When so much has already been written about Disneyland, how
would you then go about putting together a brand-new book about the Happiest
Place on Earth?
That was the challenge that Jeff Kurtti faced when the folks
at Disney Editions approached him last year about possibly putting together a new
hardcover that could then be used to commemorate the Park's 55th anniversary.
"There have been so many great books & articles that have been written
about Disneyland over the years," Kurtti remembered. "So knowing that whatever I'd do would then be
compared to all these earlier books & articles, it was hard not to be
intimidated by this assignment."
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But then Disney Legend Marty Sklar pointed out the obvious
to Jeff. That many of the truly great books that have been written about this
theme park (ex: Randy Bright's "Disneyland: Inside Story
" [Abrams, October 1987])
had been out of print for decades at this point. And given that there are new
Disneyland fans coming through the door every day ... Well, it's not like they're
all going to be familiar with everything that's ever been written about the
Park up until this point.
"Which got me thinking: What if I were to put together a
book for the next generation of Disneyland fan? Something that collected some of the very best things
that have ever been written about the Park -- essays by Christopher Finch
Gladwin Hill - but also featured some brand-new pieces by Tim O'Day?" Kurtti continued. "That might be a different
way to approach Disneyland's history."
Mind you, it took Jeff months to assemble all of the necessary
material. He dug through hundreds of old issues of "Disney News." Not to
mention looking at thousands of photographs that had been taken at the Park over
the past 55 years.
But the end result - "Disneyland Through the Decades: A Photographic Celebration" (Disney Editions, April 2010) - was definitely worth
the effort. For this 160-page hardcover isn't yet another regurgitation of the
Park's history. It approaches the Happiest Place on Earth with a clear eye and
an open heart.
"People often talk about how much has changed at Disneyland
over the past 55 years. But what I find interesting is how much has stayed the
same about the place. The Mark Twain and the Columbia still sail around the Rivers
of America. The castle still stands at the end of Main Street," Kurtti
But that said, Jeff recognized that people today see
Disneyland in a far different light that the Guests did back in 1955.
"Take the Main Street U.S.A. area. When our grandparents
walked through this part of the theme park, they saw this nostalgic representation
of the world as their parents or grandparents knew," Kurtti said. "But to kids
today, Main Street U.S.A. isn't so much an exercise in nostalgia as it is a part
of the fabric that makes up Disneyland. A place where it just makes sense that
an All-American street would lead straight to a fairytale castle."
Speaking of nostalgia ... During his research, Jeff has
unearthed some real gems. Take - for example - this early early poster for the
Enchanted Tiki Room. Or - better yet -- this description of the World of
Tomorrow (as Walt had originally planned this part of the Park to be like
before Disneyland's construction funds got kind of tight and corners then had
to be cut).
A Moving Sidewalk carries you effortlessly into the World of
Tomorrow where the fascinating exhibits of the miracles of science and industry
are displayed. The theme of the World of Tomorrow is the factual and scientific
exposition of Things to Come.
Participating in this are the Industries such as:
Transportation, Rubber, Steel, Chemical, Electrical, Oil, Mining, Agriculture,
Among the exhibits, that will change from time to time, are
The Mechanical Brain ... A Diving Bell ... Monorail Train ... The Little Parkway system
where children drive scale-model motor cars over a modern freeway ... Models of
an atomic submarine, a Flying Saucer ... The Magic House of Tomorrow, with
mechanical features that obey the command of your voice like a Genie. You say "Please"
and the door opens, a polite "Thank You" will close it.
When you enter the gigantic Rocket Space Ship to the Moon,
and are safety-belted to your seat, the trip through "space" will be
scientifically correct. The roaring ride through the universe will depict the exploding
stars, constellations, planets, and comets exactly as charted, and will be no
In addition to looking back at the important role that the
future played in Disneyland's past, Kurtti's also quick to point out how the
past is going to pay a big part in this Resort's future. Take - for example -
that recreation of the Pacific Electric Red Car that will soon begin rolling
through Disney California Adventure Park.
By mixing all of these images & story threads together,
Jeff - with his "Disneyland Through the Decades: A Photographic Celebration" --
has created a rather sophisticated look back at the history of this theme park.
One that recognizes the huge impact that The Happiest Place on Earth has had on
many of our lives over the past 55 years.
As Tim O'Day so eloquently puts it in one of this book's
What has secured the Park's place in world culture? It is
the common bond of families and friends who have grown up with and experienced
together the Park's special magic, making it a cherished part of our collective
consciousness. It has withstood fads and trends to become a consistent source
of joy and inspiration for every visitor. And unlike many other passages of
life that cannot be relived, you can always come back to Disneyland Park.
The place that Disneyland Park holds in our society is indelible.
Walt Disney himself touched the heart of his park's meaning when he said, "I
think what I want Disneyland to be most of all is a happy place - a place where
adults and children can experience together some of the wonders of life ... and
feel better because of it."
And if it's been quite a while since you last experienced
that wonder for yourself ... Paging through "Disneyland Through the Decades: A
Photographic Celebration" is the next best thing to getting the chance to visit
the Park for yourself.
So even though it's the Happiest Place on Earth that just
celebrated its 55th birthday, why not treat yourself to a present by picking
up a copy of this great new Disney Editions book?
Nice article, Jim. Like the new site layout as well.
Each time that Disney issues one of these new books, I always wonder what someone like Jeff Kurti might find in the studio or WDI archives if the marketing and legal teams would allow him access to everything and the ability to publish whatever he wanted.
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