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...." What Marcus calls for is a real attempt to understand Disney for what it is and for how it affects people/American culture, something too few critics have done without falling into an either all-good or all-evil knee-jerk reaction. Worse, many critics make no attempt to experience Disney before making up their minds. This essay is an excellent reminder to those critics and a call to action.
The other essays are interesting and useful, as well. The interview with Frank Gehry seems a bit brief, and perhaps Karal Ann Marling takes too much center stage in the interview (as with the entire book). Still, this book opens the door for an appreciative examination of Disney and one that embraces Disney by attempting a "thick description" of its materiality and appeal. This book will not provide an exhaustive look at Disney's theme parks but it will offer the interested reader materials with which to look at Disney's parks in a new way.