I am a 17-year-old Freedom High senior and have been going to Disneyland on a more-or-less regular basis since my first trip when I was ten months old being pushed around in a stroller. I have no memory of that first visit, of course, but I imagine even at that age loving every part of the experience because Disneyland really is my Happy Place. By now I have been to Disneyland more times than I could possibly remember and never get tired of going.
Mom loves the park, but would be content to go a few times a year. However, Dad and I are genuine enthusiasts and will go every chance we get. We all have season passes, and I suspect Mom is willing to go more often than she would if we were paying for it because she wants to feel like we’re getting our money’s worth. When we were younger and my older brother Anthony was still at home, we would sometimes go every month.
As a result of my numerous visits, I felt that I knew the Park about as well as anyone could know it. However, early last summer I got a copy of an amazing book by a young man named Joshua Shaffer. The book has a lengthy title: Discovering The Magic Kingdom: An Unofficial Disneyland Vacation Guide.
You might imagine that Josh was being a little arrogant to use “ultimate” in the title. I don’t know how many books there are about Disneyland, but I went to the Books category on Amazon, searched for “Disneyland,” and opened a page listing 12 books with “Disneyland” in the title. That wasn’t all, however, because I saw at the bottom of the page that this was only the first of 100 more pages. Nevertheless, it would be difficult to imagine any book on the subject more “ultimate” than Joshua’s masterpiece. It is a genuine encyclopedia. Its 700+ pages are densely packed with information about the park together with more than 750 photos. How could any book on the topic be more “ultimate” than that?
The first chapter, called “Planning Ahead,” provides information for people to schedule what they are planning to do, where they want to go, and how much they wish to budget for the trip. For example, one helpful part for planning was a list showing each of the 31 restaurants together with their price ranges.
I was in awe when I first perused Joshua’s book because I realized that he not only was revealing information that I had never known, but he was covering subjects that I hadn’t been aware even existed. He uses the term “fun facts” and many of them really are fun. For example, I knew the park has a number of “hidden Mickeys,” which are unobtrusive representations of Mickey Mouse that people search for. I had found a handful of these and might have imagined that I had found them all. But then I learned from the book that 419 of these images are scattered throughout the park. My mind was further boggled by the fact that Josh really does know where each of them are.
As I continued to explore the pages of this amazing compilation, I realized that the book was also filled with practical information including ways to minimize expenses — for example, by planning the trip through AAA. Joshua also provided step-by-step information on such things as how to plan a Disney birthday. I got an idea when I read his section about how to plan a wedding in the Park. What could be more natural for me than to dress up like Cinderella at the Ball, complete with glass slippers, and begin a happy marriage in this Happy Place by marrying Prince Charming in his very own castle? (Actually, the Disneyland castle belongs to Sleeping Beauty’s prince. I would have to go to Disneyworld for Cinderella’s castle, but who’s going to pay attention?)
On a trip to Disneyland with my parents last July, I took the book along with me as a reference. I didn’t carry it into the Park, however, because this is no pocket guide. It is a big thick volume. It weighs more than a pound-and-a-half and would be a clumsy thing simply to carry into Red Rockett’s Pizza Port and might become a dangerous flying object in Space Mountain. So I read it during the first night at the hotel and each of the three subsequent evenings during our visit. I was a little overwhelmed by how much information the book had. However, the information was laid out in helpful easy-to-use formats with numerous clearly labeled sections and subsections that included appropriate charts, tables, and bullet points.
I discovered one great section on page 332, called “Tips and Tricks,” that suggested such things as tying a ribbon around a baby stroller so that you could easily pick the stroller out in a lot crowded with hundreds of other strollers. Another tip was to round-up information about wait lengths. If a sign by a line said “45 minutes from this point,” adjust the calculation upward to an hour. I also learned that if a child popped his/her Mickey balloon, vendors would provide a free replacement upon receiving the carcass of the popped balloon. That illustrated how helpful the book was in many places because, for example, after 16 years of visiting the park, I had never learned of that popped-balloon-replacement policy, and probably never would have known. I can imagine that when I am bringing my own children on regular visits to the park, I might take advantage of the balloon replacement policy on sufficient occasions to cover the price of the book.
Perhaps Joshua never thought of this, but one great use for his book would be as a bathroom or bedside companion. People like me would never tire of the opportunity to grab a few interesting facts about the park, as occasion offered itself to do so. It would take a long time before you finally got through the thousands of facts.
Joshua created the book by using every possible research to learn about the park — finding whatever details he could about the attractions and the history through innumerable publications and relevant internet websites. He also compiled information through conversations he carried on with other park visitors and with Disneyland cast members. He made use of the countless hours waiting in line for one of the attractions by striking up conversations with other people in the line, sharing information he had about the particular ride and attempting to learn any facts that they might know that he didn’t.
In 2006 Joshua decided to make a list of all the random Disneyland facts that he had learned so he could share with others while at the park. While compiling the list, he said that he decided to look up some information online to verify statements or to learn something new.
Then one year while at Disneyland, it struck him that he should compile every bit of information about the park into a vacation guide.
The first edition was released October 2010. It had 1,000 fun facts in it and was 220 pages long with 105 photos. The second edition, released last July, is 700 pages long with more than 3,700 fun facts and 750 photos.
Joshua’s book is obviously a work of love and passion. It is inspiring that he was able to follow his dream and to devote time, energy, and personal resources in creating a work that will enhance the experience for others, like myself, who share his love for Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom.