It’s been almost fifty years (49 years today, to be exact) since Walt Disney died of lung cancer and yet the magic he unleashed to the world is still influencing children and adults today. Dreamers of all kinds are growing up in what Walt Disney started. He may be gone, but his influence is still evident everywhere.
I have been to Walt Disney World dozens of times and collected many souvenirs, but I never thought I would find a prized souvenir in my high school library. It was ninth grade and I was researching a history project when I discovered the racks of bound National Geographic Magazines dating all the way back to the 1950s. It was a miserable, snowy day outside and the library was crowded with students trying to do work, but even though I was sitting in a study carrel, Disneyland was open in front of me. The August 1963 edition contained multiple articles devoted to Walt Disney and Disneyland. A full colored artist map of the happiest place on earth unfolded in front of me. The history project was going to have to wait.
The main story is “The Magic Worlds of Walt Disney” and the title gives you some indication of what to expect. You plunge into what Walt accomplished in animation, film, and theme parks. Flipping through the pages you can read a short bio of Walt Disney, the process for animation, and endless visuals of Disneyland.
I love all things Disney, but the details about Disneyland are what I enjoy the most. A special artist rendering map of Disneyland leads the ‘current’ news about the park. Collectors of all things Disney should search out this magazine just for this map. As you read through about the park and the plans that Walt and WED have for its future. Some of the pictures allow you to imagine what it would be like to be in the park. One of my favorites is from a bench which allows you to stare at Tom Sawyer Island. There is no end to the joy this magazine could bring any Disney fan. Whether you board the Western Mine Train ride in Frontierland or watch as Walt is mobbed for his autograph, you will find something new to focus on during each reading.
I love reading through and learning about the upcoming projects for the 1964 World’s Fair like the construction of the Audio-Animatronic President Lincoln or the Tiki Birds. You can even see mountaineer Jeff Winslow scale the Matterhorn. I get to do all this just by reading this magazine.
The final few paragraphs show the playful side to Walt. When asked, “What happens when there is no more Walt Disney?” His response is filled with optimism: “I think about that. Every day I’m throwing more responsibility to other men. . . But, I’ll probably outlive them all. . . I plan to be around for a while.”
Only three years later, Walt Disney would die of lung cancer with his imagination passed on to others. I think we all would have liked to have seen more from Walt, but I am thankful for what we got.
It took me years of checking garage sales and used book stores before I was able to purchase two copies of the August 1963 National Geographic. These are not easy treasures to find so keep your eyes open.