Some of My Favorite Books About Disney

13 Mar

Not long ago, George from Imaginerding shared his favorite Disney books with Lou Mongello, on the WDW Radio Show podcast. Now, since George is in fact a librarian, my knowledge is nowhere near as comprehensive! But he’s inspired me to share a few favorites of my own. And, being the quirky gal that I am, some of these might be a bit off the beaten path.

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, by Cory Doctorow. I’ve mentioned this here before, and I’ve just gotta keep singing its praises. I’ve re-read it recently, and it’s truly speculative fiction, exploring questions of how life and relationships would change based on specific imagined technological advances, as well as imagining one vision of theme parks of the future (and no, it doesn’t look anything like Tomorrowland of 1982, as much as we’d all love to go back there). And yes, it’s set in the heart of the Magic Kingdom, and heavily informed by Doctorow’s understanding of the rift between Disney traditionalists and the forces of change. Need convincing? You can page through bits of it on Google Books.

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa. This is, of course, a standard text for Disney fans, but it’s really the only guide book I need. And not only is it a comprehensive guide, with touring plans, but also has the occasional irreverent twist. Older editions (2006 I think?) even had a reference to Pal Mickey getting stoned . . . but that’s now been replaced with a reference to the regulatory power of prunes. I guess Pal Mickey’s aging, just like the rest of us (not that I’m bitter about that or anything).

Rethinking Disney: Private Control, Public Dimensions, edited by Mike Budd, and Max H. Kirsch. Don’t even think about picking up this book if you prefer your Kool-Aid fully loaded. It is a scholarly collection of critical essays about the Walt Disney Corporation, which their web page describes as follows:

In recent years, the Walt Disney Company has grown far beyond its beginnings in animated films and theme parks to become a major multinational corporation with global reach. As the company’s activities have grown more complex and its influence more ubiquitous, both its internal practices and its attempts to control its now global public environment have generated conflicts that contradict the classic Disney publicity image. The 11 wide-ranging, interdisciplinary essays in this collection cover topics including Animal Kingdom; Gay Days at the theme parks; Disney’s connection to sweatshops; commodification of The Lion King on Broadway; the transformation of Winnie the Pooh; Disney’s experience in urban planning in Times Square and Celebration, Florida; and Disney’s America. A comprehensive introduction contextualizes the essays and relates them to earlier Disney studies.

The essay on Gay Days was particularly of interest to me . . . go figure! It’s a really good read, perhaps especially for those who’ve watched the annual hoopla on the message boards when (mostly) straight people are trying to have reasonably conversations on whether this should affect travel planning . . . and often fail at staying reasonable.

And finally, one that I’ll confess I’m still working my way through: Married to the Mouse: Walt Disney World and Orlando, by Richard E. Foglesong. This one’s not really beach reading either, though I did take it to the beach one day last month! It’s the story of Walt Disney World’s relationships with the counties it inhabits, written more from an urban planning perspective than a parks history.

Maybe once I finish Married to the Mouse I might be ready to try to take on that Gabler book again . . . or Disney War . . . both of those are also good books, but I must confess I keep putting the Gabler book down every few chapters, and all my attempts to read Disney War have resulted in a good long nap. I’ve also got Team Rodent: How Disney devours the world, by Carl Hiassen, checked out of the library; it’s a nice skinny little book, so maybe that’ll win

8 Responses to “Some of My Favorite Books About Disney”

  1. Biblioadonis aka George March 14, 2008 at 12:52 pm #

    Great list of books. I don’t have Cory’s book, yet (shhh…don’t tell him).

    It is good to see that there are books coming out that tackle important issues, like Rethinking the Mouse. I enjoy both perspectives–I just don’t want to read works that are flagrant in their dislike of Disney.

  2. FoxxFur March 14, 2008 at 2:39 pm #

    Team Rodent is a pretty absurd hysterical hatchet job on Disney trying to make them out to be evil incarnate – it’d be interesting if it weren’t so badly written and researched. To give you an idea of the quality of journalism presented in Team Rodent, he claims that that rhino who died at Animal Kingdom prior to opening died because Disney had sodomized the animal with a stick!

  3. Jennifer March 14, 2008 at 3:19 pm #

    Oooh . . . now I’m even more curious to read Team Rodent. I’m obviously a big fan of Disney myself, but I’m always fascinated to read diametrically opposed viewpoints.

  4. FoxxFur March 15, 2008 at 1:59 am #

    I’m all for a good hatchet job, but not if nobody can be bothered to write a good one! Heck, I could write a better book on how Disney is terrible.

  5. Jennifer March 15, 2008 at 1:29 pm #

    Man, I really am the curmudgeonly type . . . the more you say, the more I know I need to read this! Especially since Hiassen has a long track record in journalism. He’s also got a dog in this race of course, being a Floridian who doesn’t like the changes Disney wrought on his home state. I’ll need to give this a careful read.

  6. Jeff W March 15, 2008 at 5:40 pm #

    I came across Disney War back in the “Save Disney” days of Roy Disney and Michael Eisner. What I found most interesting as the book progressed was how cross connected the entertainment industry truly is. And reading about the shows Eisner passed on for ABC like Survivor and CSI again interesting to learn.

    I too, started Gablers book. But it did not keep my interest like I thought it would. I first heard about his book on the Magical Definition Podcast. Nathen played a great speech that Neil had given at a convention. I think it was NFFC. Could be wrong though. I may pick it up again from the library at a later date.

  7. FoxxFur March 16, 2008 at 1:28 am #

    Well certainly I recommend reading Team Rodent… far too much of Disney literature leaves me gagging on pixie dust or feeling like I’m reading a shopping list… I’m just trying to convey to you to please don’t look forward to anything that’s especially good or interesting. It’s just mean spirited and poorly done.

  8. biblioadonis aka George March 18, 2008 at 2:32 pm #

    I have had Team Rodent for so long and I have yet to break the spine, so to speak.

    Jeff W–get Michael Barrier’s The Animated Man. It is sooooo much better than Gabler’s. Neither goes into as much depth about the theme parks, but Barrier is more positive and focuses on the work of the Company instead of the “negative aspects” of Walt’s life like Gabler.

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