Debuts on September 28th of Disney Editions is a brand new coffee table book, “A Portrait of Walt Disney World: 50 Years of the Most Magical Place on Earth.” I recently sat down with fellow authors Kevin Kern and Steven Vagnini to share more information about the creative process behind the elaboration of this impressive 320-page Walt Disney World health, released just in time for the start of the 18-month Walt Disney World 50 resource.th birthday celebration.
What was the purpose of the book?
KEVIN: Our goal was to create a historical snapshot with as many voices as possible. We are especially excited to present essays the likes of Debby Dane Browne (the world’s first ambassador to Walt Disney), Dick Nunis (Disney Legend and former head of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts) and Roy Patrick Disney (grandson of Roy O. Disney , co-founder of The Walt Disney Company). Each adds a rich sense of place-related details as it was during the development and opening of Walt Disney World.
TIM: We wanted to create a book that would delight readers with rare visuals and new information that would generate a sense of wonder and admiration. We also wanted to reaffirm what many people already believe: that Walt Disney World is a revered and respected destination in the pop culture landscape with an incredible legacy.
STEVEN: The goal was consistent: to pay tribute to this remarkable place and to the thousands of cast members, Imagineers, and guests who have made Walt Disney World a reality over five decades. I am especially excited that we can highlight the voices of many unknown leaders who helped plan and organize the “Florida Project” in its early years; many of them have windows on Main Street, USA, but their stories are not so well known.
Tell us about your first visit to Walt Disney World.
KEVIN: It was April 1990. The Great Movie Ride had a big impact on me, as did The Magic of Disney Animation tour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Growing up as far away from Hollywood as I could, the magic of movies and the magic of Disney really, just caught my senses and interests like nothing else.
TIM: My first visit was in 1983. EPCOT was less than a year old and I will never forget the feeling of wonder and optimism that this new kind of Disney experience represents. During one particular night, EPCOT had officially ended its day and we discovered that we were one of the few diners left in the park, apparently having EPCOT all to ourselves. The terrestrial audio speakers were new back then, and to walk back and forth, the imposing structure of the Earth spacecraft, with the magnificent and inspiring EPCOT music surrounding us, remains an indelible memory for me.
STEVEN: Since I was born in central Florida, I first visited it when I was a year old. Apparently, I spent “the best time of my life!” It’s hard to remember the details of that first experience, but my first memories include feeling the feel of flying to the If You Could Fly attraction in Tomorrowland and enjoying all the hootin ’and hollerin’ of the Melvin the Moose Breakfast Show in Fort . The desert.
What would you say was the most important or transformative memory you have on the property?
KEVIN: The first Disney book I bought on my own was “Since the World Began” by Jeff Kurtti (Disney Editions, 1996). I bought my copy at the end of a family visit and clearly remember sitting on the back porch of the Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground Meadow Trading Post, on the pages; I didn’t get enough. I was amazed at the story of these covers. The volume ignited the hope that one day he would have the opportunity to work on a book about Walt Disney World. I guess there is a bit of poetic justice that here, 25 years later, would be part of the same team tasked with helping make that dream come true.
TIM: Mine are moments of “pinch-I can’t believe-this-is-happening”: an evening sitting in the rocking chairs on the back porch of Disney’s BoardWalk with composer Richard M. Sherman (and his lovely wife, Elizabeth ), Oscar winner Hayley Mills, and Disney author Jeff Kurtti, and together we join the song in an impromptu rendition of “On the Front Porch” (yes, weird, I know!) . There were also 25 of themth birthday ceremony at Cinderella Castle, officiated by Roy E. Disney and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. I was with Disney Legends, Marc and Alice Davis, and I could see the pride in their eyes knowing that their contributions to the complex would last for generations. He also collaborated with Steven in 2011 to bring together Figment, Dreamfinder and composer Richard Sherman to the immense delight of D23 members. There are so many special memories like these that I consider myself incredibly lucky.
STEVEN: Meet my amazing wife at the resort as cast members and finally have a Disney fairy tale wedding. The second was the production, with Tim, of the programming for D23’s Destination D 2011 event, celebrating 40 years of Walt Disney World. Throughout the weekend, fans of all ages gathered to celebrate the Disney stories and legends behind this remarkable site. I think we all, off and off stage, felt something quite magical that weekend … a special sense of community linked by a love deeply rooted in our shared experiences of Walt Disney World. No doubt this inspired me to want to highlight these inspiring voices and amazing stories from our book.
Based on your favorite aspects of the resort, what sections of the book did you love to write about?
KEVIN: When the three of us sat down to chat a proper metaphor was presented: a “themed compass”. By focusing on the resort through various conceptual lenses (nostalgia, fantasy, discovery and tomorrow), we were able to link conceptual art, photography and the ephemeral of the five decades in ways we hope will surprise and delight the readers.
STEVEN: Ever since I became an Imagineer, I’ve had an even greater appreciation for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which features such brilliant nuances. I think the way we tell stories in this park that deserve more detailed inspection and understanding, and hopefully readers of our book will appreciate our stage-by-scene trip through the theme park with the various voices of those who helped design and build it. .
TIM: Each of us appropriated ourselves to write certain chapters and sections of the book, and then we checked and edited each other, which resulted in one of the most wonderful collaborative efforts I have ever experienced. So there’s a little bit of each of us in almost every paragraph, regardless of who was in charge of a section or chapter.
What is your favorite section of the book?
KEVIN: The special rehearsals are a delight to read and left us amazed after the conversations with Debby, Dick and Roy Patrick. We also offer a section called “Reflections,” in which we hear voices from popular culture and Disney history about Walt Disney World as a cultural site, while remembering past resource’s birthday celebrations. This may surprise some readers.
TIM: I love it all! We were really looking forward to creating the most complete book ever written at Walt Disney World and I think we did. I also love our 15 pages of final notes. They demonstrate our extensive research and give the book solid credibility. I am inclined to Kevin’s insistence and am proud that our book contains these details.
STEVEN: One of the most fun sections to write about was our chapter on the roots of the Disney family in Florida, something that Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith began researching in 1970. I think few people realize that about 80 years before Walt Disney had a view of central Florida, his parents and grandparents settled here, planting family roots near a city (now long lost) called Kismet, 60 miles north of future Disney property.
While we wait for “The Most Magical Celebration in the World,” what excites you most about Walt Disney World 50th Birthday?
KEVIN: Just having the opportunity to share and reflect with everyone on how remarkable the complex is running. Walt’s hope that the place will serve as a meeting place to find joy, inspiration, and new insights into the worlds around us is as demanding today as ever.
TIM: I’ve been involved in so many Walt Disney World campaigns since the 20thth birthday now up to 50th birthday. They all have one thing in common. Everyone wants to be a part of something special. I look forward to celebrating a truly remarkable story with everyone, half a century in progress, that the guests, cast members and Imagineers will help write.
STEVEN: Gathering to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the last and arguably Walt Disney’s biggest dream could be nothing more than “The most magical celebration in the world!”. To me, the cast and Walt Disney World Imagineers are the very definition of “magic makers”. I can’t wait to see them in action, creating magic for our guests, amidst the new entertainment and excitement of this unique celebration.
“A Portrait of Walt Disney World: 50 Years of the Most Magical Place” on Earth will be available at Walt Disney World, shopDisney and anywhere books are sold from September 28th. For more information, visit www.DisneyBooks.com.