There are six Disneyland-style parks around the world modeled after the original, but there’s only one that Walt Disney personally walked in. Filled with the great entertainer’s personal interests and popular characters, the unlikely business venture for the showman proved so successful that you can’t watch a Disney film today without seeing an amalgamation of theme park castles before them. No matter your level of knowledge about Walt Disney the person, reading Walt’s Disneyland: A Walk in the Park with Walt Disney is guaranteed to make you feel more connected to the land that Walt built.
Marcy Carriker Smothers, author of Eat Like Walt, uses Walt’s own words and those of the people who worked closely with him to bring the park to life. The tour actually starts beyond the berm, showcasing what the arrival experience was like in the earliest days of the park, before being admitted and traveling down Main Street, U.S.A. and entering the five lands created during Walt’s lifetime moving clockwise. The entire park is hugged by a train and a “Grand circle tour” gets its own chapter, closing with a recount of the last day Walt Disney spent in Disneyland before his passing.
Full of vintage photos, most of which include Walt Disney in the park, the softcover book features an exciting layout designed to make readers feel like they’re at Disneyland. The outer border of pages are themed to the lands of their chapters: Americana bunting on Main Street, U.S.A., wrought iron railings for New Orleans Square, and the spiral pole of a carousel horse for Fantasyland as examples.
It’s easy to lose yourself in Disneyland, to lose all sense of time and the world outside the berm, which is by design. But one of the greatest gifts readers receive through Walt’s Disneyland is a reminder of just how much is still the same. Looking at photos of the entrance to Frontierland, for example, reveals how much is still the same. Sure, the pavement has been resurfaced and the buildings repainted to look as new as they were on July 17th, 1955, you’re still walking in the one and only Disney theme park that Walt Disney ever stepped foot in. And as you’ll be reminded in its pages, he didn’t just visit occasionally, but routinely observed how Guests interacted with the park, continually dreaming up new ways to exceed their expectations.
Full confession: I was at Disneyland just a few days before reading Walt’s Disneyland: A Walk in the Park with Walt Disney, but it made me instantly want to go back. Whether you already have a trip planned or are starting to dream of your next one, this book will reshape the way you experience it on your next visit.
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Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).