When the Walt Disney Company unveiled its plans to build the town of the future, a model for environmentally sound, community-supportive urban development, it generated enormous interest around the country and the world. After all, Disney is one of the world's best-known brand names, with a string of successes from theme parks to Broadway—though none was known for being environmentally friendly or socially conscious. Still, the plan for Celebration, Florida, was powerful enough to draw some of the world's leading architects and urban planners. Public interest was so strong that a lottery was required to pick the first residents from thousands of homeseekers.
Among the early residents were New York Times reporter Doug Frantz and his wife, Cathy Collins. Along with their two school-age children, they moved into the community shortly after the very first wave of people had arrived. Openly acknowledging that they were there to report on the town, they would spend the next two years as both observers and participants. The result is Celebration, U.S.A.—a report from the front lines that will surprise Disneyphobes and Disneyphiles alike.
This is an interim report. The town is evolving, and it will be years before we know if or how it succeeds. But what Celebration, U.S.A. reveals is how a new town begins to develop real community structures and just how much social engineering can be done through bricks and mortar. Perhaps most important, it reveals how deeply unhappy millions of Americans are living in their isolated suburban, car-dependent world.
Is Celebration a model for the future? Not yet. But it has clearly struck a nerve deep in the nation's soul. Something beyond the architecture and planning, beyond the Disney label, has drawn people to this new frontier. And in telling the story of Celebration, authors Frantz and Collins tell us as much about our dreams and desires as about the way Disney set to work inventing this brave new town. Like the best of social reporting, this book challenges us to consider what we want for ourselves, our kids, and our country as the world heads into a new century.
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1The Cult of the MouseOur big yellow Ryder truck rumbled and squeaked down the ramp off Interstate 4 twenty miles southwest of Orlando and onto U.S. Highway 192, perhaps the ugliest and most garish stretch of blacktop in America. Less than ten miles from Walt Disney World, the once-quiet road is clogged every day of the year with tourists in rented minivans. In excess of sixty thousand cars daily, according to county traffic counters. If you were to hold out your hand and stop traffic for the day, that's 47.52 miles of vehicles, fender to fender, almost enough to reach to