Book review

Book Review: Service with Character: The Disney Studio & World War II by David Lesjak

Service with Character: The Disney Studios and World War II by David Lesjak.  Produced by ThemeParkPress. 

Service with Character: The Disney Studios and World War II by David Lesjak.  Produced by ThemeParkPress. 

If you're into military history AND you love Disney, you'll definitely want to read Service with Character: Disney Studio & World War II by David Lesjak.  I was fascinated to learn about Disney's involvement in World War II. 

Did you know that Disney produced a movie called "Victory Through Air Power" that probably contributed to the U.S. Air Force becoming its own branch of the military? 

Did you know that the Disney Studios housed military forces, created over 1200 military insignia, helped sell war bonds and even helped people to think of paying income taxes as their patriotic duty (Taxes to beat the Axis!)?  Click here for more on that. 

Did you know that the studios produced one edition of a magazine for their employees serving in the Armed Forces that even included hand-drawn pin-up girls?  Click here to read more about that. 

As a somewhat religious person, I found the section on propaganda films especially interesting in light of the current political climate.  The book includes a portion of a memo Disney Production Manager Robert Carr sent about WWII propaganda films produced by Disney Studios for South America.  He wrote, "Animation, being a magical medium has profound potentialities for evoking sentiment and awe. 'Ave Maria' in Fantasia was only a beginning. We should make full use of this quality in many of the 'big' subjects suggested, CREATING A DEEPLY RELIGIOUS FEELING, AND ASSOCIATING THIS WITH POLITICAL IDEALS (emphasis mine). We can have beautiful and reverent scenes in which The Christ of the Andes is seen in the background, or a huge cross fills the sky; or more subtly, when the voice, the music and the artist's style of painting suggests a religious when we see the Spirit of Pan American, or of Victory, standing behind our weapons. This will put over certain ideas impossible to present otherwise." (source: Service with Character: The Disney Studio & World War II, by David Lesjak, pp. 177 & 178). Social media is a relatively new, and very visual, medium that we're all having to learn to navigate. The above memo struck me as a good reminder that we need to be wise when religious themes or imagery are being employed to influence us.

I am not affiliated with the author or publisher in any way.  The men in my family served in different branches of the military and I'm a Disney fan who found this book really interesting and thought you might too.  It would also make a great Christmas gift for the history buff in your family.   This book can be purchased on Amazon. 

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About the reviewer: Annette, with her husband Steve, owns and is an avid reader; so much so that, as a child, her parents made a rule that she could not read during daylight hours because they were concerned she was developing a pallor best suited for the Haunted Mansion!

Book Review: Murder in the Magic Kingdom

Murder in the Magic Kingdom, by Anne Salisbury and Bob McLain
Amazon price: Paperback: $14.95 / Kindle Edition: $4.99
Reviewed by Annette Johnson

Note: There are two books with the title Murder in the Magic Kingdom listed on Amazon.  This review is for the 2014 book by Anne Salisbury, not the 2008 book by Foreman Heard. 

Murder in the Magic Kingdom: A Novel
By Annie Salisbury

Disney World cast member Tommy Boyd’s murdered body is found in the waters of the Jungle Cruise attraction and Josh, another cast member, comes under scrutiny because Tommy was inexplicably wearing one of Josh’s uniforms at the time of his death.  Though Josh isn’t detained, due to lack of evidence, he rightly feels that they’ll stop looking for other suspects unless he finds some compelling evidence to prove his own innocence and to point their attention elsewhere.  I don’t want to give anything away but what follows is a fairly short book (only 154 pages) that moves quickly through the Disney World theme parks to catch the real killer.     

What I like:   A lot of Disney park based fiction has a common theme of the current Disney leadership being motivated solely by profits and the need to find a rightful successor to carry on Walt Disney’s true spirit and vision for the parks.   That is fine - I’ve certainly imagined what I would do if I was at the helm of the Disney corporation – but it can also get monotonous.   Murder in the Magic Kingdom doesn’t go there; it simply places a murder mystery into the current Disney World setting.   The author is a former Cast Member so she weaves both the public and backstage areas of the park into the story in effective ways.  Josh, the lead character in the book, is likeable but refreshingly normal; he isn’t a genius or drop dead gorgeous – he's just a regular guy who was dropped into a bad situation and you can’t help but hope that things work out for him.

What I didn’t like:   The book would’ve benefited from better proofreading; there is a your/you’re mistake which is easy enough to read through.  There are a few places where the wrong word is used and it sort of stops the flow of the story as your brain tries to fill in the right word; for example, there is one place where one cast member “shames” the hand of another instead where it should’ve been “shakes”.   I felt like the book ended rather abruptly with too many loose ends; in particular, the main character was feeling like he was simply treading water in both his career and his relationships and there was nothing to indicate whether this rather dramatic set of circumstances helped him to find clarity or come to any decisions about his life.

Final thoughts:  The author has only published two books and this is her first fiction effort; her first book, which I have not yet read, is an autobiographical account of her experiences as a Disney VIP tour guide. Murder in the Magic Kingdom isn't a bad first work but may have benefited from a little more work and a little better editing. I bought the Kindle Edition and, at $4.99, it was an enjoyable, light read providing a quick fix to satisfy my Disney theme park addiction; I probably would’ve been disappointed if I’d purchased the paperback version for $14.95. 

About the reviewer: Annette has been reading mystery novels since she discovered Nancy Drew in her school library.  She and her husband love the Disney theme parks and launched Build A Better Mouse Trip / Mouse Trip Travel, a Disney-focused travel agency, over ten years ago so that they and their agents can help others experience the wonder and the magic of the Disney theme parks.

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Disclosure:  If you click on the Amazon link/book cover in this article and make a purchase, we will receive a small commission from Amazon.  At least that is the theory; it has not happened yet.  If it does, I'll no doubt just spend it on more books. ;-)

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