Book Review: “Disney World at 50: The Stories of How Walt’s Kingdom Became Magic in Orlando”

Hi everyone!

I received “Disney World at 50: The Stories of How Walt’s Kingdom Became Magic in Orlando” to review. This is one of several books celebrating the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World. “Disney World at 50” comes in a hardcover version and for Kindle. The book is by the Orlando Sentinel, published by Triumph Books. “Disney World at 50” is a wonderfully unique and entertaining look at Walt Disney World from pre-opening to now.

Disney World at 50” is not a big coffee table book like “A Portrait of Walt Disney World: 50 Years of The Most Magical Place on Earth“. It is 8.5 x 0.7 x 11 inches and 176 pages, a nice sized book but I wish it was even bigger. What I love about the book is that it features reprinted articles (full and partial) from through the years from the Orlando Sentinel. They begin in the mid-1960s when Orlando Sentinel “Girl Reporter” Emily Bavar predicted that Walt Disney purchased nearly 30,000 acres in Central Florida. And because these articles have been written through the years, some of the information came to be and some didn’t (like the Venetian Resort, the Western River Expedition and Thunder Mesa – “A spectacular panorama of the Old West”). Disney’s Polynesian Resort would be “The place to stay for sports enthusiasts” and Disney’s Contemporary Resort was to have a teen pool with underwater rock and roll music.

There are some really great photos of various sizes that I haven’t sometimes seen, including construction photos of the parks. A lot of the book is pre-opening and 1971 articles – more than half the book before it moves into Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom openings and other celebrations.

Opening day articles include one about the “first family” visiting the Magic Kingdom and about 12-year old Tom Morris traveling cross country on his own. Some of the 1971 articles feel like promotions for the parks, including articles about the various lands and transportation. There are some funny anecdotes throughout, including some of the Seven Dwarfs debating on how they could talk to a reporter (as themselves? As their character?) – it turns out, not at all (page 94), in one of the articles featuring Cast Members.

Articles feature the openings of attractions that came later, like Space Mountain, StarJets and Carousel of Progress. River Country, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, Pleasure Island, the 25th Anniversary of Walt Disney World and the opening of the other parks are included. And in present day, the pandemic takes a few pages as does the future.

What I really enjoy most about “Disney World at 50” is reading the stories as they were written at the time. It isn’t someone paraphrasing what they consider to be the most interesting parts of the story. The articles are written as we were meant to read them in the time frame they were written in, along with photos. My only qualm is that the book isn’t even bigger because I wanted to keep reading more history. And don’t skip out on the Introduction by Orlando Sentinel Managing Editor Roger Simons. I recommend “Disney World at 50” to anyone interested in Walt Disney World history.

Here is the original publisher information about the book:

Celebrating 50 years of The Most Magical Place on Earth

Since its opening in October 1971, Walt Disney World has continued to expand and evolve as the most visited vacation resort in the world. What hasn’t changed over five decades is the incomparable sense of magic it bestows on all who pass through the arched entrance gates.

Disney World at 50 is a celebration of the park’s rich and fascinating history, from its early development as “The Florida Project” to the ever spectacular present. Explore Walt’s original utopian vision, the most incredible feats by Disney’s Imagineers, and each of the individual theme parks.

Featuring historic coverage and over 100 photos from the Orlando Sentinel archives, the commemorative edition is a visually stunning chronicle of the place where dreams come true.


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