Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Challenge From The Mouse

Disneyland Challenge, by Jim Fanning; Jody Revenson , senior editor. New York: Disney Editions/D23, 2009, 128 pp.

There are few things that I enjoy more than a book that tests my knowledge of the Disney theme parks. It's not that I think I know everything there is to know about the parks, you understand; I've learned a lot about the Disney parks over the years, but I realize that there's always going to be more for me to discover. But it's kinda fun to see how much I do know, and when I get a few (or more than a few) questions wrong, at least I know that I've picked up some more interesting bits of information about the parks. Apparently I'm not the only one who enjoys getting quizzed on how much I know about the Disney theme parks, because Disney recently released a new book that promises to "put (readers') Disneyland Resort knowledge to the test". For my latest review, I'm going to take up the Disneyland Challenge and see if the book lives up to the promises it makes on the cover.

Disneyland Challenge is one of several books about the Disney theme parks recently released by Disney under the D23 label; the book is intended to test readers' knowledge of and provide readers information about the lands and attractions of Disneyland, Disney's California Adventure, and the Downtown Disney district. The first thing you'll notice about the book is that it's been designed to be brought along with you as you visit and perhaps take a little punishment in the process; it has a multi-ring binder holding it together instead of traditional binding and the paper's thicker and glossier than the paper most guidebooks are made of. Disneyland Challenge is also formatted differently than most books about the parks; the book contains lots of images, and most of the text is in small multicolored boxes, with each box's color indicating a different category of information. To use the book, just flip through it until you find the page about the attraction or land you're visiting, and then start working on the challenges or start reading about some of the things you'll find there. To solve the challenges, look around and do your best to notice the little things all around you, because the answers to many of the challenges will often be in plain sight.

I have to give the folks who put Disneyland Challenge together points for really thinking outside the box - the format of this book's unlike any quiz book or guidebook about the Disney theme parks I've ever seen. I like the fact that this book encourages readers to bring the book along with them as they visit the theme parks and to pay attention to the little details that add to the overall experience - any book that encourages park guests to slow down a little and appreciate the full Disney experience is a good thing as far as I'm concerned. There's some interesting information in Disneyland Challenge; I think most Disneyland fans will learn at least a couple things they didn't know by reading this book, and more casual Disney fans might be encouraged by the discoveries they make while using this book to learn more about Disney history and to try and discover more Disney details.

Unfortunately, the unusual format of Disneyland Challenge is as much a drawback as it is something that sets the book apart. The book tries so hard to be visually exciting, with lots of images and comic book inspired title and text fonts, that the information being provided seems to get lost in the shuffle. Flipping through the book to find an attraction is an interesting idea, but the book should have still included an index and numbered pages for the benefit of people who prefer to find something the traditional way. This book's really intended more for casual fans of the parks or folks who have just started discovering the history and details of the Disneyland Resort. Readers who are more familiar with the Resort aren't going to find the challenges all that challenging, whether they're in the Park when they read this book or not. Lastly, I'm really surprised that a book put out by Disney about two of its theme parks is so out of date; there are quite a few pages and more than a few photos in this book that reference attractions that no longer exist or that have been significantly changed. I realize that the Disney theme parks are in a constant state of change and no book about the parks will be 100% accurate, but the format of the book makes the mistakes more obvious.

Disneyland Challenge is a different take on the Disney theme park trivia book; its unusual format and reliance on images and brief bits of information and trivia make it an interesting way to enhance the Disney experience for the casual visitor, but the easy questions will frustrate the seasoned Disney park fan looking to test and expand their knowledge of the California Disney parks. If you're a more devoted fan, I'd recommend Kevin Yee's Magic Quizdom for some challenging Disneyland trivia questions, or try Lou Mongello's Walt Disney World Trivia Book series if you want to test your knowledge of the Florida theme parks. Disneyland Challenge is currently being sold at the Disneyland Resort or through Disneyland DelivEARS, but it may also be available online through third-party booksellers at a substantial markup from the cover price.