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Disney In Depth: Book Review: Maps Of The Disney Parks
Brett Nachman   |  @   |  

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Maps of the Disney Parks
Text By Kevin and Susan Neary
Maps Curated by Vanessa Hunt
Publisher: Disney Editions
Release date: October 18, 2016

How would we live without maps? They give us direction and purpose. Some lead us down new paths. Others familiarize us with common settings. The park maps we snatch upon entering any of the Disney theme parks accomplish just this. Even more, the meta atmosphere of Disney often means there are maps within maps. Thankfully a new book from Disney Editions titled Maps of the Disney Parks compiles both the dated and novel park maps, as well as maps featured within the park settings.

Duo Kevin and Susan Neary, along with Disney Imagineer Vanessa Hunt, have produced a wonderful publication of lush visuals galore that should nicely complement your edition of Hunt’s Poster Art of the Disney Parks.

The book’s introduction poses an apropos question: “Why do we love maps?” From that moment on, the Nearys offer Walt’s personal connection to maps, as well as perhaps ours as readers. Divided into six chapters according to time period, Maps of the Disney Parks gives nearly equal weight to the various eras of Disney parks and the maps that emerged along the way.

One of my chief complaints about the poster art book, despite my adoration, was the primary concentration on Disneyland and not the other parks. As I’m sure other readers will agree, the balance of focus across all the parks in Maps of the Disney Parks is valued. Disneyland started it all, though, and with the concept art designed by Herb Ryman, we set off on the adventures behind the maps of The Happiest Place on Earth. Each chapter begins with a few pages of text about the park or parks, followed by a number of images, all gorgeously vivid and large in size. All chapters are color coded for easy access, too.

Maps of the Disney Parks Nature's Wonderland Art

The famous story of Ryman developing the map that essentially sold the idea of Disneyland to the bankers is chronicled alongside the art itself. How Disneyland has changed from those days, in which Fantasyland appeared almost barricaded by the castle walls. The chronology of Disneyland’s development via an assortment of maps crafted by leading Disney figures of the time, including Harper Goff, are portrayed in fine detail. Advertising materials are among the mix, alongside maps of spaces within Disneyland, like Tom Sawyer Island. For the fan of the Frontierland space, here is a treasure trove of six pages of color studies and maps. Disney connoisseurs may also appreciate seeing a selection of “fun maps” of the parks. These incredibly detailed and visually clever renderings imagined the fun of visiting a Disney park. For instance, the various encounters guests experience on the Jungle Cruise is shown with an angry elephant and sinister skulls. Some of the fun maps are not large enough to fully see, so there are examples where portions of maps are enlarged. Some readers may find this to be inadequate, as observing the richness of the entire map would be better. However, given the size and format of this book, I think this editorial choice works splendidly.

One of the best elements of peering through these maps is to identify concepts that never quite got off the ground. Embedded in one of the maps is the abandoned idea of Liberty Street alongside Main Street, U.S.A. Eventually this helped inspire Liberty Square at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. Florida gets its due, for sure. The facade-style format of Paul Hartley’s caricature maps of Walt Disney World scream the funkiness of the 1970s. They’re intricate and iconic, all in one.

My favorite section of Maps of the Disney Parks is probably the third chapter, which centers on the amazing concepts and maps, of course, fashioned during The Walt Disney Company’s rapid expansion in the 1980s. Here are even more fun maps, including the likes of Epcot Center and Tokyo Disneyland. Collin Campbell’s 1986 rendering of what the Disney-MGM Studios would resemble from the sky offers a more contemporary piece of art to anything seen in the book until this point. It also spans two pages and shows the small size of the park and working studio.

Maps of the Disney Parks Animal Kingdom Art

A number of interesting finds define the fourth chapter, set within the 1990s. Among them is a hand-drawn pencil concept map of Euro Disneyland Park by Jim Michelson that gives off the vibe it was an advertisement for a late 19th-century version of the Parisian park. The attention to detail is explicit. Additionally, we see maps of specific areas of the park, like Adventure Isle, Paris’ version of Adventureland. Most appealing is concept art of Tokyo DisneySea a whole decade before the park finally opened. Interestingly, many of the concepts illustrated actually materialized in the park upon its 2001 launch. Water parks are not forgotten either. Blizzard Beach gets a couple of pages as well. Joe Rohde’s sumptuous vision for Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the star piece of art of the chapter with its contrasts of sweeping vistas and understated guest areas.

The new millennium launched four theme parks in just five years: Disney California Adventure, Tokyo DisneySea, Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland. All four are shown in various states of development via grand maps. Unique maps tailored around specific components of Tokyo DisneySea, for instance, are of particular intrigue for guests who have not traveled to the Japanese park. Finally, the newest decade – or at least the first seven years of it – are shown with maps of New Fantasyland (the revised version, which does not include the princess cottages) and Shanghai Disneyland, in addition to other spaces. A couple of pages of biographies of a few paramount figures in the world of Disney maps, which include the likes of Claude Coats and Nina Rae Vaughn.

Maps of the Disney Parks Tokyo DisneySea Art

As a child, one of my favorite Disney-related hobbies was to develop my own maps in the vein of the ones I had collected from my vacations. I would have loved for a book like this to have debuted during my childhood. It warms my heart to know kids not only have access to many of these materials online, but now in a book like Maps of the Disney Parks. It’s a robust set of maps that you’ll always remember from first stepping foot in a Disney park, to the ones you may have never seen before. As soon as you open the theatre-style case cover of this impressive volume, you will be transported to maps of yesteryear and today. What a gift.

Grade: A

This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth, released on the first and third Thursdays of each month on Geeks of Doom.

Maps of the Disney Parks Cover

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