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

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  1,099 Ratings  ·  83 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 go ...more
Hardcover, 334 pages
Published October 1st 2007 by Bonaventure Press
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Amanda Morris
Apr 21, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Josh McConnell
Jan 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business, disney
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
Dec 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: text, non-fiction
(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
Christi Esterle
Apr 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, disney
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
Hannah Polley
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: david-koenig
I'm afraid that although I am a massive Disney fan, I found this book very dry and it took me a long time to read, considering how short the book is.

It is full of Disney trivia and goes over the story of how each park was built before moving on to more specific cast/guest experiences.

I think part of the problem was that very little information was new to me.

I wouldn't recommend this to new travellers to Disney due to the part about crime and guest deaths. It might put them off.

Only for very
Stephanie ((Strazzybooks))
Jul 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
A lot of good history and information that made my recent trip to Disney that much more interesting, but sometimes it moved slowly and focused a lot on the building aspect.
Jul 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, nonfiction
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
Mar 18, 2016 rated it liked it
/* I dedicate this review to Megan. (; */

I am a self-proclaimed Disney lover. I was already familiar with some of the history presented in this book thanks to various Disney history blogs and webpages. There was a lot of new-to-me info as well. The chapters dealing with more recent history helped me understand people's complaints about the current state of the Parks (although the book is nearly 10 years old at this point.)

Really, it just makes me want to go back to WDW, flaws and all.
Oct 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
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.
Joe Andrukaitis
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good read overall. Got a little into the weeds with all the business dealings, and a lot of names to keep track of, but a good behind-the-scenes look at the parks. Kind of wish I hadn't read the chapter about all the accidents and deaths, but oh well. There were tons of amusing anecdotes as well to balance it out.

For someone who isn't a full-blown Disney obsessive and doesn't already know all the stories, this is a great primer.
Nov 07, 2017 rated it liked it
There are a billion books about Disneyland but this is the most definitive about the world. It is a great corporate bio that tracks the post Walt era of the company and how Epcot got scaled down over time and the company as a whole lost a lot of it's soul in the following decades.

I still want my domed city dammit.
Oct 08, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Becky Ginther
Aug 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: disney, non-fiction
Realityland is more or less a recount of the history of Walt Disney World, from when the idea was conceived back when Walt was still alive until the book was published in 2007. I found the book to be chock-full of great information and very captivating, and I would highly recommend it to all Disney fans and anyone with interest in the history of the parks. While the book progresses through a general timeline, each chapter is focused around a different topic, and the book is full of fun and inter ...more
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: disney
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
Nov 13, 2013 rated it liked it
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
May 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Sydney W
Dec 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: disney, non-fiction
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
Jul 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am an all things Disney freak. I read this for it's old-timely cover. I thought the book would be chronological but some of the chapters skipped around a bit, talking about amusement parks that, in the grand scheme of the book, had not been built yet.

It made me feel nostalgic and wished that I could have been alive in the 70s to witness Walt Disney World as it was first imagined. Back when the goal was to completely put the customer first, price tag and all. Towards the end, you got an underst
Feb 16, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Jun 04, 2011 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
Dec 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
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
May 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: disney

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
Apr 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book was a pleasure to read because of how well-written it was and all the neat information I learned. It's a must-read for anyone who has been to Disney World. As someone who has gone every year, I absolutely enjoyed reading how each of the four parks were built. It also goes into detail about various lawsuits, accidents, fights, complaints, injuries and deaths that have happened at the park over the years. David Koenig is an amazing researcher. I loved his book, Mouse Tales but that was m ...more
Heather West
Dec 31, 2014 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed learning about the history of WDW and it is so interesting how it came together. It was a HUGE project. They basically built a city. Koenig goes into so much detail about how they built it and it gives you great insight into Walt Disney and his vision. He has a great writing style where he shares all these details with you and it never gets boring.

However, as with the other Koenig books I have read.. he really goes off the rails at the end. He just starts complaining and it get
Jun 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-non-fiction
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
May 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 21, 2008 rated it liked it
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
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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 about David Koenig...

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“The eight-acre underground was so sprawling that for months after the park first opened, guides had to be stationed in the tunnels to redirect lost employees. Soon after, the tunnel walls were color-coded by land and maps were posted at each intersection to help newcomers find their way.” 0 likes
“Many of the dozens of advisors worked for free, in hopes that EPCOT would provide real-life solutions for future generations.” 0 likes
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