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Book Review: Claude Coats: Walt Disney’s Imagineer: The Making of Disneyland

Claude Coats Walt Disney’s Imagineer – The Making of Disneyland From Toad Hall to the Haunted Mansion and BeyondClaude Coats - Walt Disney's Imagineer - Cover

Disney Legend Claude Coats (1913-1992) career with the Walt Disney Company spanned over 50 years, starting at the studio in 1935, becoming an Imagineer in 1955 and retiring from Imagineering in 1989.  He was named a Disney Legend in 1991.  His had an artist background and education earning a fine arts degree from the University of Southern California in 1934.

Many people may not be familiar with Claude Coats as a person but they do know his film and theme park projects.  He developed backgrounds for Disney Animation Classics starting with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs up until Lady and the Tramp.  Including Fantasia, Dumbo, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland & Peter Pan, plus a number of shorts over the years.   For the parks he was an early Imagineer working on the Fantasyland dark rides for the park opening.  Over the years he contributed to many of the park’s key attractions including Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion and Adventure Thru Inner Space.  Later in his career he went on to work on projects at Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland.

I was looking forward to this book as soon as I heard about it.  Claude was a key part of the team on so many milestone projects at the Studio and Disneyland.  I was ready to take a deep dive into his projects and learning more about him.    This book by David Bossert delivers on Claude’s impact and projects during the formative years of Disneyland (1955-1969).    I really enjoyed learning more about Claude, the role he played on several projects and within the teams he worked with.    The book chronicles the projects and people involved in a straight forward and organized manner.    There are a good number of large photos throughout the book which were great to see.  The last chapter of the book contains artwork from Claude spanning the years.  For several of the projects the book takes a deep dive into the attraction with a full description of the final attraction.   Throughout the book are some insights from Imagineers that worked with Claude such as Marty Sklar, Tony Baxter, and Tom K. Morris.

A disappoint with the book is it is not comprehensive.  A decision was made to focus on the early Disneyland years.  Other projects and his work at the Studios are mentioned but not really explored in depth.  I would have liked to have seen more on his later work at Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland as well as his early work at the Studios.   Maybe a volume two will materialize at some point looking at his later career.

Chapters of the book:

  • Preface – Alan Coats
  • Foreword – Tony Baxter
  • Claude Coats: From Animation Artist to Imagineer
  • The Disneyland Dark Rides
  • 1956/57: The Never, Never Lands
  • 1956: A Year of Ideas and Transition
  • 1958: Alice in Wonderland
  • 1958: The Grand Canyon Diorama
  • 1959: The Submarine Voyage
  • 1961: The U.S. Air Force Paintings of Japan
  • The 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair: A Leap Forward in Innovations
  • A Trip to NASA
  • 1966: The Primeval World Diorama
  • Pirates of the Caribbean 1967
  • Adventure Thru Inner Space 1967
  • The Haunted Mansion 1969: Life After Walt
  • The Art of Claude Coats

Claude Coats Walt Disney’s Imagineer The Making of Disneyland From Toad Hall to Haunted Mansion and Beyond will make a great addition to your library if you are interested in learning more about one of the key Imagineers who brought Disneyland to life and the milestone attractions he worked on.

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