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Book Review: A Portrait of Walt Disney World: 50 Years of The Most Magical Place on Earth

A Portrait of Walt Disney World: 50 Years of The Most Magical Place on EarthA Portrait of Walt Disney World: 50 Years of The Most Magical Place on Earth is a coffee table book that celebrates the first 5 decades of the Walt Disney World Resort.  It takes a look at past, present and offers some glimpses of the future of the resort.   The book was released to coincide with the kick off of the 50th anniversary.  The trio of authors (Kevin Kern, Tim O’Day  & Steven Vagnini ), share the history of the parks, resorts, attractions and entertainment but in a nonlinear and somewhat nontraditional approach.  The chapters are organized around themes instead of the expected route of chronologically or by park.   Within in each chapter you will find an assortment of pictures, facts, figures, stories and other nuggets of information not only on current attractions but also some that have been gone for decades.   The authors add to their narration with an assortment of quotes from Imagineers, park leadership and some well known fans.   In addition to the traditional narrative are three guest pieces sharing some personal stories from Dick Nunis, Debby Dane Browne and Roy Patrick Disney.

Here are the chapters and sequence of the book:

  • Destination Florida – Disney Roots in the Sunshine State
  • Building the Dream – The Making of the “Florida Project”
    • Why Not Florida? – The Inspiration and Optimism of Walt Disney Looking Back with Disney Legend Dick Nunis
    • From Forest City to Vacation Kingdom – Looking Back with Debby Dane Browne
    • A Grandson’s Appreciation and Memories – Looking Back with Roy Patrick Disney
  • Framing Our Portrait – A Thematic Compass
  • Nostalgia – An Idealized Yesteryear
  • Fantasy – The Art of Make Believe
  • Discovery – Adventure and Exploration
  • Tomorrow – A Step into the Future
  • Reflections – Looking Back at the World
  • The World’s Most Magical Celebration – The Fiftieth Anniversary of Walt Disney World

I was looking forward to reading this book since it was announced so when the review copy arrived I dove right in.  Coming in at 300 pages this large format hard cover book has some real weight to it.   If you read like me and take time to look at the images, read the full text, image captions and look up many of the end note references it will take a while to make it through.

The book met my overall expectations.  I enjoyed the opening section on the creation and building of the resort the most.  The images and concept art here were more unique and obscure than the rest of the book’s contents.   I also thought the three essays/personal memories were great pluses and I would have liked to have seen a few more of those scattered throughout.

The most interesting choice in the book to me was the decision to organize by theme. This made reading it straight through like I did feel a little disjointed at times.  For example jumping from Pirates of the Caribbean to Caribbean Beach Resort to Old Key West then it’s a small world was a bit jarring to my engineering brain.   It did make for some additional thought to look at what they choose to include where.  In addition to being a bit unconventional to read,  another downside to this is trying to use this as a reference book in the future.  You will have to rely on the index or just flipping through thus making it a bit more challenging to find something since you cannot quickly go to a park or to a time frame.

A Portrait of Walt Disney World: 50 Years of The Most Magical Place on Earth will make a great addition to your library if you are like me and enjoy reading and collecting books on the parks.  The book delivers as a historical retrospective and exploration of the theme parks, resorts and other offerings during the first 50 years of Walt Disney World.

For other 2021 Book Releases that may interest you check out our 2021 book listing

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