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Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World [Paperback]

David Koenig
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 334 pages
  • Publisher: Bonaventure Pr; Reprint edition (2 Jun 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0964060531
  • ISBN-13: 978-0964060531
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 829,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read - if a little short on recent history 23 Sep 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm travelling to Florida shortly, and have visited Disney World three times in the past so ordered this ahead of time as holiday reading. Unfortunately I'm going to have to order something else for the trip, because once this book arrived I wasn't able to put it down.

David Koenig starts with a slow build up detailing the planning and construction stages of WDW, and it's in these first chapters that the book really shines. Following a largely chronological order, we start at the concept initially debated when Walt Disney was alive, through to the completion of the park and subsequent opening. This makes for a fascinating reading, as the scope of book covers the big ticket items of interest; the internal Disney politics, design decisions, construction issues, third party management, the egos, the logistics, the sheer scope is revealed in what was clearly an enormous and complex project.

About half way through the book starts to cover the subsequent EPCOT era, and whilst there's a similar range to the content, the detail is a little lighter. This light-touch pace then follows for the rest of the book, and eventually you find that by the time the author gets around to covering Disney's Animal Kingdom . by which point Disney MGM Studios has also been discussed - there's only a handful of pages left in this 300 page tome. So it comes as a little disappointment not to find the same in-depth, extensive coverage for the later parks.

In a way, David Koenig does almost too good a job covering the first parks history, the Magic Kingdom, with such vigour that you can't help yourself but be a little disappointed with the last third of the book. It feels slightly rushed, and I could have easily have read another 200 pages more. Maybe we can expect more of a revision.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! 8 Oct 2011
By Clare
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
an absolute must for the disney enthusiast. full of interesting facts and information, it's a very good book to read just for fun, even if you're not going to walt disney world.
it details the parks planning and first years of operation. it also details walt's ideas for EPCOT Centre.
like the previous reviewer, i also felt that the book became very rushed, not really going into much detail about MGM, just brushing it slightly. i could have kept reading.
but still a good addition to any disney addicts collection.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Read 11 Jun 2012
By Lew1
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a great in-depth history of the extraodinary jouney that culminated in the creation of Disney World in Florida.

It is true to say that the book mainly focuses on the Magic Kingdom and Epcot parks, but it is made quite clear that these are the two that have the most interesting stories to tell - at a time when Disney was still desperately trying to follow Walt's 'vision' rather then the large profit-chasing corporate entity that it is now.

Highly recommended for everyone with an interest in Disney World!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Orlando 13 Jan 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Gift recipient h.Has been to Orlando with children twice and is going again in July, this book gives fresh insight into the Disneyfication of swampland.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  52 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scraping the pixie dust 21 Jan 2008
By GLENN WHELAN - Published on
Recently, I had read and reviewed Charlie Ridgway's book "Spinning Disney's World". That book examined many Disney experiences and explored how the situation was resolved through Public Relations. That book seemed to hop around, sometimes decades as Ridgway `remembered' items of interest.

I have just finished reading David Koenig's ambitious book REALITYLAND. It too explores experiences and stories, but this time it's well organized, and thoroughly chronological. And most importantly for the "spin" on this book... devoid of Disney's Public Relations spin.

I enjoyed the book in very much the same way as Koenig's earlier offerings MouseTales and More MouseTales. All are unauthorized and live up to it. The read is fun, especially if you are into the sort of back alley stories that Koenig slyly relates.

There is plenty of behind the scenes gossip and dirty dealings. After reading some chapters, I actually felt dirty. The worst is reserved for former CEO Michael Eisner and here is where I felt Koenig gave in to a lot of the anti-hype. At no other time in the book did the information delivery become emotional. Statements along the lines of "Eisner arrogantly dismissed" or that Eisner was an "egotistical bully" that are not quoted to someone else seem out of place in a book so thorough in researched material. Especially after giving a pass to previous administrations whose issues were even more flagrant.

Koenig knows his stuff and knows how to deliver it. Capitalizing on a pre-ordained villain helps bring just enough of a soap opera to keep cynics grumbling for another decade. He's also a bright enough individual to end the book on an equalizing tone, validating both the cynical and optimistic point of view of the Disney Corporation.

Disney fans, you will know if this book is for you only if you can stomach a telling with a negative lean... scraping away that pixie dust.
51 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Entertaining - Not for Disney fanboys 6 Oct 2007
By RonAnnArbor - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a provocative and entertaining look at the way Disney intruded on Central Florida, created its own government, and exerted its will on a quiet sleepy Florida town. Did everything happen the way the book says? WHo knows...Koenig has plenty of direct sources. More than likely more accurate than the "disney authorized" books out there that spout only the Disney partyline. In particular there are volumes of union records and complaints that are a goldmine for this type of material, since Disney hid all these things from the public, but they are all available as public record.

The chapter on injuries and deaths in the land of WDW is especially interesting -- using primary police records and EMS logs, it clearly catalogs Disney's years and years of paying off casualties and their familes, and points its way directly to the terrible relationship Disney currently has with the Orlando media.

This is a great and fast read for those who aren't necessarily Disney Fanboys...i.e. if you think that everything at Disney is covered in pixie dust, then by all means avoid this book. Like Disney Wars a few years back, this is a no-holds barred look at the disfunction that often runs rampant in large corporations. The chapter on the building of the first series of hotels in itself demonstrates the countless hirings, firings, and shady business relationships that WDW's creators encountered. All of it public record for those who care to look.

Filled with plenty of trivia, it will appeal to those fascinated by Disney, but not necessarily blinded to exploring corporate greed and commercialism. Not for everyone.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Stories and Factoids 9 Nov 2007
By Eric Cohen - Published on
After the Mouse Tales books, I was left wanting more and David Koenig has taken care of that with Realityland. The book takes a look at EPCOT and what did or did not ever see the light of day at Walt Disney World. The book is filled with tales from Cast Members and an excellent behind the scenes account of how WDW came to be. From workers running off worksites to the delay in the opening of the Contemporary, it's all in there.

The book is very solid (until the last chapter) and it's a very easy read. The noticable flaw in the book is towards the end. Koenig has a very long narrative from pre-WDW to the building of EPCOT. He then just throws in a compressed chapter plus about Disney from the Eisner era to today. It seems that he should have ended the title after his core subjects were tackled and saved it for a future book.

Additionally, the last chapter becomes incredibly opinion based. Koenig goes into the now Iger age. It's clear that the the text was wrapped up before John Lassiter and the Pixar team became so integrated into the company, noticably the theme parks. Koenig goes on about declining quality of the parks, but his opinions seem dated with so many quality changes that have been appearing the past year within the company. With some of his sources including web based gossip mavens including Jim Hill and Al Lutz, it just read like an extended complaint column in the last chapter. The last chapter might have seemed on-target had recent changes not been made.

Overall, it's interesting to read and you'll enjoy the little behind the scenes stories that line the book.
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More Epcot than Anything Else 5 Dec 2007
By Brad K - Published on
The cover should give it away. This isn't the story of Walt Disney World, this is the story of Epcot and everything that attempted to personify the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow as relayed by Walt. It seems, in fact, that Disney-MGM Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom, neither portrayed in a very favorable light, are mentioned only out of courtesy.

Another issue I take up with this book is Koenig (and having read both Mouse Tales and Mouse Under Glass, I can say I'm a fan of his work) has a really difficult time being objective. The re-occurring theme in this book is how 'big-egoed' Michael Eisner virtually destroyed all that was good about the company with his bottom-line thinking, despite having spent many pages prior to Eisner's introduction talking about how the company as a whole was hemmoraging money left and right. Koening seems to have issue that Eisner took the only profitable division of the company (and yet not profitable enough to keep the company alive) and managed to yield more profits from it. At what cost? Enough to keep the Disney company around. Koenig inexplicably leaves out various items that wouldn't support his findings. How is it possible that a company bent on cutting costs everywhere would constantly be spending more money to revamp attractions, either favorably or not (Koenig harps on the Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management, but doesn't explain why it wasn't changed at Disneyland - in fact, under Eisner's reign, Disneyland's went under a major refurbishment to restore the original attraction). The problem with Koenig's reporting here is evident enough: it directly blames Eisner when something happens that he doesn't like, but when something does happen that he's in favor of, it's serendipitous or - in the case of Alien Encounter becoming Stitch's Great Escape -'prophetic' that better things are to come once Iger steps in. Again, completely ignoring that newer attractions such as Expedition Everest happened under Eisner's reign as well. Not to say that Eisner was perfect, but give credit where credit is due. It's just become the popular thing to blame him when something you don't like happens but give out credit like candy to everyone else when something you do like happens.

Ultimately - and still in respect to Eisner - this book reads as if Koenig was expecting (and rightfully so at the time) Disney to gloss over the 25th Anniversary of Epcot. While never explicitly mentioning it (although it wouldn't surprise me if earlier drafts did), he begins digging at it by mentioning how a Disneyland promotion was so succesful, that Eisner decided to milk it by celebrating virtual non-events like WDW's 15th.

This book is an ode to Epcot which happens to cover the Magic Kingdom simply because it's almost considered to be Epcot:Phase I here. All that aside, there is plenty of information to be found here that isn't found elsewhere. It's a decent read. I was hoping more for what one would expect having read Mouse Tales and the few such items that are mentioned seem a tad out of place given the full context of the book, but it's still worthy a read. As long as you forget there are other parks after it.

A much fairer review of Eisner (both good and bad) can be found in books like Disney War, but certainly not here.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The hard facts behind creating the ultimate fantasy land 1 Aug 2008
By Alan D. Cranford - Published on
David Koenig wrote Mouse Tales. Realityland continues his detailed `behind the ears look,' but this time he looks at Walt Disney World (WDW) in Florida rather than at the original Disneyland in California. David's introduction surprised me: `I thought I knew most of the `secrets' of the Disney theme park," he wrote. I was surprised because Disneyland and WDW are radically different from each other. David wrote that before WDW came to town, central Florida was considerably more rural than Anaheim had been before 160 acres of orange groves became Disneyland. For example, on page 55 Realityland says that some of the 14 original cast members staffing the Preview Center during WDW construction were normally barefoot prior to being hired by Disney. Today Disneyland in Anaheim remained the most provincial of the two parks. I had thought it was obvious--Disneyland is small-town America and WDW is the big city. I am prejudiced by visiting both as a regular guest--and by taking the guided tours of both places. Mr. Koenig was able to overcome his original impression--one he earned while interviewing 250 Disneyland cast members over seven years and while researching records and libraries for Mouse Tales. In 1995 David Koenig got his `I don't think we're in Kansas anymore' moment when he began interviewing WDW cast members at the Big Bamboo Lounge in Kissimmee, Florida.
From there this enjoyable history of Walt Disney World delves right into Project X days. There is a connection between the CIA and WDW--see page 24: William Donovan (World War Two OSS chief--the forerunner of today's CIA) was a partner in the New York law firm used by Walt Disney for his Florida project. Tradecraft (as spy techniques are called) was used to hide Walt Disney Production's identity as the company acquired 44 square miles of swampland. One measure was co-opting the owner and publisher of the Orlando Sentinel, Martin Anderson. The history lesson is only part of Realityland--an enjoyable part. The role played by the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair and Walt's death and the `ghost town' opening day are all in here.
The heart and of the Florida Project was an experimental city that Walt called EPCOT. Walt was the soul of the Florida Project--when Walt died, EPCOT went from bonfire to glowing cinder. That cinder was enough to become Walt Disney World. Reading history shows that Walt Disney Productions/The Disney Company has always had hard times. EPCOT Center was opened in 1982 as a permanent world fair, a second theme park near the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom.
Today's United States has more homogeneity than when Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom opened on October 1, 1971. That is why people like Buzz Price of ERA were hired--to make sure that culture shock didn't sink the Disney Company. Still, there were culture shocks. Many WDW guests that first year were from New York and New Jersey--and not laid-back like the majority of the Disneyland guests. The crepe craze had hit the West Coast--but the East Coast guests wanted `real food'--hot dogs! Sometimes Planning doesn't ask Research the right questions.
David Koenig's Realityland is packed with gems for the Disney fan--such as a Utilidors diagram on page 120. WDW was one of the first `green' companies--its waste water is treated so that it is fit to drink (but isn't--the treated waste water us used to keep WDW's lawns green). Page 122 goes into the innovations at WDW--significant ones.
For Mouse Tales fans, the injuries and fatalities are exposed in Chapter 8, Crash Mountain. Chapter 11, Starring in the Show, is about cast member (employee) experiences. There are uniquely WDW experiences that Disneyland cast members never deal with--wild hogs and alligators for examples. The roller coaster Eisner years at WDW are told--including the sad transformation of the world's finest theme parks into shopping malls with $100 cover charges--shopping malls that carried the same merchandise available at any mega warehouse store, but at twice the price...
So how did EPCOT transform from the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow to an Experimental Prototype Theme Park of Tomorrow? David writes on page 321 that the Spirit of EPCOT has all but vanished--on the last page (324) David explains why: "Sadly, this world doesn't produce a whole lot of Walt Disneys."
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