is not a quick read.. assuming you take the time to look at all the great artwork and photographs throughout.

If you have read any of my reviews of books or movie bonus features over the years you know I always say I want more.  This is one of the rare cases where more was delivered.   Marc Davis In His Own Words: Imagineering the Disney Theme Parks lives up to the hype.  Pete Docter and Christopher Merritt have produced a definitive work detailing the Imagineering Career of a Disney Legend.    My appetite for more now moves on to wanting similar books on other Disney Legendary Imagineers.   If you are a Disney theme park geek to any degree you will want this book for your library.  The breadth and depth of the topics covered is exceptional and what you would expect, maybe beyond expectations in many aspects.  I now look forward to re-reading it to see what I missed the first time through.

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