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Book Review: Hidden History of Walt Disney World

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Hidden History of Walt Disney World is a new book from Foxx Nolte (author of Boundless Realm: Deep Explorations Inside Disney’s Haunted Mansion, the long running Disney theme park history blog, Passport to Dreams Old & New). Foxx’s previous book, Boundless Realm is a fantastic book and extremely necessary reading for any Haunted Mansion fan. So when she announced her follow-up book would be about the history of Walt Disney World, I preordered as fast as possible.

Hidden History of Walt Disney World is not an extensive tome covering the entire 52-year history of the resort. The book starts by outright admitting the history of Walt Disney World is to vast to cover in a book of this size, but instead it aims for, and succeeds at telling smaller stories that explain the history of the resort. Want to read about where the original Walt Disney World construction workers bought their beer and pickled eggs? It’s in there. Are you interested in a whole chapter on Walt Disney World’s STOLport? It’s explained in detail. Are there multiple stories about the characters the inhabited the Florida property long before Disney bought it, such as a colorful fellow named Radio Nick? You better believe it’s covered in this book.

Foxx takes readers way back in Walt Disney World’s history, but not in a dry way. The book starts back in the early 1900s when local elementary schools had around 25 students. You’ll learn about how in 1930 the local police found over 2500 gallons of illegal mash and whisky was found in the middle of what is now Magic Kingdom. Other topics explored include failed resorts and amusement parks that sprung up trying to capitalize on Disney’s arrival to the area. The author continually paints a picture of interesting and important locations on Walt Disney World’s site pre-Disney and during construction, then updates us on what the space is currently used for. For example, did you know you can rent the cottage Roy O. Disney stayed in when Walt Disney World was being built? As the author suggests you can recreate Walt Disney World’s Preview Day gala backyard barbeque which was held there in 1969.

Some revelations will make you laugh, such as Michael Eisner’s failed Disney Institute resort at Walt Disney World. Others will shock you, such as Main Street USA being based off of Saratoga Springs, New York. NOT Marceline, Missouri. The book gets especially good when it reaches the aftermath immediately following Walt’s death and all of the fascinating drama involving the development of Epcot. The story continues with the turmoil that brought Michael Eisner to power which was followed by a rapid expansion of Walt Disney World. It’s also worth mentioning the book itself has a great hand feel. The pages are printed on a nice thick semi-glossy paper and there’s plenty of interesting pictures you probably haven’t seen before.

I recommend Hidden History of Walt Disney World to any Disney theme park fans who want to learn more than Disney’s official and often repeated view of events. Readers with any level of Walt Disney World knowledge will find something they enjoy and even die hard fans will learn something new here.

Click here to purchase Hidden History of Walt Disney World on Amazon in print and Kindle.

Note: A copy of this book was provided by the author. The author and publisher did not pay for, or receive copy approval of this post.

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Guy Selga Jr.

Disneyland writer for TouringPlans.com and co-author of the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland. Also a Disneyland local and appreciator of Disney theme park history. Twitter and Instagram: @guyselga

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Hidden History of Walt Disney World

  • I somehow missed Foxx had a new book coming. I loved Boundless Realm. Thank you for the recommendation, Guy!

    • You won’t be disappointed!


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