By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: The Story of Walt Disney World

By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on


By Jim Korkis

  • The Story of Walt Disney World Commemorative Edition

New books related to Walt Disney World seem to be published almost every month these days, but when the new vacation destination first opened in 1971 there was almost nothing. Steve Birnbaum Brings You The Best of Walt Disney World did not appear until 1982, with the Disneyland edition not being issued until 1985.

Of course in 1971, there was the park’s souvenir guide that was primarily filled with colorful photos and there were magazine articles but only one bookish publication: The Story of Walt Disney World Commemorative Edition.

This oversized eleven inches by eleven inches softcover publication was 48 pages long plus covers, and only sold at WDW. The right edge was trimmed so that the cover looked like a big black letter “D” with a “D” cut-out window in the center that showed part of a color night-time photograph of Cinderella Castle that filled most of the first page on the book. The rest of that page was a reprinting of the text of the famous dedication plaque.

The book is indeed filled with lots of color photographs, some never reprinted and many showing the actual construction of WDW, but more importantly this publication includes some significant text rather than just brief picture captions.

The book was available in 1971–but collectors, be very careful. It remained in print throughout the 1970s, but each reprinting still included the yellow slanted “Commemorative Edition” banner in the lower right hand corner. As a result, many sellers offer this book at a higher price and advertise it as a first printing, when in fact it may be a later edition.

In my own collection, I also have editions from 1973 and 1978. How do I know? Because the copyright date is printed in Roman numerals at the bottom right of the inside front cover. To the best of my knowledge, this booklet was no longer published beginning in 1980.

In addition, the first edition featured the well-remembered Paul Hartley map of WDW that was displayed in the WDW hotel resort rooms. Starting in 1973, that map was replaced by a different, cartoony map that featured the newly opened Golf Resort hotel on the lower left hand side.

Also the map now included cartoonish drawings of guests enjoying all of the Walt Disney World property, along with Disney cartoon characters like Uncle Scrooge welcoming motorists at the entrance, Goofy in Scottish attire strolling a golf course and an oversized Mickey Mouse signing autographs for a family outside of the Magic Kingdom. Later editions add Space Mountain and the Fort Wilderness Resort railroad.

So when purchasing a copy, remember that the book is quite common since it was one of the primary souvenirs that guests would purchase for roughly a decade, and take into account which edition you are purchasing. Just because something is old does not necessarily make it rare or more valuable.

Interestingly, the text of the book remained much the same throughout the different editions because it was generally historical in nature even though some of the photos changed as changes were made to the area.

Think of the book as an enjoyable time capsule of what the “world” once was. It may bring back fond memories for those who were there at the time, or spark the curiosity of those who wonder about those photos of cutting the tiles for the Cinderella Castle mural or programming the audio-animatronics for the Mickey Mouse Revue.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Disney Never Lands, and about planned but unbuilt concepts, and Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.



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