Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World
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Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  411 ratings  ·  60 reviews
The first in-depth, unauthorized look at the creation and operation of the world's most popular vacation destination. The author of the best-selling "Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland" reveals how Walt Disney's City of Tomorrow evolved into a sprawling resort where?despite extraordinary efforts to control every aspect of "the show"?everything doesn't always...more
Hardcover, 334 pages
Published October 1st 2007 by Bonaventure Press
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Josh McConnell
As can be seen by looking at my collection of books, I have read a number of Disney titles in the past. In particular, I have researched extensively on Walt Disney World and its history. Each book I have read has tackled the subject from its own unique perspective, but usually still from someone within the organization. Then along came Realityland

Written by David Koenig, someone with a journalism background, Realityland offers readers a more candid take on Walt Disney World's history. The first
***Dave Hill
(Original review

Koenig’s "Realityland" is a must-read for anyone with an interest in Disney lore or Walt Disney World, as it details the conception and crafting of that resort. While Disney as a company is known for “good show,” the building of both the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT were progressive series of hasty improvisation and compromise. The downgrading of Walt Disney’s dream of an “ideal city of the future” in EPCOT to a few core elements by his more c...more
Amanda Morris
I rarely read non-fiction, but I am a huge fan of the Disney parks and I read the other books on Disneyland by David Koenig and loved them, so decided I had to read this one about Walt Disney World.

The last half of the book was better than the first. The first half of the book focuses on the initiation process of getting the park open. It is a long process full of some politics, arguing and lots of red tape. It was really interesting to read about it, but I found myself pushing through it to ge...more
Christi Esterle
A fascinating examination on the history and corporate culture behind what is probably the most famous resort in the world. From Walt Disney's clandestine purchase of property just outside of Orlando to the difficulties that plagued construction of the theme parks, from tensions between company movers and shakers to absurd lawsuits filed by visitors, Realityland looks at the good, bad, and just plain weird of Walt Disney World. How did EPCOT go from being a visionary community of tomorrow to an...more
This book was awesome for any Disney World regular. It gives the complete history of the resort's construction and offers insight into the backstage politics that makes The World go 'round.

Warning: Don't read this and then, a day later, go to Disney World (as I did). You won't be able to stop spouting 'fun facts' as you walk the parks, much to your traveling companion's dismay.
The topic of building and creating Walt Disney World is fascinating - a large private works project on a scale that is still mind boggling. Forty-four miles of swamps are transformed into the resort that has become the most popular destination on the planet. (We are all hoping in our house that off-planet resorts will in our lifetime surpass WDW as the preferred vacation destination.) With larger-than-life characters like Walt and Eisner involved in WDW, there were of course many amusing vignett...more
As a longtime Disney fan, I love to read the inside scoop on the company who brought us the magic of Mickey Mouse and The Haunted Mansion and Expedition Everest. I'm guilty of remaining very sympathetic to what is admittedly a money-making machine at its current core. I'm a softy for memories of Walt and his classic characters, and I'm hopeful for the future of Disney, for their ability to rise above any challenge, even those they create for themselves, to bring us a better "World".

Realityland d...more
Jun 18, 2011 John added it
Shelves: disney
In Realityland, David Koenig takes an unvarnished but still sympathetic look at the history of the Walt Disney World Resort, from its genesis as Walt Disney's "Florida Project," the acquisition of land, the vagaries of building and opening the Magic Kingdom, and the expansion of the resort to include EPCOT Center, to the Eisner era and the post-9/11 reality of the parks today. Koenig marshals an impressive array of research, including many first-hand interviews with former cast members and Disne...more
I've always been curious about the workings behind Disney World. I've had several friends who worked there and shared some interesting facts, but always wanted to know more. The first half of this book deals exclusively with building Disney World late 60's/early 70's. It is absolutely fascinating, well-written and engaging. Everything from Walt's original vision, to how they acquired the land, to the day-to-day construction debacles is covered thoroughly. The book continues with the opening and...more
Andrew Frueh
Very nicely done. The level of polish was refreshing, especially relative to many of the self published books produced by the Disney fan community. Certainly goes to show the effect a good editor can have. The content surprised me somewhat. I expected a tell-all exposé from cast members, but in fact, it's a no-holds-barred history of creation of Disney World. And even though I've heard the story a half dozen times, there was a lot in this recounting that was new to me. I realized a big reason fo...more
Kyla Crowley
There is a thesis to this book: a distinct difference exists between Old Disney and New Disney, and one is better than the other. David Koenig, author of multiple books on Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort, seems to be skewed in favor of Old Disney. And, well, I don't blame him. Walt Disney was a flawed man, but a fine one. I'm so sad he had such a relatively short life. (And today is his birthday, happy birthday Walt!). "A fine man" are not words I, nor most of the people who actual know...more
This book was pretty awesome. I love knowing how the Magic Kingdom started and it's progress as it was built. I can't belive builders actually stole from Disney. They should have just been happy to be a part of it! To know you actually had a part in building something so magical would have been enough for me. I hope those people suffered years of guilt and shame! I'm really glad after Walt Died they scrapped the original plans for Epcot. It sounded pretty dull and I'm not suprised people were an...more
Realityland details the creation of Walt Disney World, its changes and operation through time, while examining the execution of Walt Disney’s dream and if his ideals are ultimately sacrificed to make a profit.
I think this book is infinitely more enjoyable if you have actually been to Walt Disney World. I don’t know how long I would have remained fascinated by the details of this if I couldn’t combine the descriptions with my own memories.
Walt Disney wanted his second project after Disneyland to...more
I've been fascinated with the Disney phenomenon since childhood, when it was ubiquitous, and with Disney World ever since I was taken there as a 14-year-old. I was a bit too old to enjoy it as a theme park, so I took it more as a sociological observation. I didn't come away with a favorable impression. I have never been someone who enjoys manufactured fun or artifice, so Disney and I weren't such a good fit. I did get a trip to Europe out of it: my mother, in the French restaurant at Epcot, rema...more
Sydney W
Have you ever wondered what happened behind locked doors at Disney World? David Koenig's book, Realityland, gives you a backstage pass to everything Disney. We all know that the first Disneyland is located in California, but Florida had one thing that California didn't have; land. Large acres of land were bought by Walt in secret. His plans were beyond creative and original. This book takes you through every step it took to get Disney World built and running, such as the water parks or the park...more
Koenig produces here what can best be described as a non-Disneyfied history of Walt Disney World, from the initial vision of the man himself to the current status as a monstrous state-within-a-state destination. The author does a great job of getting the inside information straight from the Mouse's mouth, and these points are where his writing really shines. It stumbles a bit, though, when no such interview is available. While people are certainly interested in the stories of accidents, injuries...more
This is a well-written, cohesive chronology of the creation and growth of Disneyworld. With lots of interesting vignettes tossed in, it still manages to chronicle the major events of the Florida park, and even put it in a context of the larger Disney history without getting too sidetracked. It's positive in general without being glowing or whitewashing too much history; it shows the setbacks and mistakes the company made, but also how they overcame them. It does get a little negative at the end,...more
This fascinating book (to Disneyphiles)tells the tale of the building and development of Disney World from Walt's plans, to the EPCOT dream, through the building on swampland, through the tumult after Walt's death, through the power plays of the Eisner years, to the aftermath of 9/11.

Koenig does a very good job explaining land deals, contract negotiations, hiring processes, security problems, stock prices, and more, and actually making the business-side of Disney World both interesting and under...more

At this point in my Disney World readings, I thought I had the history of the development of the property pretty well down. But this book illustrated that I didn't know the full story, especially the hijinks that ensued while attempting to build the Magic Kingdom. The title made this sound like it was going to be a Disney tell all book with cast member secrets, etc. Like one person's adventures. This did offer a lot of interesting information from Disney executives involved in the process of bui...more
Beth Robb
LOVED THIS BOOK! David Koenig has definitely done his research, and shared some amazing stories of very interesting behind the scenes tales! I just wish there was a sequel!
I'm a little torn about how to rate this book. I want to rate it highly because I LOVE the insider info I learned about Disney World. As a complete Disney World fanatic, I couldn't wait to find out the history of the hugely popular vacation destination. But I can't give it higher than two stars because for such an interesting topic, it is written in a very UNinteresting way. I found the first half especially difficult to get through -- it is extremely dry and just feels like it's a bunch of name...more
Mike Kowalczyk
For a Disney fan such as myself this is a must-read. There are countless books and websites about the history of Walt Disney World but this one is the most realistic I've yet to encounter. It doesn't sugar coat anything and it gives a fascinating look into all the obstacles, shortcomings, and nonstarters of EPCOT (aka Walt Disney World). It left me with a greater appreciation for Walt's vision but also a sense of disappointment that Disney's most recent executives consider his vision just a road...more
Not the best of Koenig's books, which was disapointing to myself because, WDW is the only park I've been too therefore Mouse Tales 1 and 2 didn't mean too much to me. This book dragged, esp in the beginning talking about all the technicalities of building the park w/ the unions, contractors, budgets etc. Like other reviewers, the most interesting parts were the funny happenings, the ones that went wrong and all the behind the scenes events once the park opened. Once I got to those chapters, thin...more
Great book if you want to know the business end of how Disney World was created and became the conglomerate it is today.

I read reviews on Amazon where many people who rated it poorly said it wasn't "juicy" enough. This is not a gossip or slam book about Disney World. We all picture in our head Walt Disney creator of Mickey Mouse & cartoons when in reality he was a brilliant businessman. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest on how a business is created, implemented, and...more
Erik Dewey
I enjoyed this look at the history of Disney World. It covered everything about the construction of the Magic Kingdom in great detail and then covered the evolution of the Walt Disney company since then.

I found the detail of Magic Kingdom's creation fascinating and I'd have loved to see similar detail for the other parks (especially Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom) but there were enough interesting stories there to keep my attention.

If you are heading to Disney World or are interested in it...more
A good book to skim.
Sep 23, 2008 Hiland rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Disney Freaks.
I enjoyed this book. Sorta.
Dont' get me wrong. Its really fucking boring. It drags and gets wayyy too deep into the politics that Disney had to deal with when building Disneyworld. That kinda stuff I really didn't care so much about. But when they started talking about people getting hurt there, then it got a little fun. I probably wouldn't recommend this book to anyone unless you're a disney freak who has crap all over their house. then you might get a kick out of it. But its a little long wind...more
I like David Koenig's writing style. I read some of his other Disney books. Great light read. I was fun to read about the development of a Disney park from the ground up - post Walt's death, and how each successive CEO (ie Roy Disney, then Michael Eisner, etc) handled the Disney parks. Eisner for example, clearly was not sure what to do with the parks, since they were outside his experience and interest, and the parks clearly suffered because of it.

Anyway, fun light read.

Karen Hansen
I am fairly Disney obsessed, so this book was an obvious pick. I actually bought it at a Disney convention and was able to meet the author, nice guy. Not a whole lot of information that I didn't already know. A minor part of the book that really stood out was the finger/toe thing from Pirates. I thought it was hilarious and I was telling everyone about it. I also found the construction of the contemporary resort to be really interesting. I wish there had been more on Animal Kingdom!
Nov 23, 2012 Mark rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Disney parks fans
Interesting... but not nearly as enjoyable as Mouse Tales.

UPDATE: First read this in 2008... a second reading was enjoyable but doesn't substantially change my opinion of the book. The focus here is not on stories about life in & around the park but instead on the creation of the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT and the other parts of WDW. While interesting to get an "unauthorized" look at those things, it's not as charming as the author's lovely book about Disneyland, MOUSE TALES.
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David Koenig is the senior editor of the 80-year-old business journal, The Merchant Magazine.

After receiving his degree in journalism from California State University, Fullerton (aka Cal State Disneyland), he began years of research for his first book, Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland (1994), which he followed with Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks (...more
More about David Koenig...
Mouse Tales: A Behind-The-Ears Look at Disneyland More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland Mouse Under Glass : Secrets of Disney Animation and Theme Parks Danny Kaye: King of Jesters Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation and Theme Parks

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