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Disneyland Article
Walt Disney Is Your Tour Guide In This New Book
Brady Macdonald
Author Marcy Carriker Smothers had a continuing internal dialogue with the late Walt Disney as she wrote her new book about taking a walking tour of Disneyland from the park founder’s distinct and well-informed point of view.

“I can’t write about Walt or read about Walt without his voice in my head,” Carriker Smothers said during an online video interview. “It’s just like this conversation, if you will. It is my trying to honor Walt.”

Smothers would “talk shop” with Walt Disney while she decided whether to include details from her research in the new book, “Walt’s Disneyland: A Walk in the Park with Walt Disney.”

“My barometer for what to include in the book was, ‘Does it make me laugh out loud? Does it make me cry? Does it bring a smile to my face?’” Carriker Smothers said. “All those things are part of the conversation or the inner dialogue.”

Carriker Smothers’ new 192-page paperback guide book from the Disney Editions publishing imprint goes on sale Tuesday, Nov. 16.

“Walt’s Disneyland” covers familiar ground from the unique perspective of Walt Disney with layers of fresh details, long-lost secrets, hidden spots, little-known facts and rarely seen photographs that should delight even the most jaded Disneylanders who think they’ve read and seen it all before.

Quotes and photos in the book were culled from hours of research and hundreds of sources, including the Walt Disney Archives, Walt Disney Imagineering Resource Center, Walt Disney Family Museum and Walt Disney Hometown Museum.

The book is filled with rare photographs of Walt Disney riding his attractions and walking construction sites at Disneyland in addition to hand-drawn sketches by Walt Disney himself of additions he envisioned for the Anaheim theme park.

Carriker Smothers worked at Disneyland while writing the book so she could feel the energy of the park and listen to what visitors had to say about Walt Disney.

“When I am writing at Disneyland, I am always listening to guests,” Carriker Smothers said. “The subject of Walt comes up all the time and in different ways. Whether it be parents teaching their kids who Walt Disney is or people saying Walt had a part in this attraction. His name is buzzing around in his beloved Magic Kingdom all the time.”

When Carriker Smothers wasn’t in a library, she spent her time writing at Disneyland — firing up her laptop on a Main Street U.S.A. park bench, the Mark Twain Riverboat landing, at Cafe Orleans in New Orleans Square, next to the Casey Jr. Circus Train in Fantasyland, outside the Enchanted Tiki Room and in Walt Disney’s personal box at the Golden Horseshoe.

“It gives me the feeling of Disneyland,” Smother said. “I can share that energy that we all feel when we’re there.”

“Walt’s Disneyland” is filled with rich details about the park that most hardcore fans have not come across before and first-person accounts from those who personally knew and worked with Walt Disney.

“Every layer of backstory lets you understand Walt a little bit more,” Carriker Smothers said. “Any detail — and Walt loved details — just adds to the story and makes it better.”

The book recounts a story of Walt Disney sneaking into the Fairmont amusement park in Kansas City with his childhood friend William Rust.

“He made me promise never to tell the story when he was alive,” Rust is quoted saying in the book. “He thought kids might use the excuse that if he could do it, then they could try to get into his park without paying.”

Carriker Smothers pays off the charming tale of childhood chicanery with a full circle comeuppance — all courtesy of the Walt Disney Archives.

Decades after the Kansas City parkhopping delinquency, an 8-year-old boy named Mike wrote Walt Disney an apology promising to never sneak into Disneyland again — with two quarters attached to the letter as recompense.

“I hope you won’t be mad at me,” Mike wrote in the letter included in the book. “I am sorry and I thought Disneyland was real nice.”

Walt Disney was such a stickler about garbage that he paced off the distance between trash cans based on how long it took him to eat a hot dog, according to the book.

“He wanted to be sure there would be no reason to drop wrappers on the ground,” Carriker Smothers writes in the book. “Walt was determined to keep Disneyland spotless.”

The otherwise ordinary drinking fountain tucked in the back corner of the park’s Center Street is a serious piece of Disneyland history, according to the book. The encased demonstration wall behind the water fountain was wheeled out into the middle of Main Street U.S.A. during the construction of Disneyland for reference by masons.

“Notice the patterns of bricks are far from identical, as they represent the different styles found on the walls and around windows on the thoroughfare,” Carriker Smothers writes.

The book reveals that remnants of a precursor to the private members-only Club 33 can still be found on either side of the Plaza Inn from a hidden hideaway called the Hideout where Walt Disney entertained VIPs. The Hideout’s original triptych windows are still visible across from Disneyland’s first aid station while the Hideout’s stained glass door can be seen next to the restrooms on the Tomorrowland side of the restaurant.

It turns out Walt Disney wasn’t the only person to have an apartment in Disneyland. Golden Horseshoe star Wally Boag also had an in-park apartment above the River Belle Terrace restaurant, according to the book.

“Walt was so good to take care of his performers and he insisted on providing great living quarters for us,” Boag is quoted saying in the book. “He wanted to ensure we had a comfortable place to relax between the five or six shows we did every day.”

Many small touches and details hand-selected and collected by Walt Disney are scattered throughout Disneyland. Curious fans can still find Welte Orchestrions — massive coin-operated instruments with wind pipes, drums and cymbals purchased by Walt Disney — in the Main Street Penny Arcade and the Frontierland Pioneer Mercantile shop, according to the book.

“Walt’s Disneyland” tracks the park’s history from before construction began to the founder’s final day at the Happiest Place on Earth. The book includes what is believed to be the last photo taken of Walt Disney at Disneyland — during a Medal of Honor ceremony he hosted at the park on Oct. 14, 1966, two months before he died.

“Walt’s Disneyland” has been a passion project for Carriker Smothers — who previously wrote “Eat Like Walt,” which took readers on a culinary tour of Disneyland from Walt Disney’s point of view. The books have allowed Carriker Smothers to immerse herself in the park’s vast history and get to know Walt Disney posthumously — just like one of the characters in his fairy tales.

“When I was writing the book, I was living with him and we talked shop 24 hours a day,” Carriker Smothers said. “All my friends that are writers say that they live with their characters. Mine just happens to be a real-life human being.”

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