Sam Gennawey, author of “Walt and the Promise of Progress City” will be in Orlando soon for a few speaking engagements and book signings. Sam said this talks will include many interesting visuals to go along with his stories to give guests a more intimate look at the exploration of Progress City.
On Friday, May 3 he will be at the Winter Park Library from 10:30 a.m to Noon. (460 East New England Avenue, Winter Park FL)
Later that same day, May 3, Sam will be at the Orlando County Library Albertson Room from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.pm. (101 East Central Boulevard, Orlando FL)
Sam’s book, centered around what EPCOT was meant to be, is an must read for fan’s of Walt’s history. This book caught me completely off guard. Instead of being a documentation of Walt’s dream for this progress city, it challenges the reader to learn the whys and hows of urban planning. Don’t worry, I was scared too. As I perused the first dozen pages and saw terms of architecture tossed at me like I might be venturing into a text book, I prepared my mind to bulldoze through a tough, dry read. But then a funny thing happened. The book kept referencing places at the Disney parks, places I know, to relate these urban planning terms to me and my personal experiences. Sam knows his audience, he’s one of us, and knows how to appeal to our senses.
Do you ever walk into the Magic Kingdom or Disneyland and have the hair stand up on the back of your neck? Ever have that feeling that you just belong there? A feeling of happiness where looking around is just visually pleasing? For the most part, we can’t place our finger on why… we struggle to define it. We chalk it up to Disney magic. But Sam lets us in on how architects can actually quantify this. And how the Imagineers use this technique masterfully to give us the Disney universe we enjoy and come back to time and time again.
As I said, the book is much more than a description of Walt’s dream, it is an exploration on all the events that lead up to the spark in Walt’s imagination. From the building of the Burbank studios to Walt’s California home. From the hideous urban sprawl around Disneyland to the fascination with the World’s Fair. Even never accomplished yet vitally important events like the Mineral King Resort and West Palm Beach.
All this leads up to the story about Walt buying up land for his East Coast Disneyland and Progress City. But Sam does not spend more time than is necessary on this tale that has been retold countless times. The book quickly turns to the speculative after Walt’s death. His dream, of course, never comes to fruition. So Sam must take us onto the Disney property that never was… EPCOT as it would have appeared to us. Much more than an educated guess, Sam uses all the historical research available to him as well as his own expertise on urban planning to place images of this fantastic utopia into our minds.
Would EPCOT have worked? You will have to read the book for Sam’s findings. But when I had a chance to sit and chat with Sam, I asked him if a city like Walt’s Progress City is actually possible in today’s world. His answer was that it is not only achievable, but imperative that we do it in order to save our quality of life.
Walt and the Promise of Progress City is an engaging read that explores an extraordinary man. Walt was much more than a movie maker and amusement park designer. He was a true visionary that wanted to change the world. Sam’s book is more than just an exploration of an EPCOT that never was, but an exploration of a man’s dreams that were, are and always will be as long as there is a Disney.