Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions and Other Tributes, by Kevin Yee, Ultimate Orlando Press, 2010, 225 pp.
Most visitors to Walt Disney World are unaware of what lies behind and beyond the attractions they experience, the restaurants where they dine, or the settings in which they are immersed. For ardent Disney fans, however, the history behind the magic, the “backstory” in Disney-speak, is nearly as important as the magic itself.
In Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions and Other Tributes, Kevin Yee, a former Disneyland Cast Member, provides a valuable and unique addition to the Disney canon. Focusing exclusively on Walt Disney World history, Yee’s meticulously researched book is a guide to its rich heritage and a tribute to its builders.
In the Introduction to Hidden History, Yee discusses how the “constantly-evolving nature of Walt Disney World” is part of its appeal and how that evolution has allowed Disney Imagineers an opportunity to “deposit layers of meaning and history to a form of entertainment often enjoyed on the strengths of its surface value alone.” What Yee makes clear from the very beginning of Hidden History is that, at WDW, nothing is ever as it appears. Little is random or left to chance and there is concealed meaning to nearly everything that is experienced.
With a casual yet authoritative tone and ample photographs, Hidden History explores WDW’s four major parks and the areas surrounding the parks. Yee even includes a chapter devoted to the hidden history of…ahem…Universal Studios Florida.
Hidden History accomplishes two things very successfully. First, it builds a bridge between present day WDW and its past. It also uncovers relationships between seemingly unrelated attractions and theming. Throughout WDW, Imagineers have secreted visual and textual references and tributes to Disney history: important dates, initials of Imagineers instrumental in the creation of the attractions, and nods to attractions that formerly occupied buildings housing current attractions (e.g., the famous picture of Mr. Toad in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction). Everyone knows that 1971 is important in WDW history, but Yee guides you to places where Imagineers have interspersed references to 1971 in creative and indirect ways. July 17th is another significant day in Disney history. Yee explains why and then embarks on a comprehensive search for the many ways the date has been woven throughout the fabric of WDW.
Yee tells us that several WDW attractions share, or “borrow,” Audio-Animatronics figures. Because attractions such as Hall of Presidents, Spaceship Earth and American Adventure require so many Audio-Animatronics, Disney Imagineers thought it made sense to reuse the same figures in several attractions. With some significant costume changes and the addition or subtraction of facial hair, there are Presidents on Spaceship Earth, and the Grandmother from a famous Tomorrowland attraction can be found in the Haunted Mansion.
And if all that isn’t enough, Hidden History contains two additional reference chapters: “Attraction Dates” which provides a list of every WDW attraction, past and present, the year each attraction opened, and the year it closed; and “Main Street Windows” which lists, in order of appearance, every individual honored with a name on a Main Street window.
In the Afterword to Hidden History, Yee sums up the importance of his work. “It’s the details at Disney that render the experience magical. To know the details is to examine the magician’s trick hat—you will have a fuller understanding of what’s going on and what to watch for, and it will only increase your enjoyment of the effect.”
Yee succeeds in guiding us deep into the magician’s hat.
Contributed by: John Marchese (NDD#172) John is the DDL Media Relations Blogger.