The Thinking Fan’s Guide to Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom

TFG72dpiAaron Wallace has put together a very interesting book that is a little hard to classify. It is part guide book, part Disney History, and part academic discussion to name a few of the many layers/pieces that make up the book. This is the first in what hopefully will be a series looking at the theme parks that make up Walt Disney World. This book is devoted solely to the Magic Kingdom. You are taken through the lands of the park starting with Adventureland and working around clockwise to Main Street. Within each land key attractions are highlighted and discussed in depth, in the Main Street section they also discuss a couple of the parades/shows.

This is not a comprehensive look at the park, but instead an in depth discussion of the attractions. First up for each attraction is the “guide” function, an overview that includes the type, duration, best time to visit, etc.. Then the description which includes an overview of the attraction, a look at the history of the attraction, the inspiration, and other affiliated threads of discussion. Then to wrap up the attraction a “Watch This” selection where the attraction is tied to a film of some sort to illustrate a point about it. These recommendations run the gambit from The Thief of Baghdad (1940) through Tron Legacy and in between reference Disney Classics, TV shows, as well as other theme park films even.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It offers a different way to look at the park and its attractions, not your traditional guidebook route. I was a curious going in to see what is consider a Thinking Fan’s guide… and as luck would have it they think us geeks think! I would recommend this to anyone wanting to learn a little about the key attractions in the park. The book is definitely not for those looking for basic ride descriptions, trip planning tips, dining information, etc.. in fact I would argue that the couple guide elements are really not needed and almost a distraction. I would have liked to have seen some additional facts/figures instead of when to visit, boarding speed, Fastpass. I thought the narrative can stand on its own and the traditional guide info was just noise.

An ongoing theme as you go through the book is the history of Disney themeparks. Many of the attractions, concepts, etc.. are explored through the lens of their Disneyland roots and ultimately Walt. Being a fan of Disney history I enjoyed learning about the connections and reason for them Aaron makes. You are given facts and figures, for example he traces the linage of the Astro Orbiter starting with the 1956 Disneyland Astro Jets, through the Tomorrowland Jets of 1964, the Rocket Jets of 1967, the Magic Kingdoms 1974 Star Jets to the current Astro Orbiter that opened in 1994 and the 1998 Disneyland Astro Orbitor. Noted along the way the different spelling between Orlando and Anaheim.

Also be sure to spend a few minutes checking out the footnotes. I found many of the observations, references there to be just as interesting as the main pieces of the book. I look forward to reading about the parks as those books are written/published.

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