Power and Paradise in Walt Disney's World

Power and Paradise in Walt Disney's World

Power and Paradise in Walt Disney's World

Power and Paradise in Walt Disney's World


A roller coaster of a book that will leave you marveling. With intelligence and a sense of fun, Knight reframes Disney World as a pilgrimage center, a Garden of Eden, and a World's Fair. A great read and a real contribution to Disney literature and the Disney World experience."--Harriet F. Senie, author of The "Tilted Arc" Controversy: Dangerous Precedent?

"Approaching Disney and his 'magic lands' from the vantage point of scholar and enthusiast, Knight interweaves astute observations about globalized cultural production and the built environment while her crisp writing makes for a lively and engaging read."--Sarah Schrank, author of Art and the City

"Knight's insights on Disney as an intrepid planner, inventor, innovator, and iconoclast--and his fascination and deployment of technology that bridges private desire with the public realm--has pressing relevance for contemporary culture."--Patricia Phillips, Rhode Island School of Design

In this fascinating analysis, Cher Krause Knight peels back the actual and contextual layers of Walt Disney's inspiration and vision for Disney World in central Florida, exploring the reasons why the resort has emerged as such a prominent sociocultural force.

Knight investigates every detail, from the scale and design of the buildings to the sidewalk infrastructure to which items could and could not be sold in the shops, discussing how each was carefully configured to shape the experience of every visitor. Expertly weaving themes of pilgrimage, paradise, fantasy, and urbanism, she delves into the unexpected nuances and contradictions of this elaborately conceived playland of the imagination.


Fantasy and reality often overlap.

—Walt Disney, Wisdom magazine, December 1959

I fell in love with Disney World at eight years of age. Like most first loves, this was a crush: a heady mix of infatuation with blind devotion. As I grew up, the love remained but was increasingly transformed and more complex. No longer was this devotion unexamined, a development due not only to my gradual progression into academia. As a curious and excited visitor to Disney World, one begins to simply notice things over time, some of them reassuring and others prompting pesky questions. Can a formula for happiness really be devised, and this happiness subsequently manufactured? If so, is a theme park a sustaining vehicle for the delivery of such happiness? What forms of control are exerted over visitors while at Disney World? How are connections to things Disney maintained once we leave the parks and return home? Questions like these, which never go away no matter how deeply I am immersed in Disney’s World, led me to write this book.

The new Walt Disney Family Museum opened its doors on 1 October 2009, in three historic buildings located in San Francisco’s Presidio. Its stated mission is to “present the life and achievements of the man who raised animation to an art, transformed the film industry, tirelessly pursued innovation, and created a global and distinctively American legacy,” emphasizing “the real story of Walt Disney, the man, told by him and others who knew him well.” The museum was spearheaded by Walt’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller, and is supported by the Walt Disney Family Foundation (a separate entity from the Disney Company, though the company lent . . .

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