The Thinking Fan’s Guide to Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom
“The Thinking Fan’s Guide is different kind of guidebook for a different kind of theme park experience. Aaron Wallace avoids the ephemera of prices and menus to explore the heart of the Disney experience, the attractions themselves. He provides a lighthearted but scholarly look at the history, lore, and literature that inform the designs and storylines of every ride and attraction in the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland, as well as the Walt Disney World Railroad, the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game, the Celebrate a Dream Come True and SpectroMagic parades, the Wishes fireworks show, and Main Street, U.S.A. itself. Far from being mere “amusements,” these 36 attractions provide a complex, multi-layered narrative that can be experienced and appreciated just like a great novel, play, or film. The Thinking Fan’s Guide will fascinate Disney buffs with the sometimes surprising insights it offers into old favorites while offering newcomers to the Disney magic a much richer experience. If you are ready to immerse yourself in the magnificent achievement that is Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, this is the guide for you.” — Publisher’s Description
As advertised, The Thinking Fan’s Guide is not your typical guidebook, but then again, Walt Disney World is not your typical theme park. You get some of the “typical” information about attractions like wait times, best time to visit, and “fear factor”, but there is so much more as well. Playing on the fact that Disney is more about the story than the spectacle and thrill, Wallace gives you more of the back story and notes on the theme and development of the attractions in Walt Disney World as well as some of the hidden meanings behind them. The result is a guide that allows new visitors and veterans alike to Walt Disney World to see the park in a totally new light and hopefully gets them to slow down on their race to the next ride.
Broken into chapters based on the themes lands of Walt Disney World (Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and Main Street, USA), The Thinking Fan’s Guide serves as a vitrtual tourbook of the park, taking guests on a morning ride on Jungle Cruise straight through to a spectacular view of Wishes at the end of the day. Wallace’s easy to read writing style also adds to this relaxing tour as well. He is able to introduce attractions in a way that doesn’t make old WDW vets feel as though they are being talked down to, but also allows the uninitiated to understand what they are looking for without even having seen the actual attraction itself.
Learning about the history, subtle differences between the Walt Disney World and Disneyland attractions, and discovering some of the hidden secrets and meanings to these attractions helps you to understand why the Disney properties have been so successful over time. More time is spent in the details, making it so that each time you visit you will see something new that you may have missed or overlooked before. Books like The Thinking Fan’s Guide only help to remind us of these subtleties and gives a new incentive to look during the next visit — I know I will be when I am in WDW in August!
My only criticism (and this is almost unfair) of The Thinking Fan’s Guide is that there is very little on the attractions in the New Fantasyland expansion that took place in the Magic Kingdom recently. The two attractions I was looking forward to reading about, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and Journey of the Little Mermaid are missing here, apparently a victim of time constraints for publication as they only opened in December, 2012. Hopefully there will be a new edition with these new attractions (as well as the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) will come in the future.
I highly recommend The Thinking Fan’s Guide to Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom to old and new fans alike. Make sure this book is either a pre-visit read, or take it along with you so you can fully appreciate all that the Magic Kingdom has to offer. I sincerely hope that with the success of this edition, we’ll soon see similar guides for the other three parks that make up the Walt Disney World Resort.
Four of Five Stars
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