3D Disneyland–A stunning time travel odyssey to Disneyland across the decades

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you love history and the idea of time travel, scientists and writers have provided mankind with several options to bridge the two.  Maybe you don’t think of it as time travel, but written history for millennia has allowed humans to see the past through the eyes of our ancestors.  Since the 1840s, early photography has allowed us to literally see the past.  Early cinema came in the subsequent decades, and both photography and cinema made it possible for we future beings to see the past in color.  With Victorian ingenuity, we could see the past in three dimensions.  Almost from the inception of photography, stereoscopic viewers brought three dimensions to audiences by 1840, thanks to Charles Wheatstone.  Cinema followed, thanks to a stereoscope release of George Méliès’ 1902 movie A Trip to the Moon.  By the 1950s anyone could preserve life in the moment for future generations via stereo cameras, and every kid marveled at easy to view View-Master reels documenting life across time and space, even via 3D images taken from the actual Apollo missions to the Moon.  We’ve come a long way from old fashioned stereoscope viewers, but the same awe can be found in the new book 3D Disneyland: Like You’ve Never Seen It Before (available now here at Amazon), a decades past look inside a beloved theme park, including its Tomorrowland and its mid-century modern art movement-inspired world.

3D Disneyland is primarily one man’s collection of three-dimensional photographs of the California theme park via his own 1955 Kodak Stereo Camera.  That man is Ted Kierscey, whose images, along with a few from Patrick Swinnea–who actually turned the two offset stereo images from the camera into single anaglyph images viewable by classic movie theater red and blue glasses–chronicle the park from the 1950s into the 1990s.  We’ve seen quality books compiling vintage stereoscope images before–the band Queen’s own Brian May is a connoisseur of stereo images and released several books, including the popular Queen in 3D, with an accompanying modern viewer.  The brilliant clarity of the images in 3D Disneyland is also something that needs to be witnessed firsthand.

Kierscey worked in visual effects for Disney, on films including The Black Hole, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Fox and the Hound, Beauty and the Beast, and Bolt.  3D Disneyland is a project conceived by and created by David A. Bossert, who shared an office with Kierscey, and also worked in the visual effects department at Disney, on films like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and later Spider-Man and The Ren and Stimpy Show.

For Californians growing up close to the theme park, it was an easy vacation space since it opened in July 1955.  A color, 3D, historical look at Disneyland first and foremost is for fans of the park and those who got to see it decades ago.  Disneyana is also as popular as ever, so 3D Disneyland is for any fan of Walt Disney and his fantastical ideas, from preserving a slice of Main Street America to his unique ride attractions and his visionary Tomorrowland.

What you might not guess is how much the 3D images in 3D Disneyland mirror theme parks throughout America from the 1950s through the rest of the century.  Whether you visited places with names like Worlds of Fun or Adventureland or Riverview or Six Flags, you’ll feel the tug of nostalgia in these images, too.  Whether you select the hardcover edition or the digital edition (requiring you to mail a SASE for vintage style movie cardboard 3D glasses or acquire a set like these at Amazon), the detail is stunning–stunning to a level that will take you back, time travel style, from the 1950s to the 1980s and 1990s.

The author posted the following images from his book to illustrate what you’ll find inside:

Many people view vintage stereoview images online simply by crossing their eyes as they stare at an image as above–by creating three images with your eyes the middle will be seen as three dimensional.  The result is like a hidden image puzzle.  The next step for this book was the anaglyph conversion, viewable only with 3D glasses:

Not every photograph is spectacular.  Some are of common nooks and crannies of the park.  But if you ever are one to just sit at a public event and “watch people” you’ll like those images even more.  As much about Disneyland and the era each photo depicts, this is about people enjoying themselves.  One more thing: The book features a foreword by Tom K. Morris, a retired Imagineer.

My own favorite images from the book include the train, the steamboat, the replica 18th century ship, the horses, the Dumbo ride in action, Tomorrowland, and the vintage milk truck.  As with all 3D photography, the best images include a foreground reference, a middle, and a distance reference.

What’s not to love?  3D Disneyland is a stunning voyage across time.  For fans of Disneyland, Disneyana, the mid-century modern art movement, and all things 3D, pick up your copy of 3D Disneyland now in digital or hardcover here at Amazon.  The Tomorrowland scenes would make this pair well on your bookshelf with Star Trek: Designing the Future–How Midcentury Modernism Shaped Our View of the Future, reviewed here.

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