Monday, April 4, 2011

"Designing Disney" - John Hench

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I'm adding a new section to my blog with the keyword "Disney" in the My Topics navigation on the left side.  You can click that keyword to see everything that I put up here that's related to Disney.  I hope you'll come back often to check it out, or you can also simply subscribe to the RSS feed for my blog to get automatic updates in your RSS reader or email.

Everyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I've always been a total Disney fanatic.  I think I've been there around nine or ten times, and I even got engaged in front of Italy in Epcot.  But my interest in Disney goes far outside of the parks.  It reaches to books, movies, and now the family has even gotten into Disney pin collecting!

Some day I will visit the other Disney parks.  I've never been to DisneyLand but that seems to be the next one for me to try considering it's in the US.  The other parks around the world will need to wait for a while.  I've also been on the Disney Cruise Line, which is fantastic and I highly recommend it.

To me, Disney has always been my ultimate "feel good" place.  As soon as I walk through the front gates to the park I'm instantly converted back to being a kid again and my inner child runs wild.  Memories come flooding back, everyone is smiling and laughing, etc.  It just feels great to be in a place that makes so many people feel so good.  On top of that, the parks have been kept immaculate and innovative over the years....and they just keep getting better!  I would like to go there for a week every year if I could, but the family budget prevents that.  :-(

The official books from the Disney company that I've read about the parks over the years provide much insight into what went into designing, planning, and building them.  It's really fascinating to get this "behind the scenes" look into the parks because it makes you appreciate the care and attention to detail that went into them, and the total mindset of Disney designing virtually everything that they do for their guests.

A unique view of "Spaceship Earth" that I captured during our 2006 trip
That concept of "designing for the guests" reminds me of a funny anecdote mentioned in one of the books about Walt Disney talking to one of the groundskeepers in DisneyLand one morning.  Walt was touring the grounds before the park opened, and he stopped to speak to a groundskeeper.  The groundskeeper told Walt that he was frustrated by people cutting across one nice section of grass from one part of the park to the other because it was killing the grass and making it look ugly.  Walt explained to the groundskeeper, "Don't get frustrated by this.  This is feedback from our guests that the path through this part of the park that we built is not right".  Walt told the frustrated groundskeeper to accept feedback from the guests in whatever form it comes, and put in a nice path through that part of the grass and line it with flowers and trees.  The path became one of the busiest walkways in that part of the park.  Moral of the story:  "Listen to the guests", and this concept pervades everything that Disney does.

That level of attention to detail is all over the parks, you just have to know where to look for it other than the obvious views that are all around you.

So, with that in mind, to start off this new Disney section of my blog on the right foot, I'm posting some information about the book above called "Designing Disney" by John Hench that I think true Disney fans will find very interesting.

John was a long time "Imagineer" at Disney and worked hand in hand with Walt and all of the key Disney management and park designers over several decades.  He had a major role in much of what you see at all of the Disney parks, the rides, the stores, attractions, theaters, etc.  The book is a fascinating look into how and why Disney does what it does, how their ideas go from plans to realization, and even discusses details like why certain color schemes and music are chosen for the parks, walkways, rides, etc.

Disney is certainly not what you would call a "relaxing" vacation, per se'.  It's an action-filled and fast-paced vacation during which you buzz from one place to another trying to soak everything in and have as much fun as possible before you have to go home.  Being a fast paced vacation destination, you sometimes lose focus of the little design details of the parks, rides, and overall atmosphere.

After reading this book, I wanted to get on a plane to go to DisneyWorld just to walk around and look at the parks.....really look at them.....and soak in the details that went into them that were mentioned in the book.  In fact, the next time that I go there, my mission is to photograph and capture the nuances of the park, instead of just taking the traditional "stand in front of this ride and I'll take your picture" photos. The photo that I put above of Spaceship Earth is a good example of what I'm talking about....capturing a different view.  It will be a fun photographic challenge!

If you decide to give this book a read, I hope you enjoy it.  I will be posting more information about other interesting Disney books in the future.


  1. I have a painted Mickey mouse 60th birthday poster signed by John hench I was wondering about the value that this painting has

  2. I have no idea what the value of this would be, but the best way to find out would be to try to search out some kind of dealer in Disney memorabilia to see if they can help you put a value on it.