Book Review: Disney World at 50 – Orlando Sentinel

Publisher: Triumph Books

Year: 2021

Pages: 176

Type: Hardcover

ISBN: 978-1-62937-982-1

Because 50 years later, we’re still Mickey’s neighbors.”

Walt Disney World opened in Florida on October 1st of 1971. The Orlando Sentinel newspaper was there to cover the construction, the opening, the first years, and is still there today, covering all that is newsworthy about Walt’s second Park.

This book covers Walt Disney World in a way not done before. Instead of creating a narrative through new interviews and turning those into a single story, it simply reprints articles and images as they originally appeared in the newspaper over the years.

Each article gives the original date of publishing, the author(s), and at least one image from that time.

As you can see from the two images above, the book is a time capsule that you, the reader, gets to open. I enjoyed it as it gave me details about the people and the attractions as they were. As a historical reference, this book is a gold mine for the amateur Disney historian!

I apologize, but I couldn’t resist inserting an image of the infamous Birthday Cake Castle! This is as good a time as any to mention that it appears the Orlando Sentinel has been firmly on Team Disney from the start. Every article is upbeat and casts WDW in the best possible light. Even this much hated pink monstrosity!

The only exception was an article about Disney’s Animal Kingdom that featured interviews with actual Park guests on opening day. Let’s just say the reviews weren’t good. But again, this was the only time I found anything negative.

To get an idea of how other media sources were handling the opening of Walt Disney World, check out my earlier post that outlines what the people of Florida thought about Disney coming to the area and how Life Magazine covered it.

There is way too much in this book to share here! It is filled with fascinating facts that even an uber fan such as myself didn’t know. So the book should appeal to even the most jaded and well-read Disney fan.

What I found interesting was just how many times the newspaper was able to cover things that Disney would never allow to be exposed today. A case in point is found in the two images above where we are introduced to the man who played Mickey Mouse when WDW opened in 1971. His name was Doug Parks, and we not only get his name, but a picture of him as well!

Today, Cast Members who play Disney characters are not allowed to grant interviews or post about their roles. Times change.

The book ends with coverage of WDW during the Pandemic. Above, you can see a picture of the abandoned parking lot for the Magic Kingdom. 2021 was the 50th Anniversary of WDW and that put the celebration right smack in the middle of a worldwide shutdown!

I thought the recreation of the famous welcoming of Walt to Florida by Gov. Lawton Chiles (originally Gov. Haydon Burns) was really inventive. It was staged for the 25th Anniversary of WDW. Walt’s nephew, Roy E. Disney, standing in for Walt, certainly had a sense of fun!

I would give this book more than 5 out of 5 Stars if I could! Again, anyone interested in the history of Walt Disney World and in getting the facts straight should find it more than informative.

FUN FACTS: For more than one of the Parks within Walt Disney World, both balloons and birds were released as part of the spectacle. But did you know that they tied colored streamers to the tails of the birds?!? Who does that?

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