Saturday, March 03, 2012

The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World by Susan Veness

I'm interested in theme parks, and I'm interested in design (in a vague, general way, related to some books I've worked on at my day-job and reading Henry Petroski -- on that level). And so I thought The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World would be interesting, since it's a guide to the "secret" (here meaning "minor" or "background") details of Disney's Florida theme parks.

And this book does have some good details, including ones that were new to me, and others (like the smell of baking cookies on the Magic Kingdom's Main Street) that have been covered extensively in the past. But it's also very repetitive -- every bit of information in a sidebar was pulled out of the main body of the book, and there are a lot of sidebars -- and has that rah-rah cheerleader tone that the Disney-addicted fall into too much of the time. For readers that demand a no-blemishes look at all things pertaining to The Mouse, this can be a bonus, but I found it somewhat wearying over the course of 200+ pages.

Hidden Magic is designed primarily to be used within the parks -- this partially excuses its lack of pictures or diagrams, aside from very perfunctory (and not particularly useful) park maps at the beginning of each section -- and thus will mostly appeal to Disney loyalists who are looking to explore more deeply on their next visit. (However, Veness's tone often implies that the book will be used on a first visit, which I find unlikely -- I mean, I overprepare for vacations, and even I wouldn't do that.) It's a quick read, or an easy and generally helpful reference in-park, but it covers much of the same territory (in less detail, without illustrations or true background information) as the Imagineering guides, and is less compulsively readable and truly behind-the-scenes than David Koenig's books (the best of which, Mouse Tales, is admittedly about the California park, Disneyland). So this is best for true Disney die-hards, the kind who can't stand to hear a single sour word reach their mouse ears.

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