There’s been a lot written about the birth of Disneyland and how Walt’s eponymous theme park emerged from the Anaheim orange groves in the 1950s. We’ve all heard the myth-making official version: Walt visualizing his dream from a Griffith Park bench, the struggles to finance Disneyland, the struggles to build it, and especially the chaotic, near-disastrous opening day. But, have we ever really gotten the complete story? Disney historian Todd James Pierce sets out to do that in his fascinating new book, Three Years in Wonderland: The Disney Brothers, C.V. Wood, and the Making of the Great American Theme Park.
Todd’s book digs deep to chronicle the evolution of Disneyland from its humble early concept as a family park adjoining the Walt Disney Studios to its ultimate success as a one-of-a-kind themed destination. Along the way, we meet the people who made Disneyland a reality: Walt and Roy Disney certainly, but also an often overlooked character, C. V. Wood, or “Woody” as he was known to his friends. Woody was Disneyland’s first general manager and a key player in the park’s development. He was a shrewd and energetic entrepreneur, but also a charlatan of questionable ethics. His approach to business would help guarantee Disneyland’s success, but would also ensure Wood’s personal downfall with the Disney brothers a mere six months after grand opening.
Todd spent nine years researching his book, with much of the content culled from more than 150 interviews. He’s an English professor and co-director of the creative writing program at Cal Poly University. A long-time Disney fan, Todd is a contributor to the Disney History Institute website as well as the Walt’s People book series. He’s published a number of fiction and non-fiction works that have nothing to do with Disney and you can find out more about them at his website, www.ToddJamesPierce.com.
Please welcome Todd Pierce, my guest today in The Mouse Castle Lounge.