Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Welcome Return

So I've been meaning to post about this since at least Feburary when I discovered this item for sale at Downtown Disney, but a combination of my epic coffee posts over at Minute-by-Minute and getting sidetracked by other stuff means I've kept forgetting. Furthermore, I meant to include it in my my "Various Updates" from a bit ago to get all the current news items out of the way at once, but I decided this topic deserved its' own post and I'm giving it its' due here especially in light of my old complaining about it.

Recently released at Walt Disney World was an unassuming little set of thin paperback books available seperatley or together in a slipcover with a bonus fifth book: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios. The bonus book covers all the resorts and such and is called Everything Else in the World. The books have generic front covers with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Pluto and Goofy in a clipart pose in front of a box with a relevant photo per each volume. Don't let their thin lightweight paper printing and generic covers dissuade you: these books are great. They're about the size of the books Disney has been making available for the entire resort for the past few years, so the expansion into a five-volume set is an immediate and tangible quality increase. But open up the book and start reading. I was amazed, too.

They're actually very well written with the mix of atmospheric description and quality, no-nonsense information I was bemoaning a year and a half ago in Promotional Prose. They're also beautifully laid out with very carefully chosen pictures. I don't see any staged, lame-o fake families anywhere, and when a good recent picture was not in the cards the creators of the book went back to very old pictures indeed - I see some 1982 photos of Epcot in its' book!

I think where these books really shine is in their inclusivitiy and careful attention: just like the Souvenir Guides of old, you are presented with very few big "here's all of Main Street!" photos and many moments of small and careful attention, things you would actually remember. The text is similarly careful, and a number of grids and charts of relevant statistics are scattered throughout the books. Make no mistake, this is a full-scale return to the form of those early Souvenir Guides, and author Jody Revenson, designer Steven Rosen and editor Wendy Lefkon deserve great credit for their efforts.

It must be said that the text would be much more suitably contained in a hardbound book and the disconnect of exterior and interior in these volumes to me belies the work of another hand dictating their outwardly appearance and strange publication method. But the five-volume, matte paper approach has a trickle down effect on consumers: you can buy the individual volumes for a scant $7 a piece, and the whole slipcovered box with fifth book will run you something insanely cheap like $20. That means not only the fifth book is free, but the price of each individual book has dropped to $5. Regardless, in the future, I'd immediately purchase a hardbound version of these books.

Here's some of the more beautiful spreads in the books:

OK, I've complained about it and my complaint has apparently been answered. I've done my duty and shelled out for the books. If you also care about quality pictorial souvenirs, consider doing the same. If you can locate the five book set, it is well worth your money, not only to get the nicest thing Walt Disney World's published since its' 1998 -2000 "A Magical Year By Year Journey", but to support the work and show Disney that quality sells.