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Designing Disney's Theme Parks: The Architecture of Reassurance [Hardcover]

Karal Ann Marling
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 15 1998
From the day it opened in July 1955, in an event given live TV coverage, Disneyland has been a key symbol of contemporary American culture. It has been both celebrated and attacked as the ultimate embodiment of consumer society, a harbinger of shopping-mall culture, a symbol of American hegemony in entertainment, the epitome of fantasy, simulation, pastiche, and the blurring of distinctions between reality and mass-media imagery. Yet for all the power of Disneyland as metaphor, almost no one has discussed the making of this unique place, with its far-flung colonies in Florida, Japan, and France. Written to accompany an exhibition at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, Designing Disney's Theme Parks: The Architecture of Reassurance is the first book to look beyond the multiple myths of Disneyland.

Uniting a roster of authors chosen from wide-ranging disciplines, this study is the first to examine the influence of Disneyland on both our built environment and our architectural imagination. Tracing the relationship of the Disney parks to their historical forbears, it charts Disneyland's evolution from one man's personal dream to a multinational enterprise, a process in which the Disney "magic" has moved ever closer to the real world. Editor Karal Ann Marling, Professor of Art History and American Studies at the University of Minnesota, draws upon her pioneering work in the Disney archives to reconstruct and analyze the intentions and strategies behind the parks. She is joined by Marty Sklar, Vice Chairman and Principal Creative Executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, historian Neil Harris, art historian Erika Doss, geographer Yi-Fu Tuan, critic Greil Marcus, and architect Frank Gehry to provide a unique perspective on one of the great post-war American icons.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars One of our TOP TEN Books on the Walt Disney Studios March 13 2003
While created as a companion text to the 1997 exhibition hosted by the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), this remarkable record is as fascinating to Disney fans and collectors as it is valuable to researchers and scholars. One feast at this banquet table will never be enough. Readers will be returning to this masterwork for decades to come.
From the project's genesis in meetings between Nicholas Osberg (Chief Curator, CCA) and Marty Sklar (Creative Director, Walt Disney Imagineering), an agreement was reached whereby every historic file and document at The Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Attractions, and Walt Disney Imagineering was made available to the exhibition's research team. Together, they met the awesome challenge of providing an in-depth analysis of the cultural phenomenon that began with Walt Disney's original theme park known as Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
As the project's director of research and curator of the exhibition, Karal Ann Marling has assembled a text that not only details the architectural elements of creation and design, but integrates the historic backstory and visual wonderland that led to the creation of the Disney theme parks in Anaheim, Orlando, Tokyo, and Paris.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging Thoughts about Disney Jan. 25 2001
Many books on Disney's art and achitecture try to convey its appeal primarily through the visual. Other books, particularly those that whole-heartedly criticize Disney, try to ignore the appeal of Disney altogether. This book attempts to integrate the visual evidence (photos, concept art) with academic writing on Disney (Karal Ann Marling, Erika Doss, Greil Marcus, etc.). Together, these aspects make for a solid inquiry as to the appeal of Disney's architecture.
The book was written to supplement an art exhibit of the same name and, in many ways, feels a bit incomplete without its exhibition, partly because the book tries to cover a lot of territory in its two hundred or so pages. And a lot of the book's pages are used for the essays. But the essays also provide the readers with another "way of seeing" the imagineers' works, something that other books of this type tend to forgoe for more pictures. The essays are irreplaceable for this book--and many are useful for re-examining other books' materials as well (Try it!).
Particularly useful for the Disney enthusiast is the criticism of Disney criticism by Greil Marcus. He astutely summarizes much of the current criticism of Disney: "All [the works mentioned earlier in the essay] have their moments of interest and all devolve quickly into a kind of critical voice that can perhaps best be called spite. This is not a good posture from which to practice criticism--an angry defensiveness, a fear that somehow one's faculties or tools of analysis are not up to the job disguised as contempt for the job itself....
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good book, great exhibit April 22 1999
By A Customer
The exhibit was excellent. When I purchased the book, I was expecting either an expansion on what was covered in the exhibit or at least a reveiw of all that was exhibited. Unfortunately there were many things that were left out. The illustrations & prints were small & a bit fuzzy & there are hardly any of the maquettes or minatures that were present at the exhibit contained in the book.
They also focused on criticism to show Disney's effect on our culture, but there are countless books that go over that.
I was hoping for new material with the same insight on the development for the parks & attraction that "Walt Disney Imagineering : A Behind the Dreams Look at Making the Magic Real" contained.
I enjoyed the book, but given what was at the exhibit, I can't help but be a little disappointed in the book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Darn Good Dec 2 2000
I bought this book and thought it was highly enjoyable. It never ceases to amaze me that for some reason, some folks tend to think that when Disney builds anything, they are trying to build things that are meant to be perfect. The last time I checked, Disney was in the business of building theme parks, not the Taj Mahal or Biltmore House. They are simply building things that are fun, period. This book does illustrate this quite well. The book has great art and the text is easy to read yet not insulting. Hey, if you like Disney or amusement parks or even really fun design/architecture, then check this book out. If you are just out to criticize etc., give us all a break and move on.
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By jeanna
This book is amazing. It immediately captured me. It gives valuable insight on the vison of disneys world and on how this vision becomes tangible.
Not only it talks abou the history of the themeparks but it shows the sketches, maps, plans of different parts and attractions of the disney world. An amazing resource full of phantasy and a joy to watch. The photographs and illustrations are very well chosen and it is a plasure to flip through this pages every once in a while. A very inspiring book, showing that often it is enough to dream it and then it becomes reality.The most peculiar shapes and interior spaces are built to be reality.
I highly recommend it.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Book on Disney
This book is great! I also want to be a Disney Imagieer. I already designed some cool, new rides. I hope I become an Imagineer! See Ya!
Published on March 15 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Fellow academic
It's too bad that so many people who reviewed the book here didn't seem to understand what they were buying and then were disappointed. It's a great book! Read more
Published on Jan. 2 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for Disney "how did they do it" fans.
This is a very valuable book to me... I have been a disney fan for years, and when I finally went there, too many questions popped up.. why did they make that like that? Read more
Published on Dec 11 2000 by Rob
1.0 out of 5 stars Cheerleader
This author is a well-known academic cheerleader for Disney who once again, doesn't disappoint. The architecture of Disney's theme parks is copied, gaudy, and in some ways,... Read more
Published on Aug. 4 2000
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected
This isn't a bad book, it has lots of pretty pictures, but it's just not the in-depth, detailed, behind-the-scenes look at the parks that I'd hoped for. Read more
Published on March 15 2000 by "brucec32"
2.0 out of 5 stars Gross Negligence
The author has very strange comments about the nature of the architecture of the Disney parks and the text is hard to read and confusing. Read more
Published on Feb. 16 2000 by D. Rector
2.0 out of 5 stars the editor of this book is a syncophant for disney.
I'm sorry, but beside factual errors. the editor of this book should be on Disney's payroll, if she isn't already. Needs to be much more objective in research. Read more
Published on Sept. 28 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun for Disney fans and academia
A look at the title, and even the opening, might lead one to think this book was written by and for academia. That is not true. Read more
Published on Aug. 23 1999
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