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Walt Disney's Imagineering Legends and…

Walt Disney's Imagineering Legends and the Genesis of the Disney… (2008)

by Jeff Kurtti

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Every book about Disneyland - about its history, about how it was built, about how it became what it is today - has to contend with the fact that it will be evaluated by readers who have widely divergent interest in the parks. The first is the casual read – the individual who may pick up the book as a souvenir of the park or just see it in a bookstore and think it is pretty. The next is the one who has an interest in the parks – has discovered there is a history and is just beginning to explore it. The final is the Disneyland geek – the type that can bore you to tears as you go through Disneyland explaining each excruciating iota of useless information. (I fall in that last group).

This book does almost as good a job as any in fulfilling the needs of each of these readers. The book is about the Imagineers who helped Walt build Disneyland. (If you don’t know, Imagineers represent the combination of imagination and engineering that allow Disney to do just about anything it wants.) For the person who is new to Disneyland’s history (or just the casual reader), it is an excellent introduction about the men who made the land we love to visit. However, there is a good chance the detail is going to be just a little too “wonky” and will turn the newbies off. However, for the rest of us, from those of us who are just learning to enjoy the history to the full-fledge geek, there are treasures within. For any big fan of Disneyland, this is a veritable roll-call of the great we have all come to know. Many of the stories have been told before, but there are new ones – revelations we may not have heard elsewhere. In addition, any good book on Disneyland history has pictures and, while there may not be many that are earth-shatteringly new, there are some good ones in here.

Two things keep this from being the perfect book. The first is very picky, but I couldn’t figure out the numbering system used for footnotes and I found it distracting. The second is a more important issue. With each Imagineer there is a description of his or her upbringing, about their previous jobs, and how he or she got involved in Disneyland. Then it takes strange turn by focusing on how the person worked with Walt, and how Walt helped make Disneyland what it is. It is as if the focus of the mini-biographies changes from the Imagineer to Walt himself. Finally, the book goes back to describing “Where are they now?” I know this helps tell the stories better, and it is meant to satisfy those who want to hear the Walt stories, but because it happens again and again it becomes too transparent and becomes a bit of a distraction.

However, there is a great deal of great detail in this book. And almost anyone will find some tidbit they never realized before. And all of it told in a nice-enough manner that, even if you already know it all, it is still fun to read it again. ( )
  figre | Jan 11, 2009 |
This has been an eagerly anticipated book in the Disney community. Since their inception with the creation of Disneyland, the Imagineers have always been the architects and dreamers of Walt's visions. Many of the names that you read about in the book will be familiar to Disney enthusiasts; as the name of the book implies, these are the legends of Disney Imagineering.

Jeff Kurtti is a well-known and much-admired name in the Disney community. He has written many seminal works on the history of the theme parks, animated films, characters and theater. Since The World Began is one of his more treasured books. Jeff is also known for his work on several award-winning documentaries and as a consultant for film and theater. Currently, he is working with the Walt Disney Family Museum. The late Bruce Gordon served as editor on the project and his talents are seen throughout the book through the layout and design. Bruce was the author of The Nickel Tour, Walt's Time and The Art of Disneyland (with Jeff).

In an interview with Didier Ghez, Jeff talks about the motivation behind the book:

The inspiration for Walt Disney's Imagineering Legends was John Canemaker's Walt Disney's Nine Old Men. I say inspiration, since my book comes nowhere near the depth and erudition of John's great work, but the inspiration was to create a work that would familiarize people with the core team of creative people within the initial development of Disneyland.

The animation group, as a rule, is more familiar to people, and the Imagineering group is less well-known, the history of how they came together is much less documented. It's very important for new generations of fans to get a proper introduction to this information, it's important for the Company to preserve a record that illuminates and contextualizes key periods of its history.

I am not sure I could have said it better myself. In looking at a group as large and nebulous as the Imagineers, it is obvious that any work on them could not be inclusive. Many people have iterated their complaints about the lack of certain key members, but that is to be expected. Jeff has already stated that he hopes to create a second volume.

Imagineering Legends is able to meld several key ideas into one book: an introduction to 30 of the most famous and key Imagineers; an insightful look into the creation of the theme parks; and a journey through a history of Imagineering. There has not been another work published on this scale or within the same pages. Each of the Imagineers chronicled is presented within their holistic context. The classifications are well-reflected and well-thought. Jeff bestows the following categories: the Prototype Imagineers; the Place Makers; the Story Department; the Model Shop; the Machine Shop; the Music Makers and the Unofficial Imagineers. Special places are reserved for Walt Disney and John Hench.

Most of this information can be found in other sources, such as The E-Ticket, Walt Disney Imagineering, The Art of Disneyland, Disneyland: The First Quarter Century, The Nickel Tour and Disneyland: Inside Story. But Imagineering Legends is the only place you will find all of this information. That is the true brilliance of the book. Jeff presents a seamless and well-organized view into the Imagineers and the creation of Disney theme parks.

Bruce Gordon did an amazing job with the layout of Imagineering Legends. There are new photographs and concept art throughout the book. The layout is very contemporary and very appealing; you never feel lost in columns of text (although, Jeff is a great writer). My only issue with the layout is that some of the artwork and photographs are spread across two pages. Sometimes, it is difficult to get a good view of the artwork.

Bottom Line: This work is for everyone. Jeff has created a book that lays a solid foundation of knowledge for Disney enthusiasts of all levels. Whether you are new to the Imagineers or a seasoned researcher, this compilation solidly portrays Imagineering and their importance within the Disney Company. This book will be within constant reach on my bookshelf for many years. It will also be an essential addition to every enthusiast's library. Future Disney researchers will be thanking Jeff for years to come. You need to own this book. ( )
  biblioadonis | Nov 7, 2008 |
A lot of great information about the people who were primarily responsible for the creation of Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Each one of them had a particular talent to offer, and Walt took their talents and orchestrated them in a way that only he could. ( )
  5hrdrive | Sep 14, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0786855592, Hardcover)

Fifty years ago, Walt Disney utterly transformed the concept of outdoor entertainment venues from tawdry carnivals and seedy amusement piers called “amusement parks,” to an entirely new destination that would come into common vernacular as the “theme park.”

Although Disneyland was the inspiration of one man, Walt did not achieve this history-altering concept on his own. Using his innate talent for combining disparate skills and personalities, he assembled a creative team that blended imagination with engineering. Walt called this group his “Imagineers.”

Walt Disney’s Legends of Imagineering and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park introduces a core group of the originators of Disneyland and the other Disney parks. It explores their individual relationships with Walt and each other, their creative breakthroughs and failures, and their rivalries and professional politics. This candid narrative of their lives and contributions to a very special form of entertainment illustrates why, half a century later, their work continues to be vital and important to millions of people every day, and all over the world.

Lavishly illustrated throughout with rare and never-before-seen artwork and photographs, Walt Disney’s Legends of Imagineering and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park will further enrich the reader’s appreciation of the exceptional talent behind Disneyland’s creation and ongoing evolution.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:45 -0400)

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