It seems that the Disney community has exploded exponentially over the past few years. Because of this, more and more books on Disney have hit the market. These tend to be guide books or publications meant to be used in the parks.
This is not the case with Dispatch from Disneyland by John Frost. Instead of offering tips of how to make the most out of their trip to Disneyland, Frost grants us a portal to visit the parks though the page.
Like Disneyland itself, the book find had one foot in reality and another in firmly in fantasy. The book is divided into three sections: “Dispatches”, “Essays” and “Addenda”. While the book is labeled as fiction, only the first section truly falls into this category. In fact, even those range in the amount of fact placed in each.
The “Dispatch” section features stories inspired by the park that range from nearly believable to fully imagined. The majority of the stories are written in the second person (“you are walking”, “you see”, “you discover”, etc.), cueing the reader to visualize the journey Frost has created for them, whether it be a walk through of Tarzan’s Treehouse or a trip through a version of Main Street that serves as a real town.
One of the first Dispatches tells the story of a blind child meeting Esmerelda, and how she “shows” him through sounds and feel. Similarly, Frost presents us the details of Disneyland through his prose.
My favorite of the “Dispatches” was “Spaceport 2055”, which imagines a family at The Walt Disney Space Port in future-Orange County set to take off on their first galactic vacation. Told in the third person, we follow as John (the elder child) sets aside the mundane perils of family vacation, and lives what promises to be the most exciting day of his young life.
The essays of Dispatch from Disneyland are more straightforward, and cover a number of topics related not only to the park, but to Walt Disney himself. Here Frost asks us to fire up our left brain and think less in the abstract.
While most Disney fans have some knowledge of the history of Disneyland and a few of the attractions that have resided in it, Frost’s knowledge of the park is not only impressive, but genetic — his grandfather was an Imagineer and his mother worked at Disneyland.
For example, in one essay titled “Disney’s Tomorrowland Adventure”, he compares the struggling Disney’s California Adventure circa 2001 to the original Tommorowland with such insight that, in hindsight, makes him look like Nostradamus
In the “Addenda”, Frost includes a few personal stories from the park as well as some interesting facts about a number of attractions. Here he tells the story of getting stuck on It’s a Small World through rhyming stanzas and mourns the loss of the Festival of Fools.
Speaking of the Festival of Fools, the only somewhat distracting part of the book is how some of the stories contain outdated elements. For example, MGM-Disney Studios, the aforementioned Festival of Fools and even Pokemon cards are mentioned as current and without irony. To solve this problem, Frost includes a timeline of the pieces original publication in the “Addenda”.
Overall, Dispatch from Disneyland proves a great read for fans of the park. Whether you’re “homesick” and need a pick me up, or want to learn more about the park’s rich history, Dispatch from Disneyland is for you.