Disney's Land Book Summary - Disney's Land Book explained in key points
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Disney's Land summary

Richard Snow

Walt Disney and the Invention of the Amusement Park That Changed the World

4.5 (26 ratings)
23 mins
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    Disney's Land
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    From humble beginnings to a convivial mouse.

    It’s July 17, 1955. The time is 4:00 a.m. and Walt Disney is looking for something to do. The sounds of sawing, hammering, and forklift trucks surround him as workmen put the finishing touches to Disneyland. Just two years earlier, this site was 160 acres of orange trees. Now there’s a plethora of “lands” surrounding a fairy-tale castle – including the American West, a jungle river, and Peter Pan’s Never Land, all encircled by a railroad with a fully functioning steam train.

    Thousands, or even tens of thousands, of decisions have led to this point. Soon, crowds of people, including governors and movie stars, will be pouring in as Disneyland opens its gates for the first time. There are still a couple details to smooth out. But in the morning, Disney will be opening the park to the press – and hosting the largest live TV show ever. He calls it a night, climbs the stairs to his second-floor apartment over the firehouse, and retires to bed.

    At 6:00 a.m. he’s already up and dressed again – there’s a TV rehearsal to do. But there’s one more hurdle to overcome before he can attend that. Overnight, the firehouse has been painted, and that paint has dried. He has to call a workman to unjam the door to get him out . . .

    Walter Elias Disney was born in 1901, and his early years were spent on his parents’ farm. After a series of family moves – first to Kansas City and then to Chicago – Disney forged his birth certificate so he could join the Red Cross. But the war was already over when the 16-year-old arrived in France after the armistice of November 11, 1918.

    Returning to America in 1919, he had a couple of short-term jobs – and then joined the Kansas City Film Ad Company, which produced promotional films for local businesses. There, he started producing cartoon ads that were shown in local movie theaters. These evolved into longer and longer cartoons derived from fairy tales, culminating in the ambitious Alice’s Wonderland, which bankrupted him in 1923.

    Disney moved to Los Angeles after receiving a contract from a distributor to produce episodes of Alice. It was there that his brother Roy became his business manager – a position he’d hold for the rest of Disney’s life. Los Angeles was also where he met Lillian Bounds, who became the team’s secretary. A few months later, she and Disney got married.

    Alice lasted until 1927. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit came next – and was a great success. But after a falling-out with Universal Pictures, who now owned the rights to his new creation, Disney conceived a new character: Mortimer. He eventually settled on a more friendly name, and Mickey Mouse was born.

    As the not-so-lucky rabbit fell into obscurity, Mickey shot to fame – and Disney with him. The American screenwriter and movie columnist Louella Parsons even commented that “Mickey Mouse has a bigger following than nine-tenths of the stars in Hollywood.”

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    What is Disney's Land about?

    Disney’s Land (2019) tells the story of Walt Disney’s dream of an amusement park for the whole family. It nearly didn’t happen, and came close to putting Disney out of business. But thanks to Walt’s vision and perseverance, and a dedicated and talented team, his ideas were magically transformed into a wonderland of delights.

    Who should read Disney's Land?

    • Disney aficionados
    • Adventure-park lovers
    • History buffs

    About the Author

    Richard Snow worked at American Heritage magazine for nearly four decades; he was its editor in chief for 17 years. The author of nine other books, including two historical novels and a collection of poetry, he’s also worked as a consultant on historical movies and documentaries.

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