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"Jason's Disneyland Almanac" is a ridiculously detailed, highly entertaining & informative read

Jim Hill

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"Jason's Disneyland Almanac" is a ridiculously detailed, highly entertaining & informative read

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In the Stadler / Hill household, it's kind of a tradition that - as Thanksgiving rolls around - we reach for the latest edition of the Old Farmer's Almanac and then find out what sort of winter we're in for up here in New Hampshire.

But this year, given that we're still four weeks out from the official start of Winter and - to date -- we've already had two significant snowstorms (The system that blew through last night dropped three inches of ice & snow in our neck of the woods. Not to mention knocking out power for 20,000 people who live elsewhere in this State) ... You know, I think I'm going to take a pass on opening this year's Old Farmer's Almanac.

I mean, I already know that we're in for a miserable winter. So why prolong and/or protract that agony by then finding out in advance exactly how horrible the coming winter is supposed to be.

A snowstorm that dropped two feet of snow on the state and then knocked out the power
for over half a million New Hampshire residents wasn't exactly the sort of Halloween
trick-or-treat that we were looking for. But that's what we got late last month.

Which is why - this time around - I am forsaking the OId Farmer's Almanac for a different book. One that - particularly if you're a Disney history buff like me - is sure to be far more informative & entertaining.

I am referring, of course, to "Jason's Disneyland Almanac" (Zauberreich Press, November 2011). That 334-page tome that Jason Schultz & Kevin Yee have just put together which promises "... complete park information" for the Happiest Place on Earth from " ... 1955 - 2010."

Now I know that there are those of you out there who would crack open a book like this and then - after looking at the pages & pages of entries in here which list what Disneyland's operating hours were for the past 55 years, what the weather was like on that particular day in Orange County, not to mention which events were being held in the Park that week - immediately think "Pass." You'd automatically assume that a book this dense, so loaded up with facts & figures couldn't possibly be any fun to read.

Copyright Zauberreich Press. All rights reserved

Ah, but that's where you'd be wrong, folks. For - as you dig down deep into "Jason's Disneyland Almanac" - there are genuine gems to be discovered here. Pieces of this theme park's history that come alive in ways that they never have before thanks to this book's unique ability to move you chronologically through Disneyland's day-to-day operations.

Take - for example -- January 19, 1956. The Happiest Place on Earth had only been open for six months at this point.  Which was why this theme park was still in the process of setting up some of its shops (EX: Main Street, U.S.A.'s Silhouette Studio officially opened for business on this date). And given that this was a Thursday in the off-season, only 3,090 people came out to the Park that day.

"So why should theme park history buffs care about what happened at Disneyland on January 19, 1956?," you ask. Well, as Schultz & Yee point out in their almanac, this was the date that C.V. Wood, Jr. - Disneyland's original vice president and general manager - resigned. And given that once he walked out the door at Disney, Wood immediately set up Marco Engineering. Which was this theme park design firm that C.V. then used to build Pleasure Island (which opened right outside of Boston in June of 1959) and Freedomland (which opened in the Bronx in June of 1960).

(L to R) Walt Disney, C.V. Wood, Jr. and Harrison "Buzz" Price look over the site plan for
Disneyland's Fantasyland section. Which -- at that time -- featured a Peter Pan Fly
Thru as well as an Alice in Wonderland Walk Thru attraction. Copyright
Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

So - as it turns out - January 19, 1956 was the start of a pretty significant period in Disney theme park history. A time of increased competition & aggravation for Walt (Disney attorneys eventually  took C.V. to court in May of 1960 in an attempt to stop  this amusement park pioneer from promoting himself as "The Master Builder of Disneyland"). And thanks to "Jason's Disneyland Almanac," Disney history buffs like myself can now finally pinpoint the exact day that Woody left Disneyland and then became a thorn in Walt's side.

There's all sorts of great little bits of Disney theme park history like this to be found by carefully reading through "Jason's Disneyland Almanac." Key moments like July 1, 1957. Which was when the Company's board of directors decided that Disneyland had proven to be enough of a financial success that it now just made good business sense to buy out this park's original investors. Which is why - on this date ...

Walt Disney Productions increases its ownership in Disneyland, Inc. to 65.52% by exercising options to acquire 31.04% (from) the selling shareholders Walt Disney, WED Enterprises, and Western Printing and Lithographing Co.

The Disneyland Band marches down a decidedly uncrowded Main Street, U.S.A. in the
Spring of 1957. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Mind you, it wouldn't be 'til 1960 that Disney's board of directors was finally able to buy out all of this project's initial investors (paying the American Broadcasting Company a then-whopping $7.5 million to surrender its 1/3rd stake in the property), thus making Disneyland a wholly-owned subsidiary of Walt Disney Productions.

But - again - that's the fun of digging through "Jason's Disneyland Almanac." You get to see all of this theme park's history unfold in real time. Watching as attractions that have always seemed to be part of Disneyland's tapestry (EX: the Snow White Grotto & Wishing Well next to Sleeping Beauty Castle) actually come online (i.e. this Fantasyland favorites were first unveiled to park visitors on March 27, 1961).

As someone who makes his living writing about The Walt Disney Company, I know that I'm going to be regularly consulting my copy of Schultz & Yee's book. Not just for the highly detailed info that "Jason's Disneyland Almanac" holds, but also for possible story ideas for JHM and HuffPo.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Take - for example - that July 11, 1973 entry. Which reveals that Walt Disney Productions had publicly announced that it would soon be purchasing the Disneyland Hotel from the Wrather Corporation. Given that this deal suddenly fell through for some reason (More importantly, that it would be another 15 years before the Company was finally able to wrestle that resort away from Wrather) ... Well, it sounds like there's a great tale to be told there.

Likewise November 23, 1984. Which was the date that the "Country Bear Christmas Special" show premiered at Disneyland's Country Bear Playhouse. Given that I've actually been working on an article  which talks about the other holiday-themed versions of the "Country Bear Jamboree" show that the Imagineers had in the works but ultimately decided not to put into production (Believe it or not, WDI seriously looked at creating Halloween, Valentine's Day and Fourth of July versions of CBJ) ... I'll be folding that date into a upcoming JHM article sometime very soon.

Anyway ... I guess what I'm saying here is that - if you've genuinely been struggling this holiday season to come up with the perfect Christmas gift for the theme park enthusiast on your shopping list - I think that Jason Schultz & Kevin Yee have served up a solution. Thanks to their ridiculously detailed, highly entertaining and informative new book, "Jason's Disneyland Almanac."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

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  • Sounds just geeky enough to be worth a look, Jim. I like the cover's subtle reference to  "Back to the Future 2".

  • Great article.  I doubt I would have heard of the almanac otherwise.

    Jim, for those of us who are more aligned with the East Coast, are you aware of a similar book for WDW?  

    Thanks, and Happy Thanksgiving.

  • Spot on review. Just be prepared to have a magnifying glass nearby. Or maybe I am just getting old.

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