Audio Guide to Walt Disney World Archives

January 29, 2008

Lou Mongello’s Audio Guide to Walt Disney World - A Review

Lou Mongello's Audio Guide to Walt Disney World:
Your Portable Personal Guide to Main Street, USA

By Michelle Scribner-MacLean

Think about that first time you went to the Magic Kingdom. Remember all of the excitement as you hit Main Street, USA as you entered the Happiest Place on Earth? Perhaps you "rocketed" over to Tomorrowland to get a ride on Space Mountain. Maybe you scooted over to Adventureland to hop aboard a pirate boat? Quite possibly you were drawn right to Cinderella's Castle to get a closer look.

Main Street

Remember the second time you visited? You were probably a bit more confident, took your time"and maybe by your third or fourth trip you felt like a pro".and started noticing all of the details that make Walt Disney World so special?

For many of us, the details are one of the many reasons we keep coming back to the Magic Kingdom. Lou Mongello, author of the Walt Disney World Trivia books, has put his love of the history and details of WDW to create The Audio Guide to Walt Disney World. The recording, which took Mongello about 18 months to write, record, and edit, can be likened to an audio guide that you rent when you go to a blockbuster museum exhibit, the type that gives you more inside information about what you're looking at, listening to, and experiencing.

Main Street Audio Guide Cover

This on-going series, which will eventually feature each the lands of the Magic Kingdom, has high-appeal for those wanting to get the "back story" about the architecture, music, and production aspects of Main Street, USA.

Mongello had several goals in mind when producing this audio guide. "I really want to be able to both enhance the vacation experience for the Guest who is visiting the parks, as well as give people a little bit of the "magic" at home as they prepare for their next visit, or just when they need a little bit of Disney in between their visits." In addition, this recording is an excellent resource for those visitors who are visually impaired, as Mongello's descriptions are rich and detailed.
Production is a strength of Mongello's, who has earned two podcast awards during the past few years. His narration is that of a seasoned tour-guide: the pacing is excellent, allowing the listener time to take in the details being presented.

Another appealing aspect of the production is the ambient noise in the background. Normally, "noise" isn't viewed as a strength - but, as Mongello narrates, he uses "Main Street" activity and music to enhance the topic at hand. You'll hear the Dapper Dans, horse-drawn trolleys, visitors mulling around, as well as rag-time piano players who perform outside of Casey's. Mongello spent days just recording the background sounds that helps the listener feel as if they are really at the Magic Kingdom, strolling down Main Street - you can almost imagine Cinderella's castle off in the distance.

"Spending 7 hours walking up and down Main Street in complete silence, or standing in one spot hoping that the kids in the family of four walking towards me weren't about to have a loud, screaming meltdown was a pretty unique experience," says Mongello.

From the significance of the bricks and signs as you enter Main Street, to Crystal Palace bordering Adventureland, to the hub at the center of the park, Mongello explains some truly interesting aspects of the park encountered by arriving visitors.

You learn the history and the development of many of the buildings. For example, many Disney fans know about the use of forced perspective for the buildings on Main Street, where the scale of the buildings changes on the upper stories to make the buildings appear larger than they really are), but did you know that the Exposition Hall is the only building on Main Street that was built to full scale to block the view of the Contemporary Hotel in the background?

I also learned that Main Street was actually designed to look long and majestic, with the castle in the distance as the visitor enters, but looks shorter as you look towards the train station, with your back toward the castle so that weary visitors would not be overwhelmed by the long walk back down the street after a tiring day at the park.

The names features on the windows on Main Street have long held a fascination for many visitors, but, if you're like me, you might only know handful of names. Mongello details the backgrounds and histories of many Disney notables and legends, as well as how they each had a significant impact on the park's design.

Main Street Windows

Among the many things I learned about these "credits" which "roll" on Main Street was that not all of them are listed on windows. There is actually a door, located at the end of Disney clothiers, which says "Open Since 1971, Magic Kingdom Casting Agency. This door, dedicated in 2005, recognizes the contributions of the thousands of Disney cast members, who are, of course, some of the most important contributors to the success of the park.

Main Street Door Honoring Cast Members

Of this project, Mongello says, "I hope to be able to open people's eyes to the incredible detail, history and story that is present throughout the parks and resorts, introduce them to some true "hidden treasures", and even use it as a planning tool. It was designed not only for the WDW "expert," but for the first-time visitors as well."

He has achieved this - and I highly recommend this audio CD for Disney-lovers of all ages. It is available for $9.99 (plus shipping).

Mongello plans to tackle Adventureland next, as well as the remainder of the lands in the Magic Kingdom. Plans for audio tours of EPCOT are also in the works in the distant future.

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