Book Review – Walt and the Promise of Progress City

Book Review – Walt and the Promise of Progress City

Fantastic!   This was such a fun read through the eyes of Sam Gennawey, an urban planner with a great viewpoint of Disney.  Walt and the Promise of Progress City combines all the familiar elements we know about Disney and discusses with great enthusiasm the possibility of what could have been if Walt Disney lived to build his own city.  After reading this book I have an even greater appreciation for these parks and the creativity and vision Walt had for his parks and the world.

Sam starts out by talking about the Disneyland episode that first aired in 1954 called Magic Highway U.S.A. I STRONGLY recommend that everyone see this at least once.  We watched the whole 48 minutes on our TV and its fascinating.  For many of us its hard to appreciate that highways weren’t always here and what impact the vehicle has had on our lives.   Walt looked to limit the negative aspects of car congestion and fast cities with hubs of activity in a more pleasant atmosphere.

Future vehicle from Magic Highways U.S.A.

Other tidbits from the book that I found fascinating:

1.  There was an Intimate Apparel shop on Main Street U.S.A. in Disneyland!

2.  Escapism concept – Sam quotes John Hench as saying that Disneyland wasn’t selling escapism.  Its just that the negative and inconsistent elements were strategically left out in the planning.   You haven’t escaped – you’ve been reassured of an existence where things are clean, working, and you go at your own pace.

3.  The original Progress City Model featured a “beautiful and sleek Mid-Century Modern civic building, an amusement park with spinning rides, and a lake with a Tiki restaurant on one edge.”  Boy Walt knew how to live, I would do the same thing if I was building a city.

4.  Disneyland opened in 1955 so each of its lands represent a cinematic genre of that time.  There is nothing I love more than the 1950’s vision of what the future will bring so it makes sense that I flock to Tomorrowland immediately.   Sam refers to Adventureland as “movie exotica” and so its also fitting that is where I choose to end my visits on a high but tropical note.

Be sure to check out what remains of the Progress City Model next time you ride the WEDway People Mover!

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