On Monday, December 14th at 6:00PM PST Warwick's will host Richard Snow as he discusses his new book, Disney's Land: Walt Disney and the Invention of the Amusement Park That Changed the World in conversation with James A. Jensen. Richard Snow spent nearly four decades at American Heritage magazine, serving as editor in chief for seventeen years, and has been a consultant on historical motion pictures, among them Glory, and has written for documentaries, including the Burns brothers’ Civil War, and Ric Burns’s award-winning PBS film Coney Island, whose screenplay he wrote.
One day in the early 1950s, Walt Disney stood looking over 240 acres of farmland in Anaheim, California, and imagined building a park where people "could live among Mickey Mouse and Snow White in a world still powered by steam and fire for a day or a week or (if the visitor is slightly mad) forever." Despite his wealth and fame, exactly no one wanted Disney to build such a park. Not his brother Roy, who ran the company's finances; not the bankers; and not his wife, Lillian. Amusement parks at that time, such as Coney Island, were a generally despised business, sagging and sordid remnants of bygone days. Disney was told that he would only be heading toward financial ruin.
But Walt persevered, initially financing the park against his own life insurance policy and later with sponsorship from ABC and the sale of thousands and thousands of Davy Crockett coonskin caps. Disney assembled a talented team of engineers, architects, artists, animators, landscapers, and even a retired admiral to transform his ideas into a soaring yet soothing wonderland of a park. The catch was that they had only a year and a day in which to build it.
On July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened its gates... and the first day was a disaster. Disney was nearly suicidal with grief that he had failed on a grand scale. But the curious masses kept coming, and the rest is entertainment history. Eight hundred million visitors have flocked to the park since then. In Disney's Land, "Snow brings a historian's eye and a child's delight, not to mention superb writing, to the telling of this fascinating narrative" (Ken Burns) that "will entertain Disneyphiles and readers of popular American history" (Publishers Weekly).
James A. Jensen has been a bookseller for over 30 years. He's a member of the Horror Writers Association as well as the Mystery Writers of America. His stories appear in California Screamin' and Sherlock Holmes and the Occult Detectives Vol 2. While working on his next project, he shares a book-choked apartment with his patient wife, faithful Chigi pup Jeeves and a hungry gecko named Freddie.