We’ve become a society of segmented tribes connected by shared politics, values, and interests. This separation can be dangerous; our current election cycle is a perfect example. On the other hand, the Internet allows us to connect with fans around the world about our specific passion. The online Disney community is a case in point. People obsessed with the parks have a place to interact (and argue) with others and spread their fandom. Judging by this site, I’m definitely one of those people. Scott Renshaw’s Happy Place: Living the Disney Parks Life is right up my alley. He does an excellent job chronicling this avid group with an insider’s perspective.
Published this month by The Critical Press, Renshaw’s book takes him on a journey to meet some of Disney’s most dedicated fans. He also comes to terms with his own fandom as a nearly 50-year-old guy. He’s a dad but also enjoys Disneyland on his own terms. I’m a little younger but face a similar internal conflict. Most people don’t understand being that engaged with these parks as an adult. It’s such a personal thing and usually comes from regular trips as a kid. In his introduction, Renshaw describes his own past with Disney and why it speaks to him. Many of us have similar stories, and Renshaw’s writing connects because he has the “Disney gene”. I can easily sympathize with his envy for people who don’t wait years between each vacation.
Happy Place packs a lot of engaging stories into just over 100 pages. This length feels like just the right amount for the topic. Renshaw has a relaxed writing style that shows his expertise without overdoing it. An early chapter about visiting Disney World for the first time gives an interesting perspective. In particular, his views on Epcot remind me of what it still offers to a new visitor. Renshaw also covers the D23 Attractions Rewind conference and his meetings with various fans at the event. It’s a cool way to remind us that we’re able to connect with so many about our love of the parks.
The Devoted Fans
Renshaw also connects with a different kind of fan — people whose daily lives revolve around the parks. This is very common at Disneyland, which has made a personal bond with locals in the past 60 years. I love the different vibe of that California resort, which doesn’t feel like a tourist mecca. It’s the type of place where a guy like Jon Hale can happily ride Radiator Springs Racers more than 3,000 times in three years. That attraction’s cast members seem more like family to him than just ride operators. Fans often visit Disneyland every day, and Renshaw delves into why they keep going.
Another reason that I enjoyed Happy Place so much was Renshaw’s even-handed approach. He recognizes the ways that Disney falls short, which isn’t always the case among fans. The chapter on Mike and Diane Greening’s visit to three Disney castle parks in one day is fascinating. It dives into their challenges both during and after their journey. It didn’t surprise me to learn that the media simplified their trip into something crazy. There are some odd Disney fans out there, but they’re often just regular people looking for a memorable time. Renshaw’s background as a professional writer and critic is evident in the way he approaches each interview subject. There’s little judgment on each person’s avid interest in Disney.
It’s also good to hear from experts that I regularly follow, especially podcast guest Len Testa, Andy Castro, and the elusive FoxxFur. Her work in the blog Passport to Dreams Old and New inspires me to do better on this site. The chapter on “The Thinkers” speaks directly to me as someone who tries to think critically. Renshaw makes excellent points in that zone during his chapter on D23. Bob Iger knows that he has the devotees; he’s speaking to the masses he wants to draw to his parks. It isn’t controversial to point out the ways that Disney takes its fans for granted.
Beyond the interviews, Happy Place is a touching story of a lifelong connection with Disneyland. The final chapter reminds us of how personal our love for Disney can be. Like Renshaw, I’ll never visit the parks every month and will be an outsider to core fans. There’s no single way to be a fan of any niche, and it’s true with Disney. This book provides a great way to remember why these parks attract so many. They’re individual experiences that go beyond rides and shows. Reading all the different stories has helped me connect with my own fandom. This book is a must read for fans and anyone curious about why they can’t get enough of Disney’s theme parks.
Learn more about Happy Place: Living the Disney Parks Life at The Critical Press site.