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"The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World" will give you a renewed appreciation of the WDW Resort

Jim Hill

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"The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World" will give you a renewed appreciation of the WDW Resort

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30 years ago this month, I made my very first trip to Walt Disney World. And for 25 years now, I’ve been writing about Central Florida’s Vacation Kingdom.

I offer this info up not because I want to impress JHM readers with my advanced age. But – rather – to give you some idea of how long I’ve actually been studying the history of WDW. The decades that I’ve devoted to talking with the Imagineers who actually designed the Resort’s theme parks & hotels, the many longtime cast members that I’ve quizzed over the years to get a sense of how this place really runs.

And over these past three decades, I have literally collected tens of thousands of tales about the Walt Disney World Resort. I mean, I thought that I had heard / read it all. Which is why Susan Veness’ “The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World: Over 600 Secrets of the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom ” (Adams Media, June 2009) is such a delightful surprise.

The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World by Susan Veness
Copyright 2009 Adams Media. All Rights Reserved

“And who’s Susan Veness?,” you ask.  Well, in her own words, Ms. Veness is …

“ … an online Disney travel specialist, (who) ultimately (became) … a researcher, professional travel writer, and guidebook coauthor (that specialized in writing about) Orlando and Walt Disney World.”

And Susan used her research skills to pull together a 256-page paperback that is just loaded with stories that will force you to see The Walt Disney World Resort through a brand-new set of eyes.

The entrance to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World
Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

Take – for example – her description of the Magic Kingdom’s entrance area and how this part of that theme park beautifully sets the stage for the Show that follows:

“From the perspective of the Show, the turnstiles are like the entry to a grand theater. As you pass under the train station, you see posters representing Coming Attractions, building the excitement for what’s in store. Then, walk into the theater, represented by the train station’s exit, breathe in the smell of fresh, hot popcorn, and enter the Show. That’s where the magic really takes over.

(Next notice how) the entire length of Main Street is bordered by red pavement, as if the Red Carpet has been rolled out for you. The Fact is, when Kodak was consulted, they determined a particular shade of red enhances guest photographs, especially in direct contrast to the green of the grass.”

Hidden Magic on Main St. USA at Walt Disney World
Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

Ms. Veness obviously has an eye for detail. Those quirky little touches that the Imagineers fold in in order to give certain parts of the Parks that extra air of authenticity.  Like have you ever noticed that …

“… river of brown gravel (that runs) through the pavement in Liberty Square? It represents an open sewer, where waste would have been collected in the middle of the road, having been thrown from the upper windows of the homes. Now you know one reason ladies always carried a parasol.”

No detail is too small to escape Susan’s laser-focus. She picks on things that someone like myself – who thought that they knew the WDW theme parks both inside & out – never ever noticed before.

Buzz Light Year's Space Ranger Spin at Walt Disney World
Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

I mean, how many of you knew that Stitch made a cameo appearance in Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin? Because I sure didn’t. Ms. Veness says that you can see Experiment 626 …

“ … As you exit (this Tomorrowland attraction), take a look at the mural on your right, just across from the ride photo area. Where you’ll see Stitch in the lower left-hand corner, zooming in his spaceship.”

Reading through “The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World” and discovering all of these new secrets about the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom was kind of a revelation to me. It made me truly appreciate the almost insane level of detail that Imagineers deliberately add to every ride, show and attraction at the Parks.

The American Adventure in Epcot at Walt Disney World
Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

EX: “As you watch the stirring American Adventure show, notice how strictly the producer adhered to a realistic time frame. At the start, the cinematic elements are paintings; post-Civil War, they become photographs; and, by the dawn of the twentieth century, they are moving pictures.”

More to the point, this book made me wish that I was headed back to WDW ASAP so that I could then see if some of the tales that Susan shares in “The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World” were actually true. Like this great story that Ms. Veness tells about that ant statue that you can see toward the bottom of DAK’s Tree of Life:

“Before you reach the junction that takes you into (Camp Minnie-Mickey), you’ll see the entry to a pathway just across from Pizzafari. It leads down to the roots of the Tree of Life, and there is a charming secret here worth taking the time to explore.

The ant carved into the Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

When you reach the bend in the pathway, you’ll find what looks like a wall amid the tree roots. There are several small openings bored into the wall. Pay special attention to the hole just below and to the left of the uppermost hole. When you peer through it, you have a direct view of a sculpted ant.

Why? Because, as the story goes, an ant planted a seed, hoping it would attract more animals. The seed sprouted and grew, coaxing wildlife of all kinds to its shade and the cool waters surrounding its roots, and when the animals’ images reflected off the water, their likenesses magically appeared on the tree!”

Isn’t that a great story? Well, it’s just one of hundreds that you’ll find in Susan Veness’ “The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World.” Which is a book that I urge all Disneyana fans to pick up. Why For? Because after you read this 256-page paperback, you'll come away with a renewed appreciation for the entire WDW Resort.

The Grand Floridian hotel at Walt Disney World Orlando
Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

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  • Interesting, Jim. When I saw this book advertised on Amazon, my initial reaction was, "Good grief, not another guidebook to WDW!" But it sounds like I'm going to have to pick this one up. Thanks for the heads-up!

  • I recently purchased this book, and i have got to tell you it is great. I love disney because of all the detail put in to it, and this book has every detail you can think of!

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