Book recommendation: Married to the Mouse

Tuesday, October 13, 2009 2:19 PM

I recently finished reading this. It's written by a political scientist, and it looks quite carefully at the creation, development, and growth of WDW from an urban planning/urban development perspective. It pays particular attention to Disney's secret sauce in Orlando---that they have their own private government. Those of you who enjoy thinking about the business end of the amusement business should find it fascinating.

Here are a few of the more interesting bits I took away from the book. Some of these I knew before hand, others I didn't.

* The ability to have a unified vision---no private third-party property owners, no fragmented governments who can't get along, etc.---allowed Disney to do some pretty astounding things in terms of development, infrastructure, etc. It's a testament to what you could actually do when you control everything from soup to nuts.

* The laws chartering RCID, Lake Buena Vista, and Bay Lake were written nearly entirely by Disney lawyers, and were barely read by the FL legislature before being passed. The charter provided freedom from any state or regional government oversight in perpetuity.

* The main selling point in getting the charter was the idea that Disney would create a living city as a laboratory and showplace with real residents ("The EPCOT film" was made to highlight this idea). However, there is some good evidence that the company generally---and Walt in particular---knew from the beginning that EPCOT could never have permanent residents if Disney were to retain control over its governmental entities, because residents have the constitutional ability to vote.

* There is a nice chapter on Celebration, and the difficulties Disney encountered when they finally *did* have permanent residents---even though the residents had to sign an agreement effectively giving away almost all ability to govern when they bought there.

* Disney imports labor to the Central Florida area, but these "jobs" are a net loss to the surrounding municipalities because they are so ill-paid---they increase services costs more than they repay in various taxes generated by growth.

* The Orlando area pretty much put up with anything the Mouse handed out---until Eisner went on his hotel building binge. Most business leaders saw that as a slap in the face and a threat to their livelihoods. It was that change in the political winds that finally gave Orange County the backbone to threaten Disney with a challenge to the charter. The challenge never happened, but just the credible threat was enough to bring Disney to the bargaining table.

Last edited by Brian Noble, Tuesday, October 13, 2009 2:25 PM
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009 2:23 PM

Cool! I gotta see if my local shop or Boarders has it stock.

Is it worth buying or should I just try to barrow a copy from a friend?

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009 2:28 PM

I bought a copy for my Kindle, but it was only $10. I have no idea what the "dead tree" verison will cost---if it is still only in hardcover, might be pricey.

Also, as fair warning: it's a scholarly work, and a little dry in parts, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It is also meticulously researched, with the back 1/5 of the book or so devoted to citations.

Last edited by Brian Noble, Tuesday, October 13, 2009 2:29 PM
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009 2:32 PM

Yes, but is it worth it for the 99.9% of use who don't have PhD's after their names or aren't college professors like you?

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009 2:37 PM

I don't know. I think so, but I could be wrong. Getting it from your local library would be an inexpensive way to find out for yourself.

But, contrary to popular belief---a belief often propagated by those of us who hold Ph.D.s---having a Ph.D. in something doesn't make you an expert in everything. Knowing that much about one thing tells you only that there is a vast amount of stuff in almost every other corner of the universe that you don't, won't, and can't know. ;)

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009 2:42 PM

Have it, read it...not a PhD. But, I do have a Ductorate as I did complete the WDW College Program. I've read most books about Walt Disney and the company and I did find this one amongst the more interesting.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009 2:45 PM

Sounds like I need to get myself a copy.

(still prefer dead trees for reading)

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009 2:50 PM

Brain, I know that. I've met some PhD's that couldn'y tell the differnce between their butt and a black hole. Thankfully, you're not one of them. :)

Besides, a wise man is one who admits he does not know it all. Thus, his mind is open for learning. You never know when you might pick up some info that will be useful later.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009 3:53 PM

I work in a company with a lot of PhDs from different backgrounds. I laugh during our meetings when they acknowledge the recent publications, and only two or three in the room have any idea what the title means, even though most are scientists.

Having a PhD generally means you have very specific expertise in one area. Brian is right about knowing. And I would say that 99% of folks who hold PhDs, DO in fact know their butt from a black hole (some might argue they are synonymous). ;)

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009 5:01 PM

You can get it here on Amazon.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009 7:08 PM

You guys are JUST getting that book now??? :) Btw.. Nice work adding the CB code to it Jeff ;)

Seriously though.. Semi on topic. Brian, what is your thoughts on the new Kindle.. Which one do you have? I have the 1st Gen, but its severely lacking compared to the newer Gens and the 9" version.. Not sure if I want to change over or not. The 9" looks nice, however worried its too large.

I have a vast array of network manuals and hate lugging them between work and home, plus takes up less space in my house. While I do like the fresh smell of a text book, its just a pain to cart.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009 7:31 PM

Just put the book on hold at the local library... it was published in 2001.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009 7:36 PM

Or 2003.. Unless of course you got a seriously advanced copy. ;)

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Thursday, October 15, 2009 8:57 AM

You guys are JUST getting that book now???

Yep. Too many books, too little time. I didn't finish Gabler's Walt biography until this past summer, even though it's been sitting on my bookshelf since it came out.

Seriously though.. Semi on topic. Brian, what is your thoughts on the new Kindle.. Which one do you have?

I have the K2. I really like it. It's a little inconvenient for technical material with either lots of code examples, or lots of fine-detail illustrations; for those, the DX might actually be a better "fit" even though I also think it might be too big to carry everywhere.

For this semester, as an experiment, I got the books I'm using in my course in both kindle and dead-tree form. I'm finding it possible to keep the dead-tree versions in the office, and only once in a blue moon do I really *need* it.

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Friday, October 16, 2009 4:34 PM

Yeah... Im really trying to weigh the reference need. There are times I carry tech manuals back and fourth just to have them.. Most of the time never using them or surrendering to Google for a quick search.. But it would be nice to have my volumes for searching info I know is in one of the books.

I need to find someone who has the DX to see how big it really is.. I just am having a hard time imagining if it would be more awkward than useful.

Thanks for the tips.. K2 is definitely better than the first gen though.. I may just go up to that one.

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