Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland Now Available!

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Here’s a look at the now available Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland, from the LA Times Travel Blog:

The new pocket-sized “Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland” answers the question, “What would it be like to walk through Disneyland with Walt by your side?”

The 128-page paperback takes readers land by land through the Anaheim theme park, offering anecdotes, history and trivia from Disney Imagineers as well as early concept art, sketches and schematics of many rides and attractions.

“From a process standpoint, it offers a bit of a peek behind the curtain of how we turn concepts into reality,” said Alex Wright, an Imagineer who gathered tales from his co-workers for the book. “In a way, there’s no one person who can tell you all these different stories. We have so many different disciplines.”

To research the book, Wright delved into the extensive Disney archives and toured the park with long-time Imagineers Tony Baxter and Kim Irvine. The hard part, Wright said, was deciding what to leave out.

“When it’s Disneyland, there’s always more to tell,” Wright said. “You could have told another 1,000 stories with all the history that’s gone on there.”

The book starts off with a short overview of Imagineering’s 140-plus disciplines and insider lingo (Blue Sky, Plussing, Wienie) before diving into a land-by-land tour.

Designed to be read in the park, the “field guide” attempts to strike a difficult balance between appealing to first-time Disneyland visitors as well as life-long fans. Leaning more to the fan boy side of the spectrum, I read the book hoping to learn something new. My favorite finds can be broken down into three categories — abandoned concepts, park trivia and odd facts.

Among the early concepts:

  • Walt envisioned live exotic animals roaming the banks of the Jungle Cruise.
  • A runaway mine-car theme for Indiana Jones Adventure incorporating the Jungle Cruise boats and the Disneyland Railroad.
  • A walk-through Pirates of the Caribbean wax museum — the water and boats weren’t added until after construction started.
  • A Casey Jr. Circus Train roller-coaster thrill ride — retooled within weeks of opening day into a gentle kiddie ride.

Among the trivia tidbits:

  • The New Orleans Square train station depot taps out Morse code of Walt Disney’s opening day dedication speech.
  • The Latin motto on Mr. Toad’s coat of arms reads: “Speeding with Toad is always absurd.”
  • Walt liked to take pre-opening morning drives in a Carnation milk truck along Main Street U.S.A.
  • Steven Spielberg recorded the rumbles and clanking of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad for the mine-car chase scene in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”

And the truly odd:

  • Uprooted orange trees were planted upside down during the construction phase of the Jungle Cruise to represent missing foliage.
  • Walt gave his wife, Lilly, a petrified tree for their wedding anniversary. (She donated it to the theme park, where it still resides in Frontierland.)
  • Visitors in the Star Tours queue may hear an intercom page for Egroeg Sacul (George Lucas backwards).

My favorite part of the $9.95 book was a visual explanation of forced perspective, where shorter upper floors create the illusion of taller buildings while maintaining an intimate streetscape. My one criticism of the book — the pocket-sized format reduces the early concept art to business card size.