Walt Disney World Hidden History – Book Review

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Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions and Other Tributes,

2nd edition by Kevin Yee

By Alice McNutt Miller

If your family is anything like mine, when you arrive at one of the parks at Walt Disney World, say the Magic Kingdom, you sprint down Main Street USA toward whichever attraction for which you have your first FastPass+, without looking up, down, or around you. You miss the little details. A LOT of little details: references to Disney films and former attractions; tributes to Imagineers and prominent Disney personalities; and many other hidden gems. What you really need is a guidebook to show you where to look.

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Keven Yee has just released the 2nd Edition of Walt Disney World Hidden History, a comprehensive update of the 1st edition of the book, reflecting the myriad changes in the parks since its original publication in 2011 (See Review) .

This edition includes over 150 new and updated references, and tons of color photos. The format of the new book is the same as in the first edition, taking the reader on a virtual tour of each of the parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom) starting with the entrances, and moving through each of the “lands.” There is also a “General Walt Disney World” chapter that includes references found throughout the resort, including in the water parks, resort hotels, Downtown Disney. Yee also throws in a bonus chapter on “History at Universal Studios Florida” and includes helpful lists of current and former attractions and of the individuals honored in the Main Street USA windows in the Magic Kingdom, as well as a comprehensive index.

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New inclusions of note include those devoted to references in the Backstage Magic with Mickey Mouse, Storybook Circus and other New Fantasyland areas. After reading Yee’s book, I think Disney history buffs who have not yet taken in the sights in Backstage Magic with Mickey Mouse (including me!) would be well advised to do so. This area is full of subtle and not-so-subtle references, including tributes to famous (animators Wilfred Jackson, Fred Moore and Ward Kimball) and not-so-famous (marketing executive Scott Tilley) Disney personages, and installations celebrating Disney parks and attractions throughout the world.

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The New Fantasyland section sheds light on some of the newer references that park-goers may have certainly noticed, but not understood. Whose portrait is that hanging prominently in the back of the Bonjour Village Gifts? Why Magic Kingdom Vice President Phil Holmes, of course! Next time you are in the gift shop, take a closer look: “Numerous winks in the painting pay tribute to changes during his tenure: a ring with ’40’ stamped on it (the 40th anniversary of the park in 2011), Aladdin’s lamp (the addition of Magic Carpets of Aladdin), Snow White’s apple (the closure of Snow White’s Scary Adventures), peanuts (for the addition of Storybook Circus), bronze statue of Donald Duck (the trinket given to Cast Members when they pass 40 years of service), and a map of the Magic Kingdom showing Mickey’s Toontown Fair (the first land to close).

While I very much enjoyed the updated edition of the book, I still wish that it were organized in a more user-friendly way. Other than separate chapters for each park, , and without sub-headings for the various park locations, the topic headings are rather random, referring alternately to attractions, names of Imagineers, dates and other unrelated items. The best way to make sense of the flow would be to read the book, in order and with a park map next to you, as the references will take you on a relatively linear tour of the parks.

The book has been painstakingly researched, however, and color photos enhance the presentation. I’m not sure Yee has missed any references, as he seems to have scoured every inch of the parks for them. Readers-serious Disney history buffs and casual park visitors alike-will certainly find something to enjoy. And something to search for on their next visit!

Disclosure: The author provided a complimentary review copy, however my opinions are my own. The above link to the book is via the AllEars Amazon affiliate store.

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