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Book Review: Women of Walt Disney Imagineering

Women of Walt Disney Imagineering: 12 Women Reflect on Their Trailblazing Theme Park CareersThe Women of Walt Disney Imagineering has a publication date of Tuesday March 15 2022, right in the middle of Women’s History Month.  I enjoyed reading the review copy I was provided.   The twelve represent a number of different disciplines and teams within Imagineering and each carved out a unique career path with the company.  The format is each woman has their own chapter (or sometimes two) to share their background & stories, there is a photo section in the middle and some introductions and thank yous as well.

The twelve women included in this book are:

  • Maggie Irvine Elliott – Senior Vice President, Creative Development Administration
  • Kathy Rogers – Executive Show Producer
  • Katie Olson – Principal Color Concept Designer
  • Julie Svendsen – Concept Show Designer
  • Paula Dinkel – Principal Show Lighting Designer
  • Elisabete(Eli) Minceff Erlandson – Principal Concept Architect
  • Tori Atencio McCullough – Executive, Interior Design
  • Pam Rank – Principal Show Lighting Designer
  • Becky Bishop – Principal Landscape Architect
  • Karen Connolly Armitage – Concept Designer
  • Lynne Macer Rhodes – Producer
  • Peggie Fariss – Executive, Creative Development

In putting together the book four criteria that had to be met to be included –

  1. A woman who had retired from Walt Disney Imagineering with a minimum of twenty years’ work experience in the Imagineering arm of the Walt Disney Company.
  2. A woman who was a team player and team leader.
  3. A woman who wanted to encourage future generations and would write about the challenges they faced and how they managed them.
  4. A woman who was no longer a Disney employee.

Overall I enjoyed reading this book and found it interesting to learn about the roles these women had over the years.  Each woman had a unique path to Imagineering and trajectory within but some common themes emerge with hard working and passion for their jobs at the top of the list.    They also discussed how it was to be a career woman over the decades.   Most started with the company prior to the 1980s so as American workplace culture evolved they were in the middle of it and leading the way.  Due to this timing they were able to be mentored by many of the first generation Imagineers that worked directly with Walt Disney and learn from them the trades and culture then apply this as Disney parks spread across the world during their tenures.

By choosing to include a dozen individuals you are able to see an array of careers and experiences and some similarities and differences.   This is a key strength and weakness of the book.  The drawback to this choice is the authors were constrained to a narrow and shallow box in some respects.  They were not able to explore a lot of stories or provide depth or great detail either.  The book is 224 pages so on average that means about 18 per person only.    In the center of the book around about 30 pages of color photos with each author having a two page spread then several pages of joint photos.  These were great to see but to fit several images in they had to be relatively small and not a lot of room for exposition.

The choice to have so many people in one book really left me wanting more.  More detail and more stories.  The two most memorable stories for me were ones that were on the longer side.  Becky Bishop shared a tale of a tree for Discoveryland in Disneyland Paris and publicity shoot for Splash Mountain at Disneyland that were both entertaining and interesting.  I would have really liked to hear more like this from all twelve women.

This book was a really quick read, it is not a “dense” read like the book – Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation.  With each woman having her own chapter in this book you can easily break it into smaller sessions and the typeface is easy to read.   I was not a fan of the paper choice, but I am assuming that was to help reduce the cost.

Women of Walt Disney Imagineering will make a nice addition to your library if you enjoy reading about Imagineers and their stories.  Many of the women and careers highlighted may not be ones you are familiar with but their work you definitely are and reading their thoughts will add some insight into them and their work.  Disney D23 recently shared some information on each of the twelve.

For other book releases this year visit our 2022 Disney Book List page.

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