by: guide4wdw – Collin

5 Books Every Disney Parks Fan Needs In Their Collection 

From time to time I get asked how I’ve learned what I know about the Disney parks and their history. Obviously I wasn’t there in the beginning (since I’m 21), and truth be told my family that was able to visit very early on remember very little about the experience. Long story made short, my answer is always Disney parks books. I’ve had a fascination with Disney history for years, and while so much can be found online some things just can’t be communicated quite as well without the additional context a book tends to provide. Inevitably, that situation led me to seek out books that told the “rest of the story” for lack of a better way to explain it. 

At the same time, and perhaps rather ironically, I hate reading books. However, Disney parks books are a bit different because there’s always something new to uncover that you can go and see in the parks in really life. Not only do you learn the details of the experience but often times the backstory that is rarely shared by cast members or blatantly written into the attraction’s theoretical story within the parks. 

With all of that being said, some Disney books are far better that others and figuring out which ones are great and which ones are truly terrible can be an expensive and time intensive process. That’s where today’s post hopefully comes in handy. I’ve not read every Disney parks book available but these are a few of my top favorites and ones I tend to use for research from time to time. Unfortunately a few of these titles are out of print and are only available in a “used” format, but may be books you’ll want to look for going forward at your local used book store (Half Price Books is a great place if you have one in your area). 

Last but certainly not least, the titles included in this article are links to and they are affiliate links. However, I include these links so that if you can’t find the books anywhere else cheaper, typically Amazon will have them at a fairly decent price. Truthfully, if you can find them elsewhere cheaper, I highly recommend going with that option! 

1. Designing Disney’s Theme Parks – The Architecture of Reassurance

This particular book is one that tends to be more for those who are interested in the inner workings of the parks and their construction even very early on out at Disneyland. It spins tails of Imagineering, includes vast and detailed drawings straight from Imagineering and contains some of the greatest details and looks “behind the scenes” into how this place we all know and love was made in a way that no other book really does. As a result it isn’t the easiest book to read but the photos and conceptual renderings found inside of it are some that rarely appear in other Disney parks books or even on the internet.  This is my go to book when I can’t find information anywhere else. It has those hidden details that you can’t find online and if you’re willing to read through the details, it is well worth your time! Unfortunately it tends to be the most expensive book on our list but one that I’ll never get rid of. The rarely seen photos alone are more that worth the cost in my opinion.   

2. Walt Disney Imagineering – A Behind the Dreams Look at Making the Magic Real

Sticking with the Imagineering theme, this book is a steal if you can find a copy. The information isn’t detail heavy but this sets up for the perfect coffee table book for a Disney fan. As the only book on this list noted as distinctly “written by the Imagineers” it holds a unique spot separated from all the rest. The foreword was even written by Micheal D. Eisner himself. This is one of my all time favorite books to simply sit down and thumb through from time to time. One of the very first pages is a Memorandum to Imagineer Marty Sklar with hand written notes scrolled across it green lighting the idea for the book and to set up a meeting with Eisner! There’s everything from drawings prepared for the World’s Fair to conceptual renderings for Tony Baxter’s Discovery Bay vision. It’s a compilation you can tell a certain level of heart was put into it’s creation and one that really cuts down on the “fluff” and shares the info you want to read right away without having to spend hours reading page after page. 

It’s the perfect book to set in your living room when a guest is over because you can pick it up knowing nothing about Walt Disney World, thumb through a few pages and end up learning more that you ever expected. It’s a conversation starter and possibly a great way to introduce a friend to the Disney parks in a fairly subtle way.          

3. Since the Word Began – Walt Disney World the First 25 Years 

Since the World Began made this list for a few reasons. Perhaps the largest reason being that the title showcases a closer look at the first 25 years of Walt Disney World. As you may have noticed by the content on this list I’m incredibly nostalgic about the early days of WDW and this is perhaps one the best ways I’ve found to see what used to be and how things have changed over the years as Walt Disney World slowly approaches it’s 50th anniversary. This title showcases all that Disney once was while referencing external factors and history outside of the parks like Jim Henson’s Muppets and television sound stages that were active in the early days of Hollywood Studios. 

My favorite section of this particle piece of my collection is a few short pages devoted to Pleasure Island. While I can vaguely remember Pleasure Island, the short paragraphs dedicated to it’s role in Disney World at the time helps put the stories I get to hear about the Adventure’s Club, Mannequins, the Comedy Warehouse and others into perspective. At times, it’s difficult to understand what something is like without being there but a few pictures can really describe and help visualize an atmosphere of a place you’ve never been to. It is truly perfect for that purpose because it’s looking at Disney and the early years of Disney from a 1996 perspective.        

4. A Disney Sketchbook

A Disney Sketchbook is a unique book for a rather “select” audience. It’s not a park specific book but tends to appeal to the same people who enjoy the Art of Disney-esque stores in the parks and in Disney Springs. The book itself is full of Disney character sketches and feels very much like a true to life sketchbook from a Disney artist. The paper is excellent quality and once again makes for a great coffee table book for any Disney fan. This is almost entirely a book of sketches and what often replicates what looks like true to life sketches. There are a few page with writing on them but it’s essentially a foreword setting the stage for what you’re about to look through. While that doesn’t sound like a legitimate “book” it is an excellent way to catch an inside look at some conceptual drawings for animated films in a way that you’ve never really paid attention to before. The detailed artwork helps put the years of dedication by animators into perspective and showcases some of the most iconic films in a rather unique way.         

5. Walt Disney’s Epcot

Without a doubt, this is my favorite book on this list and quite possibly the favorite of all the Disney books I own. I have always been a nostalgic Epcot fan and this book has given me an inside look at what I’ve missed over the years. It’s got everything from Horizons to Kitchen Cabaret and all the gone but never forgotten aspects of the “original” Epcot experience you can still see subtle nods to in the parks today. The book originally debuted in the early 80’s and it’s interesting because many of the concepts and mentions of what was to come at the time never quite played out. For instance, the World Showcase photos and conceptual renderings depict pavilions that never came to be and that were indefinitely shelved along the way. It’s not only neat to see but also interesting to speculate at “what’s next” because as many of you likely know, I good idea in Imagineering never really fades away!      

As an added note, this book does come in two iterations. Both are great but if you can stumble into the longer version you’ll uncover over 100 extra pages of information and photos that are not in the shorter iteration. The hard part about ordering this online is that you rarely know which book you’re getting before it arrives in your mailbox. Many sellers don’t realize that multiple iterations exists (one pre-opening and one post-opening of Epcot) and simply list the book and whatever online info they can find about it in their description. Either way you’re getting a great book. I have both versions and found the shorter version first. Recently I stumbled into the larger version and decided to pick it up as well. You can’t go wrong either way!     

This definitely isn’t the end all be all list and if you have another book recommendation for me, be sure to share it! I’m always looking for more parks books and truthfully there are very few in production currently that are quite as good as the ones created in the early years of Disney. Unfortunately trade secrets and behind the scenes information is getting more and more tight lipped but hopefully these books give you something to check out or even quite possibly add to your collection.  

Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you’re there, and we’ll keep the conversation going in the future. We’re not the largest Disney community, but we’re one that’s there and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

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Ready to Plan?

Last but certainly not least, if you’re starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You’ll probably even save money along the way.