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Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World

by David Koenig

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1306166,370 (3.83)1
Offers a look at the creation and operation of the world's most popular vacation destination, revealing how Walt Disney's City of Tomorrow evolved into a sprawling resort where, despite extraordinary efforts, everything doesn't always go according to plan.

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This one is ore background and the corporate side of Walt Disney World than the author's other books. It starts with before the parks even existed and Walt was looking for a place for a new theme park. It then goes on to explain in great detail the building of Magic Kingdom. The nightmare construction of Epcot. Briefly talks about Hollywood Studios and the rivalry with Universal. Slightly more detailed about Animal Kingdom. It's filled with information but not really a behind the scenes or sensational book about the parks. Good for what it is, but was not what I was expecting. ( )
  ChrisWeir | Jul 27, 2018 |
2 1/2 stars: I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed or no real interest

From the back cover: Realityland takes the first ever in depth unauthorized look at the creation and operation of the world's most popular vacation destination. Step backstage and witness:

-Walt's original plans for WDW, and how his dreams completely changed in the hands of his successors
-His undercover agents who secretly bought 44 square miles of swamp
-The chaotic construction and frantic first years of the Magic Kingdom
-The underground caverns that wind beneath the theme park
-Disney's unconventional, initially disastrous foray into operating its own hotels
-The behind the scenes machinations that led to EPCOT
-How safety and security are maintained on property, at all costs.
-The tumultuous change of leadership that turned the cherished "Ways of Walt" upside down


Yep. That description should have warned me--- that the book would be a lot of sensationalized story. It was. I had expected to have the humor of the "backstage stories" of Koenig's fabulous "Mouse Tales" regarding Disneyland. Instead, this was a straight nonfiction book about the building of WDW and Epcot. There were interesting parts to it, including the chaos to get to opening day and how Walt's passing in the infancy stages of building caused the project to change and the politics of getting FL politicians to secretly let him build there. Walt had envisioned EPCOT as being what later became "Celebration" -- and entire community / city on Disney property. (and as of this writing, has all been sold off and was unsuccessful).

I enjoyed parts of this book, but because I was expecting humor and small anecdotes, it wasn't what I particularly wanted at the time. I did read in preparation for a future WDW trip. ( )
  PokPok | Mar 3, 2018 |
This review has been flagged by multiple users as abuse of the terms of service and is no longer displayed (show).
  MightyLeaf | May 25, 2010 |
I really enjoyed reading this book because as a child, I visited Disney World many times and it became sort of a utopia in my mind. As I've continued visiting over the years, its imperfections have certainly come out and I continue to struggle with my youthful nostalgic memories and the fact that Disney World firstly, isn't as good these days, and secondly, is a huge multinational corporation that probably does more harm than good overall.

This book is a history of Disney World, and it doesn't sugar coat. That said, it's also not a nasty expose. It's honest and for that it's a great book. ( )
  lemontwist | Jan 31, 2010 |
Realityland fills a much needed void in the WDW literature--an unofficial look at the development and construction of Walt Disney World. The book follows the same formula as Koenig's Mouse Tales titles except a lot of space is devoted to the history and development of Walt Disney World (whereas Mouse Tales focuses mainly on anecdotes about Disneyland instead of the construction). It is obvious that Koenig spent a lot of time talking to cast members, executives and construction people from the early days. The first chapters are filled with anecdotes about the Preview Center, hiring the first cast members and the rigors of developing the property. This is one of the few un-official resources that effectively documents the construction of the Magic Kingdom, the TTC and the first resorts. Koenig offers an easy to read and compelling look at the overall development of the property. The stars of the book are the individual cast members that Koenig was able to interview. Koenig was fortunate enough to spend time with cast members from all areas of the company. He spoke to former executives that talked about the mishaps and happy accidents, cast members that talked about the early years of working at WDW and with locals about the political machinations that took place. Koenig presents an intriguing view of how Walt, Roy and Card Walker all dealt with the Florida project. There were a litany of undercover plans, political dealings, union issues and theft! As Koenig moves through the the timeline of the resort, he presents the major issues and milestones that each management needed to contend with, including: the fuel crisis of the 70's, the question of "Where's EPCOT" and the expense of EPCOT (leading to Card Walker's retirement) and the new management of Esiner/Wells. Like Mouse Tales, there were times when I laughed out loud and times when I wondered how they got it all done.

As with Koenig's other titles, he doesn't gloss over the negative side of Disney. He does cover the accidents that have happened over the years and one of the final chapters is devoted to Disney Security. I never felt that Koenig was out to get anyone--he was just trying to present a fairly unbiased look at Walt Disney World. One story that stands out is that he dispels the myth of George, the ill-fated worker that is rumored to have died during the construction of Pirates. He uses official records to show when the first actual death happened at WDW (I'll let you read the book to find out) and covers accidents, missteps and Disney/Reedy Creek policy. As I mentioned in my review of the Mouse Tales books, you might have to remove your rose-colored Mouse Ears while reading Realityland.

I would surmise that the lack of information and focus about the development of the property after the Eisner/Wells team took over is due to the author's one noticeable bias--he is not a fan of Eisner. Koenig almost vilifies Eisner when talking about the creation of the Disney-MGM Studios. A lot of the more recent developments are glossed over. The dearth of information about the most recent 15 years is the major drawback to the book.

When thinking about the history that Koenig plays out, I was able to place a lot of the people and events that I had read about in other sources--this time with much greater detail. I would hesitate to let this work stand as my only source on Walt Disney World: Since the World Began: Walt Disney World the First 25 Years; Disney: The First 100 Years and the History Channel Modern Marvels - Walt Disney World all help to create a solid history of Walt Disney World. This is a work that will be used by future generations to help further document the history of Walt Disney World. It is obvious by the Notes section, that Koenig did his research and left a great paper trail. Koenig spent a lot of time interviewing people and researching support documents through newspapers and magazines. It is very well researched.

Withstanding the last sections of the book, the first 200 pages alone are worth the price of the book. You will learn more about the development of the property and what it took to get the Walt Disney World Resort up and running. You will never disembark from the ferry or walk down the ramp from the monorail without thinking about how massive an undertaking Walt Disney World was after you read Realityland.

Bottom Line: For any WDW enthusiast, this is one of the few books to tackle the early history of Walt Disney World. Koenig does a fantastic job of telling the story and keeps you wanting to read more. The only shortcoming is the lack of depth in the sections on the development of the Disney-MGM Studios and the Animal Kingdom. You will walk away a deeper understanding of the Resort and a greater appreciation for everything that has been done. I enjoyed this book and I recommend it to all enthusiasts--no matter what your Disney Geek Level. ( )
  imaginerding | May 19, 2008 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
The most fascinating stuff is, of course, the disasters -- and Realityland has them all, the fatalities, robberies, scams, idiocies and diseases. They provide a juicy, gossipy backdrop for the rest of the book, enlivening it.
added by lampbane | editBoing Boing, Cory Doctorow (Dec 17, 2007)
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Offers a look at the creation and operation of the world's most popular vacation destination, revealing how Walt Disney's City of Tomorrow evolved into a sprawling resort where, despite extraordinary efforts, everything doesn't always go according to plan.

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