This is primarily a construction saga, albeit a highly readable one set in an anxious nation that didn’t know it needed Disneyland until Walt provided it ... No detail is too small for Snow ... therefore a disappointment that [Snow] includes only an alphabetical list of books and articles instead of endnotes, especially in a narrative full of reconstructed scenes that cries out for firmer sourcing ... Snow also includes remembrances of the Disneyland from his childhood that would be perfectly at home in an afterword, but he lodges them distractingly in the second chapter. And for a book, like many others of its historical genre, that purports to show how its subject 'changed the world,' he gives only brief treatment to the multiple criticisms of Disneyland and its effect on American life. Some of these attacks come from academic reactionaries, certainly, but the park’s social legacy calls for more conscientious treatment than three pages, which is significantly less attention than Snow gives to Walt’s extended haggle with television networks. Despite these minor shortcomings, the pacing is well-timed ... a worthy peek behind the drapes.
Disney’s Land is Snow’s exhaustively researched, jam-packed chronicle of how Walt Disney conceived and created a new kind of amusement park ... It’s an extremely entertaining story, if one occasionally crowded with an abundance of detail and minor characters. At times, the book’s narrative feels as if it’s in danger of being overrun by a swarm of midcentury white male engineers: Mad Men with slide rules. But this is part weakness, part charming; how else would readers learn about how carousel horses are made, or that the original Dumbo ride was meant to carry visitors in flying pink elephants, before that reference to drunkenness was squashed for not being too wholesome? ... More troubling are Disneyland’s (and Disney’s) politically incorrect elements ... One wishes for more authorial context, and even judgment, but Snow seems inclined to defend Disney on this score, quoting from PR fluff to make the case ... Too bad about the past, which remains vexing, and in this otherwise excellent book, imperfectly addressed.
... sprightly ... Snow peels back the glossy Be Our Guest façade to reveal Walt Disney’s comfort with risk ... Snow’s energetic prose and quick passage through the biographical preliminaries are welcome, but as Disney’s Land progresses he loses sight of the overarching narrative. What should be a tick-tock transforms into a grab bag ... after a while the parade of bright young men and their mechanical, engineering and plumbing problems becomes numbing ... Snow is at his best when he analyzes the way Disneyland has influenced culture beyond the initial idea of a kinder, cleaner amusement park ... When a contemporary entertainment innovator like the Museum of Ice Cream’s Maryellis Bunn says she wants to be the millennial Disney, it isn’t the false fronts of Disneyland’s Main Street that she’s talking about but instead the idea of creative control over the real world, from human interactions to color schemes. This is the changing-the-world part of the book’s subtitle, the complicated and compromised reality that Snow would have been smart to focus on. With fewer fun facts and more critique, Disney’s Land could, and should, have drawn out the parallels to the present-day multimedia environment. The LA Tidings had it right in 1955. Giant cash registers and million-dollar people traps are still clicking and clanging. Critics continue to ask, Daydream or nightmare?
What makes Disney’s Land by Richard Snow compelling is its recreation of the nail-biting suspense surrounding an endeavour so deliciously unlikely ... Snow brings to life the nerves of workers still laying asphalt or adding paint to attractions ... Snow’s research is thorough and his narrative approach chronological, with brief digressions to fill in each player’s backstory ... Sometimes Snow’s digressions can be distracting or – at worst – troubling, especially when they defend Disney and his projects from serious accusations ... The parks’ allure is most strong among children or adults who encountered the parks as children. Snow went first as a child, and much later as a writer, and although the personal recollections that bookend this work of history initially seem out of place, it becomes clear that they are in fact its animating force ... Those more versed in Disney lore might not find many new stories in Disney’s Land, but then the genius of Walt Disney’s oeuvre was never really in telling new stories either: rather, it was in retelling old stories in a remarkable way. By that measure, Snow’s work suits its subject beautifully.
... accessible and well-researched ... fans of Disney and amusement park history will find compelling accounts of the work and innovation that resulted in a park that was organic in its creation. Readers of Chad Denver Emerson’s Project Future and Martin Sklar’s Dream It! Do It! will relish the stories from the cast of characters who worked long hours under extreme pressure to open the happiest place on Earth ... Much has already been written about Disney’s theme parks, but Snow’s readable business history explores the work and innovation that went into launching the park.
... breaks from the pack. Snow weaves a rich biography of a place ... Snow echoes Disney’s attention to detail in this lush history of how the theme park came to be. He zooms in on particulars that 21st-century consumers might take for granted ... For Disneyland diehards who want to go under the hood of an Autopia car, this is a meticulous chronicle of artistic devotion. But for the merely Disney-curious and those who (like myself) haven’t visited Disneyland, it may, at times, be a bumpy ride ... Snow gives dozens of Disney employees and various contractors their due, often describing their pre-Disney careers and their temperaments, their engineering or artistic triumphs. Sometimes this resembles interminable introductions at a crowded party – a wash of names that leaves a reader wanting both greater emotional connection and a corporate pyramid chart...But in a few cases, it seems a worthwhile endeavor to recognize unsung contributors ... In our search for art that emboldens us to forge a better, inclusive future, it may be most important to avoid slippery, saccharine nostalgia for the past. And for all his reverence for Disney, Snow understands this too.
For most Americans, Disneyland has always been, but few have any understanding of how it came to be. Richard Snow fills in that gap in our collective consciousness ... In a series of fascinating vignettes, Snow takes the reader through the process of fleshing out Disney’s ideas for Disneyland, an innovative amusement park unlike any other at the time.