Book Review: ‘Walt’s Disneyland: A Walk in the Park with Walt Disney’

Walt’s Disneyland: A Walk in the Park with Walt Disney
Authors:  Marcy Carriker Smothers
Paperback, 192 pages, Disney Editions, List Price: $15.99

[An advance copy of this book was provided by Disney for review purposes without restriction on thoughts or opinions.]

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows coins a term, anemoia, to mean “nostalgia for a time you’ve never known.”  One good way to experience that, assuming you weren’t lucky enough to go to Disneyland during 1955-1966, is to read Marcy Carriker Smother’s new book Walt’s Disneyland:  A Walk in the Park with Walt Disney.

Structured as if you were walking into Disneyland from outside, up Main Street, to the Hub, and then taking a left into Adventureland and making your way clockwise to Tomorrowland, Walt’s Disneyland spends a chapter on each successive area, sharing quotes and anecdotes and memories about and from Walt and the people who worked and walked on Disneyland with him.  Temporally, it begins with Imagineer Herb Ryman’s recollections of Walt asking him to draw the original map of Disneyland, and ends with one of Walt’s last days in the park, hosting Congressional medal of Honor recipients.

Herb Ryman’s first map of Disneyland, as seen in the 2012 “Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives” exhibit.

A change from a lot of the recent Disney history books, this one is much smaller and lighter than the big coffee table tome that you might expect.  Because it is laid out in such a geographic manner, it would be an easy matter to take the book with you to the park and read the stories about each attraction as you come up to it, maybe comparing the many great-looking photos from the 1950s and 60s to the park’s current-day appearance.

The Mark Twain at Disneyland, taken on Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary.

The writing style is clear and familiar–there isn’t a great deal of interstitial material to clutter up the various anecdotes arranged loosely by attraction or landmark in each land.  As is appropriate, only those things that were present and worked on in Walt’s lifespan are discussed and mostly in his own words.  Most of it was fairly familiar to me, but that’s probably because of all the books and presentations I’ve seen on Walt Disney, it’s really the personal stories from them that have stuck in my memory.  This isn’t a scholarly reference with dates and lists of patents, but an affectionate window into the enthusiasm and strength of vision Walt had for the park.  It is an avuncular book that, like the Walt Disney Family Museum, does its best to present Walt Disney as a human being rather than a trademark, who incredibly managed to build something no one had ever even dreamed of before, out of imagination, confidence, and an uncanny sense of what would work.

The Enchanted Tiki Room, 2021

Walt’s Disneyland: A Walk in the Park with Walt Disney is a book that feels like a lot of heart went into it.  From the many gorgeous large photos that depict the charming Disneyland of old with Walt Disney’s fingerprints still on it, to the glowing-yet-wistful recollections of his friends/coworkers/family as they remember the love Walt had for his kingdom, Smother’s appreciation for all of it is as palpable as it is infectious.  While the current times have made going to the park more challenging for some of us than it has been in the past, Walt’s Disneyland can at least give you the semblance of seeing the park again, and as it was when Walt walked it:  A time where the park was both smaller than it is today, and yet in some ways greater than it would ever be again.  For that experience, a little anemoia is a small price to pay.

it’s a small world

Be sure to follow @allearsnet on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

Check out our YouTube Channel for reviews, news, information and more!

Click below to subscribe to the AllEars® newsletter so you don’t miss any of the latest Disney news!

Click here to subscribe

Questions?  Comments?  Suggestions?  Drop us a line below.

Trending Now

Jeanine resides in Southern California, pursuing the sort of lifestyle that makes her the envy of every 11-year-old she meets. She has been to every Disney theme park in the world and while she finds Tokyo DisneySea the Fairest Of Them All, Disneyland is her Home Park... and there is no place like home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *