As a devotee of Walt Disney World, I've collected numerous books through the years to feed my addiction. Although it's true that many them revolve around trip planning (like the PassPorter - Walt Disney World Resort by Jennifer, Dave & Allison Marx and The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger), some of my favorite books are written by the Imagineers themselves. Beginning in 2005, the first book in The Imagineering Field Guide to... series was released. Written about the Magic Kingdom at WDW, this book gives you a tour as if you had an Imagineer right beside you explaining all the little details, stories and design layouts of the park - which I guess you do! Other books in the series feature Epcot, the Animal Kingdom and Disneyland. Expected in April 2009 is the release for the book about Disney's Hollywood Studios. In this article I will attempt to spotlight just some of the tidbits found between the pages of this entertaining book about the Magic Kingdom.
Although the book roughly measures 7.5" x 4", this little pocket-sized paperback really packs a lot of information in there! Through the 9 sections, you will discover the history & lingo of the Imagineers, how the Magic Kingdom is a tribute to Walt and be totally submersed in the atmosphere of each area of the park: Main Street USA, Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, Mickey's Toontown Fair and Tomorrowland. The book shows you sketches, schematics, photos and more of the development stages of the different attractions...and that's what really sets this book apart from the others out there. Their attention to detail amazes me! Did you know that in Liberty Square, the shutters on the windows hang at an angle because in Colonial days the upper hinges usually were leather straps so the colonists could save metal? Since there was no real support of the shutter, they would sag to the side.
Have you ever walked down Main Street and looked up at the windows of the buildings? I know that this could be a daunting task given that you have your attention naturally drawn to the center of it all - Cinderella Castle, but make it a point next time you go to look up and notice the windows, particularly what they say. The windows tell the backgrounds of those special people who helped make the magic happen, from former Disney presidents to artists to show writers. The first window you come across can be seen from outside the park on the face of the train station and naturally, this window is dedicated to Walt Disney himself and shows his love for trains by calling him the "Chief Engineer". The last window, seen at the other end of Main Street over the Plaza Restaurant also gives a nod to Walt Disney with the words "Walt Disney, Master Classes in Design and Master Planning".
Moving over to Adventureland, the reader learns interesting facts about the classic Disney attraction of the Jungle Cruise. Did you know that the ride was based on the movie The African Queen and that early plans included the use of live animals? Since Walt determined that live exotic animals wouldn't be consistent throughout the day because of their sleep schedules and their unwillingness to stay in their own areas, animatronic animals would be used. Through the course of your 10-minute journey, you will travel through 4 rivers - the Amazon, the Congo, the Nile and the Mekong. Each of the 8 boats used have names that are based on these and other rivers from around the world.
Going west, we enter Frontierland. Looking around, you see various design elements that represent different items of American folklore from the years 1790-1880. If you look at the numbers on the buildings, you'll see the reference of the year to which time period it's set. Take in the landscaping - if you notice, it's less manicured than the rest of the park in to allow guests to have a more "rustic and natural" feel. The use of perspective is also used here (and all over the park) by having the taller plants closer to the guests and the smaller plants farther away.
The journey through the book will continue tomorrow as we explore Liberty Square, Fantasyland, Mickey's Toontown and Tomorrowland. I hope you'll join me!