“To all to come to this happy place, welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration for all the world.”
Walt Disney, July 17, 1955
Since Disneyland’s opening day, the iconic park of optimism and imagination carried its own mythology. Behind every fantasy shared within its famous attractions are real life legends of how those projects came to be and how they continue to operate today. As the destination celebrates its 60th anniversary, a new book, Disneyland Secrets by Gavin Doyle, sheds light on such legends with a simple and informative tour.
The book’s back cover proclaims it includes “stuff even Mickey doesn’t know.” Organized by each of Disneyland’s eight lands, the book is all about the details: fun treasures hidden in plain sight and backstage history. Each “secret” has its own page that consists of a heading and a brief blurb, never more than two paragraphs. The surface is barely scratched on each item, as the format doesn’t really lend itself for intricate elaboration. We’re meant to keep flipping so we can discover more secrets, making for a rather quick read if perusing from home but a convenient hunt if wanting to bring the book in person to the park as a handy guide. It is in this format that the book finds its strength, not as a book read comfortably in bed but as a companion to a day actually spent in Disneyland.
As for the secrets themselves, the book covers the well-circulated stories that many already know (like the feral cats and the basketball court inside the Matterhorn), but also brings forth a collection of truly insightful tidbits that even the most diehard fan may not be aware of. For me, the most revelatory secret was the abandoned concept to thread together Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion to tell a cohesive story for New Orleans Square. That would have been remarkable. Also in the realm of unbuilt attraction elements is the idea for Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin to traverse its building’s roof. Wow! In a world where reading up on Disneyland history is as easy as scrolling through a Twitter feed bursting with excessive Disney fan sites on a daily basis, I was surprised at how much I learned from Disneyland Secrets.
The book even hints at this saturation of information, and directly addresses the false secrets shared online unknowingly. Even though Disneyland Secrets isn’t published by Disney, its introduction assures us of its accuracy with promises that its secrets are verified by Disney Archivist Dave Smith and a handful of Imagineers and Cast Members. The author, Gavin Doyle, operates DisneyDose.com, a salute to all things Disney, but mostly Disneyland, which he began at age 13. While Doyle’s content may be verified and cited (something that, as strange as it sounds, isn’t the case with many unofficial books), it isn’t enough for Disneyland Secrets to avoid the other common plague of Disney books written by bloggers-turned-authors: editing. Typos are strewn throughout (not a lot, but a few), some of the text is redundant (which especially sticks out due to the short copy of each secret), and several times secrets jump back and forth between attractions instead of sharing every secret for one attraction all the way through. Thankfully, the book has a nice aesthetic going for it, and these qualities do not hinder the reading experience by much. In terms of comparison to what other unofficial publishers get horribly wrong, Theme Park Press does a better editing job than most with Disneyland Secrets but leaves definite room for improvement.
As a bonus for all readers, an access code inside the book grants a full digital copy, which makes it easier than ever to take the book’s information on the go inside the park. Readers can also be emailed an underwhelming list of extra secrets that aren’t as fully developed as the secrets in the book. A follow-up message I received in my inbox today (which all readers thus far received) promises more bonus content to come.
While Disneyland Secrets may not be as thorough or time-consuming as other titles with similar purposes, it does offer unique value in ways that few do: it makes a day at the happiest place on Earth even better than it already is. With easy navigation and simple text, it lends itself as a fun tool to use inside the park, not just pointing out where secrets are but also offering an explanation behind their significance. With 15% of every purchase going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and a refund guarantee if you aren’t satisfied, there’s not much room to go wrong.
Disneyland Secrets by Gavin Doyle is now available from Theme Park Press.
What’s your favorite hidden detail in Disneyland? Do you have a favorite Disneyland memory?
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes