Reliving Fond Memories: A Window Backstage
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A Window Backstage
Van France tells it like it is, or....er, was.
There has been an empty space on my Disney bookshelf. I have been trying for years to get a copy of this one book that would make my little collection complete. However, the book has been out of print. Whenever I find a copy, the price is so outrageous I reluctantly turn away from it, muttering like Popeye on a bad day. But thanks to the Theme Park gods, a copy finally fell into my hands through, of all places, the Los Angeles Public Library. I picked it up from the holding shelves the other day, and read through it in a few hours.
"A Window on Main Street: 35 Years of Creating Happiness at Disneyland Parkâ€? (1991 Laughter Publications) is the memoirs of one Van Arsdale France. He joined the Disney team in 1954 to train new cast members before there was either Disneyland or cast members. He was one of the pioneers of this new theme park concept (A member of Club 55, those intrepid designers and engineers who actually assembled the park and got it running).
Reading this book is like sitting down with the Disney pioneer over drinks. His writing style and anecdotes have the feeling of someone who fought the good fight and lived to brag about the scars. Simple, wry and direct, he creates a convincing vision of the dusty bumpy days when diverse and unconnected people from industrial engineering, marketing and art were thrown together to create a new kind of entertainment.
The feeling of this book is how men and women of diverse backgrounds were brought together under the demanding vision of Walt Disney to create a new style of family entertainment. Van himself was from industry, writing training manuals for employees. A good friend, C.V. Wood, brought him to the Disney Studio and a fateful meeting with Walt Disney. Without office, holed up in one of the few remaining farm houses on "The Siteâ€?, France, with the help his assistant Dick Nunis, created from scratch what would be known as The Disney University.