Disney's Land: Walt Disney and the Invention of the Amusement Park That Changed the World

Disney's Land: Walt Disney and the Invention of the Amusement Park That Changed the World

by Richard Snow

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A propulsive and “entertaining” (The Wall Street Journal) history chronicling the conception and creation of the iconic Disneyland theme park, as told like never before by popular historian Richard Snow.

One day in the early 1950s, Walt Disney stood looking over 240 acres of farmland in Anaheim, California, and imagined building a park where people “could live among Mickey Mouse and Snow White in a world still powered by steam and fire for a day or a week or (if the visitor is slightly mad) forever.” Despite his wealth and fame, exactly no one wanted Disney to build such a park. Not his brother Roy, who ran the company’s finances; not the bankers; and not his wife, Lillian. Amusement parks at that time, such as Coney Island, were a generally despised business, sagging and sordid remnants of bygone days. Disney was told that he would only be heading toward financial ruin.

But Walt persevered, initially financing the park against his own life insurance policy and later with sponsorship from ABC and the sale of thousands and thousands of Davy Crockett coonskin caps. Disney assembled a talented team of engineers, architects, artists, animators, landscapers, and even a retired admiral to transform his ideas into a soaring yet soothing wonderland of a park. The catch was that they had only a year and a day in which to build it.

On July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened its gates…and the first day was a disaster. Disney was nearly suicidal with grief that he had failed on a grand scale. But the curious masses kept coming, and the rest is entertainment history. Eight hundred million visitors have flocked to the park since then. In Disney’s Land, “Snow brings a historian’s eye and a child’s delight, not to mention superb writing, to the telling of this fascinating narrative” (Ken Burns) that “will entertain Disneyphiles and readers of popular American history” (Publishers Weekly).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501190827
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 12/03/2019
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 307,204
File size: 51 MB
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About the Author

Richard Snow spent nearly four decades at American Heritage magazine, serving as editor in chief for seventeen years, and has been a consultant on historical motion pictures, among them Glory, and has written for documentaries, including the Burns brothers’ Civil War, and Ric Burns’s award-winning PBS film Coney Island, whose screenplay he wrote. He is the author of multiple books, including, most recently, Disney’s Land.

Table of Contents

1 Sunday, July 17, 1955, 4 a.m. 1

2 How I Got to Disneyland 7

3 A Horrible Name for a Mouse 17

4 The Railroad Fair 25

5 The Lilly Belle 35

6 World's Fairs, Coney Island, and the Decline of the Amusement Park 45

7 Dwarf Land 53

8 Getting Started 59

9 Buzz and Woody 67

10 Orange County 73

11 Buying on the Sly 77

12 Roy 83

13 Like Nothing Else in the World 91

14 The Almost Broadcasting Company 95

15 Selling the Idea 103

16 Imagineering 113

17 The Admiral 119

18 The Instant Jungle 129

19 Arrow 135

20 Harriet and the Model Shop 141

21 Real Trains 147

22 King of the Wild Frontier 155

23 The Struggle for Sponsors 167

24 Van Arsdale France Founds a School 175

25 The Pony Farm 189

26 Demands of the Jungle Cruise 193

27 Milking the Elephant 199

28 Autopia 203

29 The Moonliner 211

30 Through the Castle Gate 215

31 The Perfectionist at Work 221

32 Ruth's Role 225

33 Union Troubles 231

34 "We're Not Going to Make It" 237

35 Tempus Fugit 249

36 Dateline: Disneyland 257

37 Dateline Behind the Cameras: Black Sunday 285

38 Damage Control 295

39 Something Worthwhile 309

40 Plussing 319

41 The Mountain and the Monorail 327

42 Disneyland '59 335

43 "Do You Have Rocket-Launching Pads There?" 341

44 Suing God in Heaven 345

45 A Perfect Fascist Regime 349

46 The Greatest Piece of Urban Design 353

47 The First Goodbye 359

48 Beautiful? 363

Afterword, and a Note on the Sources 373

Bibliography 379

Illustration Credits 387

Index 389

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