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The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream
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The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  389 ratings  ·  59 reviews
From the publisher of The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland comes The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney's Dream, the story of how Walt Disney’s greatest creation was conceived, nurtured, and how it grew into a source of joy and inspiration for generations of visitors. Despite his successors' battles with the whims of history and their own ...more
Paperback, 411 pages
Published November 26th 2013 by Unofficial Guides (first published November 5th 2013)
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Jun 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: disney
I make no secret of my lifetime love for all things Disney. Sunday nights, when "Wonderful World of Disney" came on at 7:30 PM (after "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom") were my favorite night of the week - and not just because I got to stay up a whole 30 minutes past my regular bedtime of 8 PM.

I didn't visit Disneyland for the first time until I was 23 years old. At that time, I rode a lot of the attractions that can no longer be found in the park, because those were the ones I remembered from my
Mar 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is my first five star review of 2014. This book is an excellent history of Disneyland, and is a must for any DIsneyland enthusisast. This book begins with the conception of the park and ends with the present time and covers the history and creation of nearly every ride you could think of, along interesting statistics and figures relating to the Disney parks as a whole. There are tons of quotes from famous imagineers as well as great descriptions of various events. This book took me a while ...more
Mar 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
I hesitate to add this to my "Read" shelf since I didn't read every single word. I did skip past some of the early history. This was a thorough review of Disneyland's past. I appreciated that the book struck the right balance; for a history book, it felt neither too opinionated nor too dry. It was intriguing to read of the various plans that never made it to fruition, whether the plans were for attractions or additional parks. I was disappointed tonight that I'd already finished the book and cou ...more
Kyle Kowalski
Feb 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Disneyland Story by Sam Gennawey is a very good read. It is a well structured timeline of Disneyland’s extensive history from the time Walt Disney had the idea to the current day Disneyland. Every chapter is filled to the brim with intriguing facts and information that I wasn’t previously aware of. For example in one chapter that discusses the park called Adventureland and a ride called The Jungle Cruise talks about how when building the ride a crew of Disney workers bought trees from the ne ...more
Dec 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Disneyland is one of my favorite places, and I've been visiting it for years. I know a lot about the park, but I haven't been obsessive about how things have changed and developed over the years. I also don't know that much about its history, beyond what I've seen in various TV specials, at the park, and at the Walt Disney Family Museum. I recently decided I wanted to learn more about Disneyland, but found there weren't a whole lot of comprehensive histories of the park. Fortunately, one was due ...more
Ben Iverson
Sep 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-stars
Few individuals are as well-known worldwide as Walt Disney, and few places are as patently American as Disneyland. So, it is surprising that a comprehensive "biography" of Disneyland hadn't really been written before 2013, when Gennawey published The Disneyland Story. I'm a pretty big Disney fan, and I found all of the details of the creation of the world's first theme park absolutely fascinating. I especially liked how the book described how The Disney Company's experience with movie-making aff ...more
Nov 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
I admit it. Some people have Burning Man, I have Disneyland. This book was a really interesting and "clinical" review of Disneyland's growing pains. It addresses the year by year memories of the first 50 years in a "hands-off" way (failing to mention the 50th was celebrated by TDA for five years?) but I learned a lot about the City of Anaheim's reaction to the golden opportunity at their sleepy burg and felt like I was allowed to cut through the official Disney rhetoric (Lillian, Walt's widow re ...more
Dec 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
There have been many books written about the Disney theme parks, but precious few that I'd consider to be informative and well-written enough to recommend to someone interested in learning about them. I'm happy to say that there's a new addition to that list.

Sam Gennaway's book is an excellent general history of Disneyland, full of fascinating facts about the Park and its attractions. Sam deftly treads the fine line between the Disney official line and some of the more sensational works out the
Dec 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Ever since hearing Gennawey on a podcast speaking about his upcoming book, it was on my to be read list. I bought it as soon as it came out and it did not disappoint. I liked that this was basically a biography of the park and the personalities who shaped it entered the story only as it related to the park. Even when it came to Walt Disney's death, it was mentioned as an aside during the history of Pirates of the Carribean. My one criticism is that, particularly near the end of the book, the tim ...more
Dec 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: disney, 2014-read
I have read meany stories about the origins of Disney World and Disneyland. That made me a bit nervous that this book would just be a rehash of stuff I had previously read, but that was not the case. I really enjoyed the different approach that this author took to describing the history of Disneyland. In particular I liked how he focused on each particular ride giving detailed walk through and the history of the various changes. As someone who has only been able to visit Disneyland twice these d ...more
Dec 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: disney
Gennawey tours us through the Disneyland we know, the one we may have known at different times in its history, and the ones that never were. Here we see the way Walt's mind worked, how he interacted with his Imagineers, how the physical constraints of the property within the berm (and, later, outside it) shaped what was possible. This tangle of events, facts, and stories has no plot, but it enables the reader to understand better an enormously complex and culture-changing enterprise, one that co ...more
Jan 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is comprehensive, complete, and far from the corporate coffee-table book. It devotes nearly six pages just to a “selected” bibliography, and about 25 more pages to the end-notes that cap every chapter. Extensive research went into this book — and it shows. From early ideas for a Mickey Mouse Park, to attraction and show design, to the in-house rows and dramas that would characterize Disneyland’s history, The Disneyland Story is a meticulous recounting of an American institution.

Full re
Nov 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a MUST read book for any Disneyland fan. It is an excellent reference to all things in regards to the creation and running of Disneyland from the beginning to now. If I had any complaints about the book it would be there should probably be more sub headers to break up some of the paragraphs. One minute your reading about one thing and then the next paragraph you move on to something completely unrelated. But other than that I highly recommend this book.
Scott Southard
Aug 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
THIS is the book on Walt's park I always wanted to find.

Definitely a fun and in-depth read for someone like me, a Disneyland nerd who really wants to know the struggles and leaps needed behind the scenes. Fascinating stuff.

Would recommend it to any fan of Walt and the Happiest Place on Earth.
Les Simpson
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My love for Disneyland far surpasses my fondness for Disney World because it still feels close to Walt’s original vision. A place he declared would never be completed, Disneyland manages to honor its past while evolving to the needs of the current day. This book documents that journey in meticulous detail, from pre-planning and construction through operations in late 2012. Of course, there have been several changes to the Disneyland Resort in the following eight years post-publication (and there ...more
Oct 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
A very nice presentation of the story of Disneyland.

Her genesis, her growth, the changes made to her, and even the tragedies that occurred there.
As a long time fan of the park & company, a lot of familiar names were there, as well as new ones.
(Now I have a name for the person who I blame for the politically correct changes to Pirates.
Bob Baranick!!!!) ;)

Reading this, I felt like a fly on the wall during key decisions & moments of the park.
Sam Gennawey clearly guides you to locations in and arou
Lee Tracy
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a very well-written history of the Anaheim amusement park, its development and construction, ride changes and behind-the-scenes technical information. The emphasis is on the 1950s and 1960s, though it tells the story of the park’s evolution up to 2012. The author’s writing style is straightforward, just-the-facts, with no wasted words. Gennawey used a wide variety of source material. For example, I was pleased to learn about Ray Bradbury’s 1965 essay about the park, “The Machine-Tooled H ...more
Robert F
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved it, loved it, loved it. A great book filled with stories, trivia and anecdotes about the history of the Happiest Place on Earth. From information about the development of (almost) every attraction, to even little bits about the political history and backstory in dealing with the city of Anaheim and Orange County. Some of it I already knew, but a lot of it I did not. I cannot recommend this book highly enough especially if you are a Disneyland buff and want to know as much about it as possi ...more
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best book that extensively details not only the history of Disneyland (first only park, than the Disneyland Resort), but also the changes that it has gone through throughout the years. Gennawey provides a wealth of knowledge about the evolution of Walt's park.

Hopefully Sam Gennawey will one day be expand upon this book and create a series detailing the history of other Disney parks, such as Magic Kingdom park in Florida.
John Gregory
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
Way too dry. Far too few anecdotes, insight or personality and too much bland repetition of ride descriptions. It especially falls flat with covering the problems with DCA, an unforgivable sin considering that had happened just a few years prior.
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I actually loved this book. It’s not something I would recommend to everyone because it’s a heavy read and includes details a lot of people perhaps wouldn’t care about (e.g. planning permission, parking) but to a massive fan of Disney this was amazing. So well researched and detailed
Brett Yanta
Dec 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating look at the genius of Walt, the innovation and precision of his vision, and how not all ideas are good ideas. Really great read.
Mar 22, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a great book for those whose heart skips a beat for Disneyland. It explores all the many details of how Disneyland is what it is today.
Jul 22, 2018 rated it liked it
A great family read on a drive to the Magic Kingdom
Jul 29, 2018 rated it liked it
A little dry, but lots of interesting insights for those who are big fans of Disneyland. Made me want to find a good biography about Walt Disney.
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you like Disneyland and the history of theme parks, this is a must read. I enjoyed so much of this but it was very dry at times and it took me forever to get through.
Nov 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: disney
I am just obsessed with Disney.
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This would be for any Disney fan that wants to know more about how Disneyland was formed and what Walt’s dreams/plans about it where. I read the bulk of it on the drive down to Walt Disney World this September and it was a great read right before my trip. You can skim if things get boring and pick out facts and stories that interest you. I would definitely recommend.
Adam Wiggins
Aug 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: maker-biography
Walt Disney had revolutionized the film industry with his animated films — like Snow White, Fantasia, and Dumbo — in the 1940s. In the 1950s, he decided to pursue his next big vision: to create a theme park.

It seems obvious now, but it was considered a wild idea at the time. Roy Disney, CEO of the Disney corporation, would not put company money into the idea. Amusement parks at the time were associated with seedy elements: carnivals with freakshows, pseudo-scam prize games, and rickety thrill ri
Adam Berger
Jan 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
With The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney’s Dream, author Sam Gennawey not only aims to bring the history of Disneyland Park to life; he makes it the book’s guiding metaphor, framing it as a “biography” of Disneyland. It’s an appealing conceit, though one that could have easily outworn its welcome if overused. Happily, Gennawey resists the urge to overplay the biography angle, and soon lets the story unfold in its own intricate and detailed fashion.

And I mea
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“Evans [the landscape architect] took a transparency of the master plan and placed it over an aerial photograph of the property at the same scale. He marked all the trees that were not in the middle of the street or in the Rivers of America and tried to work around them. Evans tagged trees that were to be saved with green ribbons, and he tagged trees to be removed with red ribbons. His efforts were futile. As it turned out, the bulldozer operator was color-blind and they lost dozens of trees that were 50-100 years old. More than 12,000 orange trees were removed.” 0 likes
“Disney archivist Dave Smith said, "Disneyland's true appeal, we admit now, is to adults. Children don't need it. Their imaginations are enough. For them, Disneyland is only another kind of reality, somewhat less marvelous than their own fantasies.” 0 likes
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