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"Disney Insider Yearbook" offers intriguing look back at 2005

"Disney Insider Yearbook" offers intriguing look back at 2005

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When "Disney Magazine" suddenly ceased publication last year, there weren't a lot of physical resources to turn to for the latest Disney news. Mind you, I've come to appreciate "Tales from the Laughing Place" magazine more & more since I stopped receiving the Mouse's official publication. But there was just something about receiving a magazine straight from the source that always made me anxious to look in my mailbox each day.

Of course, most of my Disney reading lately comes from websites like this one. Now that Disney no longer puts out anything official, the various sites we all have bookmarked have become quite a respite for all of us thirsty for new Mouse-related stuff to read about.

This is where the "Disney Insider" comes into play. I'm sure most of us are aware of this monthly e-mail from the House of Mouse. There's usually one feature, some trivia from Dave Smith, along with some cool links to downloadable Disney stuff known as Digital Souven-EARS. Typically, these fun time wasters are things like "virtual Mickey Mouse Snow globes" to place on your desktop.

The stories feature in the "Disney Insider" e-mail usually have a tie to some new Disney movie or attraction. But other times they feature bits of Disney history. Mind you, this is no substitute for a full-blown magazine that I can physically hold and refer to time and time again. But at least it's something.

This is why -- when a link appeared on the Disney.com website for a 2005 "Disney Insider Yearbook" -- I quickly clicked and pre-ordered my copy. Based on the promotional material for this what-will-supposedly-become-an-annual publication, this yearbook sounded genuinely intriguing to me. And given that this book is being edited by noted Disney authors & historians Bruce Gordon & Jeff Kurtti ... Well, I was anxious to see the sorts of stories these two would assemble.

Well, my copy of the 2005 "Disney Insider Yearbook" (I opted for the hardcover version so that I could get the bonus DVD & lithograph) finally arrived in the mail yesterday. And -- whileI have a few minor quibbles -- I think that, overall, Bruce & Jeff did a fine job with their first edition of this "Year in Review."

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises LLC

Speaking of which ... The first 30 pages or so of the "Disney Insider Yearbook" are basically a recap of the major Mouse-related events that occurred in 2005. This section of the book touched on movie premieres, attraction openings, home video and video game releases. There are also quick summaries of new TV shows that have recently debuted at the Disney Channel, books & magazines that Disney Publishing Worldwide has released over the past 12 months, even a few pages of new items that Disney Consumer Products has brought on the market over the past year.

As I paged through this stuff, I thought: "Okay. A little corporate cheerleading." Given that this book is called the "Disney Insider Yearbook," I guess a certain amount of this "Rah! Rah! Aren't we great?" stuff is to be expected. But after all these appetizers, I was really ready to move onto the main course.

Happily, Gordon & Kurtti do not disappoint. Thanks -- in large part -- to the great group of writers that these two have assembled for this limited edition publication, this "Year in Review" featured a wide variety of informative & entertaining stories.

This first big feature story in the "Disney Insider Yearbook" dealt with Disneyland's 50th anniversary. Which -- given that the "Happiest Homecoming on Earth" was surely the biggest event of the year for The Walt Disney Company -- wasn't all that surprising a choice.

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises LLC

But what was surprising was the additional insight that Rebecca Cline (The author of this article as well as the assistant archivist for The Walt Disney Archives) provided about the early development of Disneyland. Now we've all heard how Walt went to a local amusement park with his daughters and then realized how great it would be to have a place where parents and their children could have a good time together. Which is what supposedly inspired "The Happiest Place on Earth."

But what many folks don't know is that -- about this same time -- Walt, animator Ken Anderson and art director Harper Goff had designed a scale model of an American town with the intent of creating a traveling exhibit, known as "Disneylandia" or "Walt Disney's America." Walt had become enamored with meticulously handcrafted miniatures while visiting the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. After that show, Disney began to design his own miniatures and then enlisted Ken & Harper to help Walt design elaborate scenes that would showcase what the studio head had created.

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises LLC

The final results were displayed at a show in Los Angeles in 1952. While the miniatures that Walt helped create got good notices, Disney quickly realized that his idea of a traveling miniature American town would really work better as a permanent exhibit. This and his elaborate backyard train set-up plus his amusement park visits with his daughters all played a crucial part in the early development of Disneyland.

Ms. Cline did a nice job of illuminating this little-known piece of Disney history. But then Rebecca follows that up with an equally fun story entitled "Disneyland's Workshop," which illustrated the crucial role that Walt Disney Studios played in the design & fabrication of many of the rides & vehicles for the Anaheim theme park.

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises LLC

To be honest, a number of Disney writers did double duty on the "Disney Insider Yearbook." Noted author Jason Surrell first contributed an article about the beginning of Fantasyland. Jason then followed that piece up with a feature about the Imagineering of the Matterhorn Bobsleds.

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises LLC

Continuing the doubling up, Disney show writer Dave Fisher first served up a story about the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland. Dave then followed that feature up with an article about how Disneyland was spruced up for its 50th anniversary celebration.

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises LLC

Speaking of ways the "Happiest Place on Earth" was "plussed" for its Golden Celebration ... The "Disney Insider Yearbook" features a guide to the "Hidden 50's' (I.E. Those golden Mickey ears with "50" in the middle of them that were scattered around the Anaheim theme park during Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration). It's too bad that I won't make it to Anaheim before this fall to find all of these 50s. But at least now I know where they were.

The next chapter of this "Year in Review" featured in-depth articles about "Chicken Little," "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," "Cars," "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," the Broadway musical version of "Tarzan" plus the Walt Disney Family Museum. Plus a nice 5-page story about Walt's favorite film, "Lady and the Tramp."

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises LLC

Jeff Kurtti then takes off his editor's hat long enough to contribute a loving remembrance of Disneyland's "Adventure Thru Inner Space" as well as a piece entitled "The Disney That Never Was." Which deals with a subject that should be familiar to JHM readers, the never-built Liberty Street. 

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises LLC

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises LLC

All this ... Plus an article by Leonard Maltin about the Animation Rarities that he's compiled for the Walt Disney Treasures DVD series ... Plus a six-page-long edition of "Ask Dave."

Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises LLC

"Disney Insider Yearbook" closes out with touching tributes to some of the Disney greats that we lost over the past year. Disney legend Joe Grant & Pixar story guru Joe Ranft along with voice veterans Paul Winchell, John Fielder and Thurl Ravenscroft are all mentioned. As are Imagineer Fred Joerger, makeup master Bob Schiffer, distribution head Irving Ludwig and former CEO Card Walker. It's a rather fitting way to end this "Year in Review."

All in all, I must say that this limited-edition annual was an impressive first effort. Loaded with personal anecdotes and wonderful photographs, I think that the "Disney Insider Yearbook" will make a fine addition to any Disneyana fan's research library.

Oh, I know. There are those who are going to gripe about this publication's price (The hardcover version of this "Year in Review" is $49.95, while the softcover edition is $24.95). But me? Given that I miss "Disney Magazine" so much, I think that it's great to have something official printed by the company that's clearly aimed at Disney fans. Which was one of the main reasons that I laid down $49.95 for the hardcover version of the 2005 "Disney Insider Yearbook." With the hope that -- if enough of us do this -- this "Year in Review" will actually become an annual publication.

Speaking of which: According to the website, this first edition of the "Disney Insider Yearbook" are in limited quantity. Sooo ... If you want to be sure and snag a copy, order one today.

You know ... I've been so busy writing about the contents of the "Year in Review" book that I completely forgot about the accompanying DVD. Come back next time and I'll tell you what I thought of this aspect of the "Disney Insider Yearbook."

Your thoughts?

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  • I'd love to buy this book, unfortunately, it's only available in USA and Canada! What is this ***?
    Really weird.
    Thanx anyway for this great review!
  • Thanks for giving an overview; the story about Walt and the miniatures was interesting.  I got an order sheet in the mail, but I'm just a poor college kid.  I'd love to see this as an annual book series, though!
  • I miss the Disney Magazine too, Chris, but I wasn't as impressed by the Insider Yearbook as you were.

    Nothing against Jeff and Bruce - I think they did a good job putting it together, and they and the authors they selected found some interesting tidbits. But most of the stories in the Yearbook could have just have easily been done in the Disney Magazine, and the recaps were disappointing in their lack of depth.

    For instance, I would have expected that there would have been extended coverage in the Yearbook about the May 5 kickoff and the July 17th birthday celebrations, and about all the new shows and entertainment added to the parks. There really wasn't much about either. The same goes for the coverage of the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland.

    The extras that Disney used to sell the hardcover edition were disappointing, too. The limited edition lithograph was basically just an extra page added to the Yearbook with perforation so you could tear it out. The DVD should have at least had full coverage of the ceremonies at Disneyland, but folks that have watched it have told me that it didn't. (Chris, I'll be nterested to see what you think of the DVD in your next article.)

    The Yearbook is basically a annual version of the Disney Magazine in hardcover with a couple of extras, and we get to pay more for it than we paid for a subscription to the Magazine. If that's all Disney was going to offer, why not just keep the Magazine going - preferably with an editorial staff that would have made the Magazine more like the Disney News used to be, with more behind the scenes stuff and background pieces on Disney history instead of being a glossy press release?  

    Oh, by the way, I didn't care for Disney's little scam that they pulled when you bought the hardcover edition. If you purchase it, you're automatically going to be charged for receive the next edition of the Yearbook when it comes out  unless you specifically request not to receive it.

    OK, I'm done ranting... ;)
  • Chris,

    thanks for this article.  I saw an ad for this earlier this year, but forgot to order one.  It does seem overpriced.  But I'm a sucker for the archival photos.  Hopefully the DVD is good.  

    I appreciate you writing this review.  It was helpful.
  • I am quite surprised to see that my small comment on that publication placed here yesterday has been deleted!

    I don't recall anything offensive in it; I was just regretting that only North Americans could buy it....

    That must have been enough for the censors to act;  Dutchduck 1977 says the same thing, even using a masked expletive that I did not use myself!

    Oh I was also saying "Bring Back Disney Magazine!" but I don't think that could be considered offensive!

    Well, the World goes round and round and there are more serious things to attend too!

    Happy reading to those who can!  Cheers from Paris, France NOT Texas! LOL!
  • Interesting, I wasn't aware of that context. I guess it makes some sense, thanks for the history lesson!

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  • I am so happy to read this. This is the kind of manual that needs to be given and not the random misinformation that's at the other blogs.

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