The Disneyland Encyclopedia: The Unofficial, Unauthorized, and Unprecedented History of Every Land, Attraction, Restaurant, Shop, and Event in the Original Magic Kingdom, by Chris Strodder
A brand new book, forty years in the making! Forty years is about the span of time between when the author first visited Disneyland and The Disneyland Encyclopedia was published. Although I'm not a big fan of Disneyland or Walt Disney World, this new book by Chris Strodder is truly excellent. It provided me with a way to grasp the unique creativity of the Disney operation and gain some in-depth appreciation for the company's wizardry.
This is actually the third Disney-related book I have reviewed in the last five years. The first was Louis Mongello's, The Walt Disney World Trivia Book in 2004 and Walt Disney World for your Special Needs in 2005. All three of these books are "unofficial guides," titles that were not sponsored or blessed by the Disney corporation. (Interestingly, "unauthorized" guides outnumber those produced by Disney.)
Author Chris Strodder is a longtime fan of the original Disneyland, but what sets his work apart from other books on the subject is his scholarly approach to documenting the evolution of the park since its first days of operation in 1955. From the start, the park had a powerful magnetic effect on people. According to the author, over half a billion guests have visited the Magic Kingdom over the last fifty-three years. That is an average of over 30,000 people a day, and there have been several days where the attendance exceeded 80,000 visitors. Very few human-built attractions in the world can match this record.
Reading the book is a trip through time. While the entries are listed alphabetically, each one includes a time line of the attraction or person being described, a map location (if appropriate) and a historical overview. Beautifully drawn maps show the location of the ten main sections or "kingdoms:" Town Square, Main Street, Plaza, Adventureland, New Orleans Square, Frontierland, Bear Country, Fantasyland, Mickey's Toontown, and Tomorrowland. The maps really enhance the text.
In addition to the A-to-Z listings, the author has included nearly fifty sidebars that are chock full of fascinating Disneyland trivia. One of these tables lists ten of the known "Hidden Mickeys." "Hidden Mickeys" are three-circle designs reminiscent of Mickey Mouse's head and ears that appear as subtle design elements throughout the park. Another sidebar lists ten attractions that were long lived but ultimately closed. The longest-surviving of these was the Circarama/Circle-Vision theater, which was in use for 42 years (1955 to 1997).
Even though I still claim I'm not a fan of Disneyland, reading this book made me smile, and -- okay, I'll admit it -- even chuckle. So many descriptions dredged up barely-remembered memories of my own childhood visits to the park that I was unable to stop turning the pages. If I was Grumpy when I started reading The Disneyland Encyclopedia, I was undeniably Happy well before the end. This wonderful guided tour through the history of one of America's most visited family destinations is also a well-researched look at half a century of popular culture.