Sam Gennawey, author of The Disneyland Story and Disney vs. Universal: The Unofficial Guide to American Theme Parks’ Greatest Rivalry, tells us about how his very first visit to Walt Disney World led him to penning two books and a lifelong love for the theme parks.
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I can still see myself as a young boy, sitting on the living room floor with my 1968 oversize map of Disneyland, poring over all the details of what would be at the park in time for my next visit. When I got there, I would rush to Tomorrowland and enter the Carousel of Progress. At the conclusion of the show, I would be the first in line to race up the speed ramp to the gigantic model of Progress City. Is this the future? When could I live there? That is when Disneyland became a part of my personal mosaic.
The same thing happened after giving a speech at the fabulous Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. There, on display, is an amazing model of the Disneyland that was and everything Walt imagined Disneyland could be. I circled the model like a buzzard for what seemed like an hour and wanted to learn more. At lunch with Diane Disney Miller and her husband, Ron, I asked if her dad treated the park like it was one of the family. She said yes, it was like the youngest child and he was tweaking it the same way he did with her and her sister. That was the genesis of The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide.
As a product of Los Angeles, Universal Studios was always that place you took out-of-town visitors because you were afraid to take them to the real Hollywood. The town was scary back in the day and Universal was the safe choice. Plus, the tour of the backlot was about as authentic a Hollywood experience as one could get without a studio pass. Who knew? Apparently not many, so I wrote a book about it. Today, Universal is truly challenging Disney in the theme park business, and it all started in Los Angeles.
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