Guest Author: Jennifer Romano
A few years ago, I purchased the book, The Disney Mountains: Imagineering at Its Peak, by Jason Surrell. I have read and re-read this book many times. It tells the story of the ways in which all of the Disney Mountains were constructed and first imagined. It is an informative mix of history and anecdotes as well as a collection of beautiful artwork that dates back to the days when the Matterhorn was just a pile of dirt called Holiday Hill.
The Matterhorn was Disneyland’s first roller coaster, and it was inspired by the movie, the Third Man on the Mountain, as well as Walt’s visit to Switzerland as part of filming this movie. Not only was the Matterhorn a first for Disney with regard to thrill rides, it was also a technical marvel with its steel tubular track. Jason Surrell’s book goes on to describe many other stories and interesting facts regarding the Matterhorn as well as many other Disney Mountains.
For example, there are chapters describing the creation of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Grizzly Peak, Mount Prometheus in Tokyo, and Expedition Everest. Surrell also delves into the brief history of one Disney Mountain that was never built, Candy Mountain. In addition to descriptions of all of these rides and experiences, there are many examples of Disney model building and artwork to showcase the different mountains at various stages of the creative process. Even if you just examine the artwork, you will definitely enjoy this book.
My favorite aspect of this book is the detail with which Jason Surrell addresses each of these attractions. He does not just scratch the surface and tell you about what anyone could already see. He delves deeper and spends time researching the details of each of these attractions. Reading a book like this one would make anyone envious of the jobs that Imagineers possess. The ability to let one’s creativity run wild and be surrounded by other equally creative people is something that most of us will never experience.
If you want just a taste of Disney history as well as insight into the world of Imagineering, give Jason Surrell’s book a read. You will not be disappointed, and this journey into Disney history publications will cause you to start looking for other books that you will need to fill your insatiable desire for Disney historical knowledge. Then, you will become like me; you will have an entire bookshelf devoted to books that chronicle the growth and change of Disney over the last several decades. This type of reading will enhance your visits to the parks and also help you to amuse and impress your friends with your boundless depth of knowledge. Maybe more amuse than impress, depending on your circle of friends! Until next time, have a magical day, and keep moving forward!