This book is a comprehensive history of Disney on television, with "The Wonderful World of Disney" anthology show as the centerpiece. As a kid I grew up watching Uncle Walt every Sunday night, on "The Wonderful World of Disney". Back then we were not bombarded with 24 hour cable, satellite, vcr, dvd, video games,... We had 4 channels to choose from, and even those rarely had anything watchable for kids. And as a result no kid missed Sunday nights with Walt Disney. He always had something exciting on, adventure, historical stories, action, cartoons, animal fare, you name it! I sat in front of the tube mesmerized with my dinner on a TV tray, the only night my mom let me eat in front of the TV. Parents could always trust Walt Disney to give us wholesome entertainment. Now we have grown up, and the old television series is gone but not forgotten as long as you have this book.
There are hundreds of books on Disney's animated fare, but scant few have been written on their wonderful treasure trove of live action films, much less their material created specifically for television. There are books on specific shows, but none yet that bring them all together like this. Bill Cotter has done what no one else has attempted, to create a list of every single episode for every television show ever made: it's actors, plotline, trivia, air dates and rerun dates for every single show Disney ever made up to the date of publication. And he has done a fine job when you consider there are hundreds of episodes, aired 52 weeks a year, for 29 years. He takes the time to tell you if the episode was theatrically released first or televised first, overseas or domestic, if it was a feature that was edited not a movie or edited from a movie for TV, and even if it aired or released in a different name. He even lets you know what Disney did with the episode in the European market.
This book has been a wonderful resource to assist me in finding old episodes that I can't remember the name for but vividly remember the story, confirming that the child actors are the famous persons I see in the movies now, or checking to see which video I want to track down next. Very comprehensive at 628 pages. Not a ton of pictures, but some good ones. Some books on Disney use too many pictures as a crutch for lacking content, but not this one. The back of the book has a massive appendix with tons of information on every episode, such as the writer, director, producer, actors, original story material source, screenplay writer, composers, visual effects, and so on... basically the entire credits for every episode are listed here.
But it doesn't end there, he lists every episode of Mickey Mouse Club, the New Mickey Mouse Club and their respective serials; Zorro; Specials; and special releases of themovies to TV. Also has obscure limited series forgotten by time like Small & Frye, Zorro and Son, Meet Me at Disneyland, Gun Shy, or Wildside. The only source I can find for the many specials, series, and films of the Disney Channel. Saturday Mornings and Disney Afternoons animation is here like DuckTales, Wuzzles, Gummi Bears, Winnie the Pooh, Chp 'n Dale's Rescue Rangers, Tale Spin, Bonkers, Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Timon & Pumba, Gargoyles, and all the rest. And the "non-Disney" labeled stuff they made like Blossom, Home Improvement, Golden Girls, Nurses, Empty Nest, Boy Meets World, The Torkelsons, Dinosaurs, and all the other syndicated series from Touchstone Television. It even lists the unaired episodes!
The author of this book chose to include other shows that are so-called "not Disney", the Touchstone shows like the "Golden Girls". You have to remember that Disney Studios bought ABC Television, and prior to that was producing television medium at the Florida studio for the networks that did not have the Disney name plastered all over it, but was still made by the Disney company. They were just trying to be completist, and you get more information as a consumer at no extra cost. I myself am not interested in many of those Touchstone shows so I simply skipped that part of the book, no harm done there. Frankly, there is no other book at this time that lists every single episode of the legacy of Walt in his Wonderful World of Disney show. Trust me, this book is a treat for any Disney TV fan.
A reviewer felt like some of the descriptions of each episode were too short, but there were 29 years of episodes on 3 different networks for the anthology show alone to cover in the book, and I feel that under the circumstances they did very well with a paragraph or two on each episode. The book is already 628 pages long, and is much bigger than a large dictionary. Any more and it would honestly be unmanagable.
Since it is a history book first and foremost, the shows are listed from the oldest shows to the newest. Then within each show, such as Zorro, they list the episodes in the order they were aired. The exception is "The Wonderful World of Disney" which is done alphabetically, since so many of those episodes played multiple times over the years, or were mutli-part episodes, but most of all because the fans remember them by name but not neccesarily by air date. It really does make it easier this way. It lists episodes by the title name, which in a multi-part show like "Johnny Tremain" can get confusing at first. But the book usually tells you in one listing the names of the other parts of the story so you can track them down. For example on page 97 it begins with the main title Davy Crockett, then lists the 5 episode names of the original series so you can look them up by name. Then it list the 5 episodes from the 1988 remake series. It does the same with Elfego Baca, Gallagher, and other shows and even movies that were renamed as episodes after editing. The layout of the book takes a little extra effort to understand at first, but over time I have come to appreicate it very much and frankly would not change it.
This is a great resource for info on theatrical releases and featurettes too since most aired on the show sooner or later. I strongly reccommend this book to any Disney fan or historian. It is one of the most valuable reference books in my Disney collection of over 100 books.
Sadly the original Disney anthology shows have seen almost no attention from the studio by way of DVD release, and most episodes on VHS were printed in the 1980's. There are a number of episodes from the show still available "used" on VHS, simply do a search at Amazon under, "The Wonderful World of Disney". And if you use this book like I did you can find almost half of the Disney episodes ever made were released on VHS back in the '80s under their original episode titles. Buy them while you still can. I highly reccommend this hugely important reference to Disney television.