Book reviews

Everybody knows pretty much everything about Disneyland—how it got started, how the Imagineers do their thing, and so on. But nobody hardly ever talks about the parks that most of us across the country enjoy far more often. The regional theme parks, different from amusement parks, owe their existence to the magical land Walt built in Anaheim. There were a few false starts, but in 1961 Angus Wynne opened Six Flags Over Texas, triggering a tidal wave of Disneyland-lites over the next twenty years.

Imagineering an American Dreamscape tells the story of the regionals and the strong-willed visionaries behind them—where they came from, how they got started, and how they’ve changed over the decades. Some of the stories you may have heard. Most you probably haven’t, and it’s a fascinating tale to tell. Learn how an eccentric judge created the 8th wonder of the world while adding to the American lexicon, how a decrepit fire hazard paved the way for a musical-themed playland, how a lavish dreamer and grandson of the Warner in Warner Brothers planned to rival Disney World…in New Jersey. And what happened to that third Marriott park in Virginia? Or Kings World in Chicago? Busch Gardens Los Angeles and Houston? Who won the fight between Davy Crockett and Yogi Bear? And what’s the story behind that quiet film artist who transformed America’s amusement industry?

Oh so many mysteries and questions…it’s past time to preserve a major part of this industry’s history. I was honored to have Rob Decker, former Senior Vice President and creative guru at Cedar Fair, write the foreword. He was the natural choice, having been on the front lines of bringing back the idea of story, theme, and placemaking to the regionals. And equally thrilled to have contributions by Mel McGowan and Rick Bastrup, sharing their thoughts and memories of themed design and working with some of the original legends. There are plenty more stories to be told, but at least this is a significant step in the right direction. I hope you enjoy it.

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