In May, I reviewed my three favorite Walt Disney World guidebooks: The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, The Complete Walt Disney World, and Passporter's Walt Disney World, pulling the titles from over 20 years of traveling to Walt Disney World. Rating each on a scale of 1 to 10 for amount and quality of information, ease of use, visual appeal, and portability, I developed a somewhat objective scale to measure each book.
Trivia and activity books on Walt Disney World are not so easy to differentiate objectively. Each fills a similar, though different, niche. At roughly 8 inches by 4 inches, each of the guides reviewed here are easy to carry to the parks. One of the books, the Imagineering Field Guide, is actually a series of four books, one per park, which began with the guide for the Magic Kingdom, first published in 2005.
Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Walt Disney World's Best Kept Secrets was initially published more than 10 years ago and recently released the 6th edition. The newcomer, Lots To Do In Line: Walt Disney World, fills a similar niche to Hidden Mickeys in the visual scavenger hunt genre, but adds variety to searches and focuses only on the parks. Without employing an apples-to-oranges scale to rate these three guides, my overall opinion is that each can add interest and enjoyment on a trip to Walt Disney World. Here's why…
The Imagineering Field Guides (128 pages)
Alex Wright. Disney Editions, various.
Fascinating for adult Disney fans but not as captivating for preteens or younger children, the four Imagineering Field Guides provide backstory, insight, and details on the design of each park. Each guide is approximately 130 pages long and follows an identical format, starting with a chapter devoted to the basics of Imagineering. "Imagineering 101" begins with a history of Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI), then further describes WDI's 22 disciplines, including architecture, special effects, lighting design, and fabrication design.
The balance of each guide is devoted to the conception, development, design, and construction of each attraction and the park as a whole from Imagineers' points of view. Early sketches and concept drawings add visual interest and a fascinating look at the creative process. Sections of the guides are color-coded based on area of the park, and each section is further divided by attraction and loaded with trivia and other fun facts.
Walt Disney was ahead of his time in so many ways, and these field guides delve into the minds of the creative geniuses who carried out his vision, and whom Walt dubbed "Imagineers".
The Imagineering Field Guides are not necessarily meant to be read cover-to-cover. The guides can be enjoyed away from the parks, but are arguably more fun to read while standing near the attraction you are reading about. These are not guides that will interest many children. Most of the details are too trivial and too far back in history for younger kids to understand and appreciate the context of time, place, and innovation. If entertaining children is important, the following two guides should accomplish that objective.
Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Walt Disney World's Best Kept Secrets (302 pages)
Steven M. Barrett. The Intrepid Traveler, 6th edition, 2013.
A classic, recently updated to a 6th edition with the addition of Magic Kingdom's New Fantasyland, this guide is filled with clues and hints on finding Hidden Mickeys all over Walt Disney World. For novices, author Steve Barrett defines a Hidden Mickey as a "partial or complete image of Mickey Mouse that has been hidden by Disney's Imagineers and artists in the designs of Disney attractions, hotels, restaurants, and other areas" (p. 15). With visual aids limited to simple park maps, most of the book's approximately 300 pages are devoted to clues and corresponding hints to find Hidden Mickeys all over Walt Disney World.
An introduction explains the rules of finding and reporting Hidden Mickeys, plus several ways to compete against yourself or others to find the most Hidden Mickeys or accumulate the most challenging ones using a point system. A chapter is devoted to each park, which is further divided by land and/or attraction. A late chapter for resorts and one titled "Hither and Thither" round out the bulk of the guide. As the name implies, "Hither and Thither" is a catch-all for other areas of Walt Disney World, such as water parks, Downtown Disney, and the miniature golf courses.
The Hidden Mickey companion website, run by Barrett and his wife, Vickie, offers sharp-eyed travelers a forum to report new Hidden Mickeys, as well as average travelers the opportunity to view a picture, absent in the book, of every Hidden Mickey.
Lots To Do In Line: Walt Disney World (331 pages)
Meredith Lyn Pierce. The Intrepid Traveler, 1st edition, 2013.
The newest addition to Walt Disney World trivia and activity guides is over 300 pages of multiple choice, yes/no, true/false, and scavenger hunt-type questions designed, as the name implies, to fill time while waiting in line. Prior knowledge is not required and answers are provided near enough to the questions to find easily, but not so close to cheat. Questions for Fastpass queues are also included and clearly marked. Fun for any age, but geared towards entertaining children, Lots To Do In Line is a welcome addition to a long list of Disney guide books.
The details considered in this well-organized guide are impressive, particularly for a first edition. There are limited fill-in-the-blank questions or others requiring a great deal of writing, so it is not necessary to bring a pen or pencil to have fun with the book. Most questions list answers by multiple choice or checkboxes.
"Pop Quizzes" are sprinkled throughout the guide. These quizzes rely on remembering details of a sign or area once passed, or by viewing, turning away, and trying to remember what you saw. For example, the pop quiz in the section for The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh asks the reader seven questions to try sometime after playing in the attraction's garden, such as, "If you squish the vegetables by the pumpkins, what happens?", and lists four answers to choose from. The guide is sneaky educational; its greatest gift is teaching children to be careful observers and to help them find constructive ways to spend time during the long waits in line on a trip to Walt Disney World.
Unlike guidebooks used to plan a trip, the three portable guides stand on their own as fun or interesting diversions while in Walt Disney World.
With an increasing number of Walt Disney World apps, including one for Hidden Mickeys, and other electronic distractions on the market, these guides face stiff competition. Personally, I appreciate balancing technology with having pages to thumb through, tab, and mark up, so I'm glad these guides are still out there and being updated. How about you? Any trivia or activity guides you are particularly fond of? Do you think hard copy guides are a relic soon to be obsolete?