Sunday, July 31, 2011

Book Review: Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: "Race to Death Valley"

Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: "Race to Death Valley" (Vol. 1) (Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse) by Floyd Gottfredson. 2011. 260 pp.

Every once in a while, a book comes along that is simply spectacular. This collection of comic strips by Floyd Gottfredson is a perfect example of how to present, analyze and reconstruct subject matter that is viewed differently today. The series editors (David Gerstein and Gary Groth) pull no punches in discussing why Mickey was carrying a gun or the use of slang that is noticeably offensive by today's standards. This is a wonderful vehicle for presenting historically accurate art. Other companies should take notice.

Mickey Mouse is a global icon.

It is really hard to imagine a time when the Mouse didn't pervade every media outlet. When these comics were produced, it was Mickey's first foray into the lucrative comic pages of the day. The editors recount the story of how the strip came to life through research vignettes that are carefully peppered between the serials. The first three months worth of strips were written by Walt Disney and drawn by Ub Iwerks. Win Smith handled it for a few weeks before Gottfredson was brought in on a temporary basis. Gottfredson ended up at the helm of the strip for the next 45 years.

Floyd Norman's article about Mickey Mouse.
Two-page spread from "Race to Death Valley"
There are fourteen serials presented in the book covering January 13, 1930 to January 9, 1932. The editors went to extreme lengths to secure the strips. Often, they had to borrow panels from collectors when Disney's masters had been damaged. The strips have been reproduced in a brilliant fidelity; the artwork and lettering stands fresh. Some of the antics may seem silly or overtly simple, but you have to remember the restrictions that a four-panel comic presents. The first panel needed to "catch up" the reader while the last panel needed to offer a reason to read it the next day. Gottfredson quickly became the master of the medium.

The supplemental material provided by the editors would shine on its own. Historical context is provided that explains the quirks of the characters as seen through modern eyes. Yes, there are times when Mickey carries a weapon or when certain ethnicities might be overly generalized, but you have to appreciate the comics as they were presented.

It's not all black and white!
The last 60 pages of the book are dedicated to essays and archival features. Included are the first three months of the strip before Gottfredson took over. The editors offer essays about the artists that assisted Gottfredson and how the characters existed inside the world of the comics.

This is a stunning work. The historical presentation is flawless, as is the artwork. We meet a Mickey Mouse that very few of us experienced. When Gottfredson was penning the stories, he wasn't bound to the same code that the animators found themselves having to adhere to. As Mickey evolved on screen to become the charming every-man, the comics offered a Mickey that was more aligned with the earliest shorts. He was more of a good-natured rascal who was always looking for the best in people and in situations.

This is a must-have for Mickey fans, comic fans and anyone else with an interest in the early years of the Disney Company. You will garner a greater appreciation for Mouse and how he developed across different media. You will also get to see Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, Kat Nipp and Butch in more of a starring role. Pick up a copy; you won't be sorry.

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My Disney Library: Around the World With Disney

Around the World with Disney by Kevin Markey. 2005. 176 pp.

An official publication created to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Disneyland, Around the World With Disney takes us around the world of Disney theme parks. This book is full of photos that will surprise you; it is not the usual Disney PR material.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Geek-End Update: Disney Links and More

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Original Disney Posters at Auction

Brother, can you spare a dime (or two)?
Click the image for a large version.
A representative of the Swann Galleries sent this image and info:
Are you a Disney enthusiast? 
While Disney collectibles are easy to find, original vintage posters are harder to come by, especially those in excellent condition. 
On August 3rd, Swann Auction Galleries’ will host a Vintage Poster Sale. 
Included at this Vintage Poster Sale, will be a Walt Disney Productions poster. This 1939 original work, titled Standard Gasoline, Unsurpassed, depicts Mickey and Minnie Mouse driving in an automobile. Mickey Mouse is widely known as the symbol of Disney and in this rare piece, we see Mickey being used as a spokesperson for gasoline. The value of this poster is estimated between $3,000 and $4,000.

104 East 25th Street
New York, New York 10010
Tel. 212-254-4710
Fax. 212-979-1017

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

D23 Magazine Celebrates Walt Disney World

I am not one for regurgitating press releases, but I am glad to see the Company acknowledge the history of the Florida property.

There have been conflicting rumors about what Disney is going to do on October 1 to celebrate the opening of the Magic Kingdom. Early on, the rumors persisted that the D23 Destination D Celebration of 40 years of Walt Disney World that was held in May was going to be the only celebration.

You can read my review of the event, here.


Commemorating 40 Years of Walt Disney World


Special Issue Includes
The Story of How Walt’s Dream Destination Became a Reality
A Rare Glimpse into the Magic Kingdom’s Underground Labyrinth
A Peek Back at Early Attractions
Plus an Exhilarating Hint of the Park’s Future

BURBANK, Calif. – July 26, 2011 – The special fall issue of Disney twenty-three magazine, on stands August 2, is dedicated entirely to the 40th anniversary of Walt Disney World.

Readers are offered a look at how the resort was created, including revealing details behind the mysterious operation to acquire the vast expanse of Florida land needed to build Walt’s “vacation kingdom of the world.” With its nostalgic look back at attractions that have vanished but remain in the hearts of multiple generations, this commemorative issue also takes readers on an exclusive visit to the Magic Kingdom’s underground “city.” Readers are privy to a host of little-known facts that contribute to Walt Disney World’s remarkable history and give the Florida theme park its unique identity. An illuminating all-encompassing interview with Imagineering dynamo Eric Jacobson rounds out the issue as he tours the Magic Kingdom with Disney twenty-three, pointing out some of his park favorites and giving readers a preview of the new, expanded Fantasyland.

In addition to the look back at the excitement leading up to the spectacular opening of the Walt Disney World Resort in October 1971, Disney twenty-three’s fall issue includes an intimate, never-before-told portrait of Walt’s brother Roy, by his grandson Roy P. Disney. Roy O. was the executive responsible for making sure that the park opened on time… and on budget.

And there’s more in the autumn issue of Disney twenty-three:

·        WE SAY IT’S DISNEY!: Bob Foster played a key role in the acquisition of the land that would become Walt Disney World. With Bob’s insights and recollections, Disney archivist Steven Vagnini takes us back to the twinkle in Walt’s eye that eventually became a reality.
·        REMEMBERING 1971: Disney twenty-three relives the historic events leading up to that unforgettable day in October when Walt Disney World welcomed its first guests.
·        MAKIN’ MEMORIES: From The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter to Kitchen Kabaret, the Magic Kingdom and Epcot have been home to countless attractions that left guests with the warm fuzzies. Here are some of Disney twenty-three’s all-time favorites.
·        IN A CLASS BY HERSELF: Readers are welcomed aboard Empress Lilly, the Disney Village Marketplace riverboat that served up culinary delights from 1977 to 1995. Readers are even given the exclusive secret recipe for the Chicken Crepes Lilly that became so popular on the floating attraction. 
·        40 THINGS (YOU JUST MIGHT NOT KNOW!) ABOUT WALT DISNEY WORLD: Even the most avid Disney fan might be surprised by the trivia uncovered about Walt Disney World in this feature. The parks are filled with vibrant history and little-known gems.
·        AND MUCH MORE!

To become a D23 Member, and learn more about membership and the fall issue of Disney twenty-three, visit

Beginning August 2, Disney twenty-three is available at select retail locations for $15.95.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Book Review: Murder in the Magic Kingdom by Foreman Heard

Murder in the Magic Kingdomby Foreman Heard. 2008. Fiction.

I received a copy of the book in the mail in April of 2009. I don't remember an author's solicitation, but I am assuming that he sent it to me. Based on the blurb on the back, the title sounded intriguing, but I always had something else that showed up on my To Read shelf, first. After reading the Kingdom Keepers series, I decided to give the book a try. The track record for fiction based in a Disney theme park is not very good. My biggest complaint about the Kingdom Keepers and Dream Factory is that the authors sacrifice the geography and the "facts" about the parks to better integrate their stories.

Here is the blurb from the back cover:
Security guard Mark Adams on early morning rounds discovers a body floating in the moat of the castle at the "Happiest Theme Park On Earth." The police believe it is an accident, but Mark follows the suspicious behavior several company employees, and discovers a connection to a major crime figure. His investigation provides him with information that could change his life forever.

Immediately, we are privy to a murder that takes place in the Magic Kingdom during the final parade of the evening in mid-August, 1990. The next day, Mark Adams begins another day at the Magic Kingdom and as he makes his rounds, he discovers the body floating in the moat. So begins an intriguing crime-drama set in the environs of the Magic Kingdom and Greater Orlando. As Mark begins an investigation of the murder, outside of the Police involvement, we run into characters that populate different areas in the Magic Kingdom and the Polynesian. One of the more interesting minor characters presented is Dick Davies, whom I assume is a thinly-veiled Dick Nunis. It is one of the nice touches that Foreman is able to add due to his experience living near Walt Disney World.

The tale unfolds and we are taken on a page-turning journey. A drug lord that has managed to infiltrate the Walt Disney World warehouse system and we see how the characters are forced into decisions that don't sit well with them, but there seem to be few options. Several castmembers are pulled into the situation, which leads to the murder. Foreman does a good job with the pacing and the dialog. The characters never seem stiff and it is easy to keep up with conversations based on tone and style.

Throughout the book, Foreman alludes to another part of Walt Disney World that harbors a larger mystery. Fruition occurs at the end of the book. I'm sure you've heard the rumor about Walt Disney being frozen, right? Well, a little bit of fantasy never hurt anyone. In this case, you have a satisfying read that will keep you second-guessing the characters and turning the page to see what happens next.

I enjoyed the book and I think most fans of Walt Disney World from the late 1980s will get a kick out of the references. It is a quick read and will make a great companion at your favorite beach. I urge you to take a chance! Foreman hasn't written the Great American Novel, but he spent some time doing something that he loves and it shows.

A Little About the Author:
Foreman first visited WDW the day after Thanksgiving 1971, the first day the park was closed because of capacity.
Traffic was backed up on the 2 lane I-4 from just past the (now) Sea World curve all the way to the Magic Kingdom parking lot. Took about an hour. Still got into the park about 9:30. Over the years I have been to the parks hundreds of times. My wife worked for the Disney company for 34 years, so I had a spouses Main Gate Pass which gave me free access, until she was laid off in 2009. I really feel for people that have to pay to get in.
His real job is Real Estate Title Examiner for the nations largest title underwriter. As far as hobbies: Community Theatre, writing, trains and collecting photos with Disney characters (250+ so far). Foremen is married with a grown-up daughter living in North Carolina. He lives in Sanford, FL, (the Southern end of the Auto-Train) and he is currently trying to sell his 125 year-old house so he doesn't have to cut the grass anymore. The top of his bucket list? Drive one of the WDW Steam Railroad Locomotives around the Park.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Theme Parkeology: Universe of Energy 1985!

According to, the term vintage, when used as an adjective, means "lasting interest and importance; venerable; classic." So, when does something become vintage? In the life of a theme park (beginning with Santa Claus Land in 1946), what constitutes vintage? 15 or 20 years? Or when an attraction or area has gone through several iterations and is recognizably different.

Suffice it to say, the image above, from summer 1985, can be considered vintage EPCOT Center.

Let's take a closer look at the photograph for some of the finer details. Right way, you notice the old-style Universe of Energy sign with the Exxon sponsorship. The sign was changed in 2001 to reflect the merger of the sponsor ExxonMobil. In 2004, the sponsorship ended. The retaining wall around the sign was also painted a deep blue during the 1996 refurbishment and conversion to Ellen's Energy Adventure.

This is a good angle of the show building because you can see the original paint scheme which was changed to a rainbow patter from 1996-2009. The current paint scheme is more reminiscent of the original version.

Check out all of those strollers!
This is a great shot of all of the strollers from the early days of EPCOT CENTER. Especially since you can see that the seat lowers. This is to allow the child to sleep or as a quick escape route for the kids when they realized that there are no characters at EPCOT Center! Notice the hanging tags on the handle bars? Could it be a rash of Minnie Pearl's grandkids? More likely it is the rental slip or name tag for the family.

Our next stop is to the right of the building next to the entrance. (Sometime after the refurbishment, the entrance was moved to the other side.) Notice the box-shaped trees and how they reflect the outline of the pavilion? Notice the funny spot above the last tree? Proof that aliens exist! And they visited EPCOT Center. I bet they loved Horizon!

Here is a shot of the queue from an earlier post.

October 2011 marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. The Vacation Kingdom has seen a lot of changes over the past four decades and the editorial staff at Imaginerding wants to celebrate the unique and rich history of the resort with a series of posts

A very special thanks to Celeste Cronrath for designing the series of logos for our posts. Make sure to follow her on Twitter

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Geek-End Update: Disney Links and More!

Make sure to check out Foxxfur's post about the Jungle Cruise. It is astounding!
  • Board room
    It has been way too long since I visited Typhoon Lagoon! Thanks for the detailed post, Ryan!
  • Harvard Business Review of Bob Iger
    J. Jeff Kober points us to an interview with Bob Iger. Make sure to listen to the audio stream.
  • Hide and Seek in Tokyo
    Fee shares some images of the building and the FastPass queue (!) for the Monsters Inc Ride and Go Seek.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Disney Library

I write about books quite a bit. Not only are books my day job, but I have had an underlying passion for the printed word for my entire life. Starting with my first book purchased at Walt Disney World in 1994, I have been collecting any Disney-related books. At first, it was theme park material exclusively. When I started researching the people behind the parks, I found a rich tapestry of animation, film making and Disney Company history. Then my wife caught the bug and has spent a lot of time and effort acquiring some of the incredibly rare and valuable titles.

Shelf one of my theme park-related titles.
Shelf two of my theme park-related titles.
Shelf three of my theme park-related titles.
Shelf four of my theme park-related titles. Notice that they are mostly guide books.
This shelf starts the "rest of the collection." It includes books about the animation, biographies, company, film and social commentary. Shelf one of my general Disney books.
Shelf two of my general Disney books. It includes several scrapbooking-style notebooks that hold ephemera.
Shelf three of my general Disney books. Mostly notebooks containing ephemera: maps, napkins, magazines, brochures and many other items that defy classification. I have many years of the Disney Magazine and a complete run of The E-Ticket.
Shelf four of my general Disney books.
Shelf five of my general Disney books.
Shelf six of my general Disney books.
Shelf seven of my general Disney books.
Shelf eight of my general Disney books.
Well, there you have it: twelve shelves dedicated to Disney. As of this posting, I have 452 titles in my collection. There are some duplicates, mind you. I do have a shelf of duplicate titles, which accounts for 49 of the total count. I don't usually post self-aggrandizing articles, but I get a lot of questions about my collection and how it is organized. The books are in strict alphabetical order by the title on the spine (discounting A, AN and THE, of course). I chose to organize them into two sections: theme parks and everything else! Otherwise, it would be difficult to create distinctions between some subject headings and others.

A special thanks to my dad for helping me build the shelves. Actually, all I did was hold the lumber and handed him the necessary tools.
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