A fascinating look at Walt Disney’s last, unfinished project and the controversy that surrounded it.
It was going to be Disneyland at the top of a mountain. A vacation destination where guests could ski, go ice skating, or be entertained by a Disney Imagineer-created band of Audio-Animatronic bears. In the summer, visitors could fish, camp, hike, or take a scenic chairlift ride to the top of a mountain. It was the Mineral King resort in Southern California, and it was Walt Disney’s final passion project. But there was one major obstacle to Walt’s dream: the growing environmentalist movement of the 1960s.
In Disneyland on the Mountain: Walt, the Environmentalists, and the Ski Resort That Never Was, Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer provide an unprecedented look inside the Mineral King saga, from its origins at the 1960 Winter Olympics to the years-long environmental fight that eventually shut the development down. The fight, which went all the way to the Supreme Court, reshaped the environmental movement and helped to put in place long-reaching laws to protect nature. Although the court battle, coupled with Walt’s death in 1966, meant the end for the Mineral King resort, the ideas and planning behind it have permeated throughout the Walt Disney company and the ski tourism industry in ways that are still seen today.
With firsthand interviews and behind-the-scenes details, Disneyland on the Mountain offers incredible access to a part of Disney history that hasn’t been thoroughly explored before, including Walt’s love of nature, how the company changed after Walt’s death, and of course, the story of Mineral King. It’s a tale of man versus nature, ambition versus mortality, and how a gang of scrappy environmentalists took on one of America’s most beloved companies.
Greg Glasgow is a longtime writer and journalist for numerous magazines and newspapers, including The Denver Post, 5280, and the Boulder Daily Camera, where he worked for ten years as arts and entertainment reporter and editor. He lives in Colorado with his wife and co-author, Kathryn Mayer.
Kathryn Mayer is a Denver-based writer and journalist whose work has appeared in numerous publications including Health, Observer, Business Insider, and PopSugar. She primarily writes about business and has appeared on radio, TV, and podcasts as an industry expert.
Journalists Glasgow and Mayer debut with an illuminating history of a little-known chapter of Walt Disney’s career that was also a victory in the early years of the environmental movement. In 1965, Disney and his company came to an agreement with the federal government regarding the development of a stretch of Sequoia National Forest called Mineral King. The mogul envisioned the space as a ski resort made in the image of Disneyland, his California theme park. Over the next four years, Disney, who died in 1966, and his successors created a plan for the resort that was approved by the U.S. Forest Service. A cluster of conservationists, including Sierra Club executive Mike McCloskey and attorney Leland Selna, fought back in court for years to keep the project from coming to fruition. By the mid-1970s, the Walt Disney Company gave up on the project, and in 1978 Congress added Mineral King to a list of protected natural areas to prevent its future development. Drawing on firsthand interviews, the authors provide an enticing combination of behind-the-scenes reporting on the Disney company and environmental movement history, including the ramifications of this episode on both the company’s future developments and on environmental law. It’s a rewarding deep dive.
In 1966, Walt Disney announced plans for a ski area at Mineral King, a spectacular site in the Sierra Nevadas.... [Glasgow and Mayer] reveal in great detail Disney's plans for Mineral King and why the ski area was doomed. Among the first blows was the death of Walt Disney in late 1966. His successors worked hard to keep Disney's dream alive, but without the beloved Disney, they lacked his driving force as well as a charismatic frontman. Environmentalists, meanwhile, had turned to the courts to thwart the resort. One case, went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Eventually, after years of litigation, Disney pulled the plug, and Walt Disney's dream of a European-style ski area in the midst of one of America's most pristine sites was dead.
A decade after Disneyland opened, and with the swamps being drained for Disney World, Old Uncle Walt hiked up an incline in California’s Mineral King valley to announce his next plan. Accompanied by California Gov. Edmund Brown, Walt Disney declared his intention to turn the valley into a family-friendly resort. It would become one of his few abject failures. The thwarted project is the subject of Disneyland on the Mountain by journalists Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer. The book will remind film buffs of Disney’s enormous role in shaping perceptions of the natural world. His animation raised generations of children on idyllic visions of nature and animals, a subterranean stream feeding the ecological movement that surfaced in the ‘60s. The irony is that Disney’s dream for Mineral King valley was defeated by the movement he helped inspire.
The history of Disney has already been the subject of numerous books, from both inside and outside the company, chronicling the company’s growth from a small animation studio founded in 1932 into the corporate behemoth of today. But one part of the Disney story has largely been overlooked, especially in the company’s tightly controlled historical narrative: how it battled for over a decade to build a ski resort in a California valley…. Describing what happened during the subsequent decade of conflict would derail one of Disneyland on the Mountain’s great strengths: the engrossing narrative. The book’s subtitle is a bit of a spoiler, so it’s not giving anything away to say that the resort was never built. But how that happened is an epic tale: one full of unexpected swerves, big personalities, personal and political clashes, tragedy, protests outside the gates of The Happiest Place On Earth, and legal battles that went all the way to the US Supreme Court…. [It] is also an affirming tale of citizen activism, with environmental organizations, nature lovers, and feminists joining forces to defeat a wealthy company with governmental and business connections that it wasn’t afraid to use to get its way. The struggle also resulted in laws and legal precedents that, to this day, protect nature and the environment.... Glasgow and Mayer have undertaken extensive research, including interviews with some of the still-living participants in the events around Mineral King, and their narrative is thoroughly fleshed out and thoughtfully written.... Disneyland on the Mountain makes an important contribution not only to Disney’s history but also to the history of activism and resistance in the US by providing a definitive account of these largely forgotten events.
The authors bring to life the delectable crossover of Disney history and good ol' American activism. We see an even-handed portrayal of Walt as both a conservationist and a showman, and how his plans inspired real change in our country's policies. Underdog activists and Disney buffs be warned—you will love this book.
Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer’s Disneyland on the Mountain is environmental history at its very best. The battle to save the sequoia groves in the High Sierras from a sprawling Disney resort ended as a victory for the conservation movement in the 1970s. The legal activist and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, as portrayed in these pages, would’ve made John Muir proud. Highly recommend!
A gripping, in-depth look at the people and forces that shaped the outcome at the Sierra’s Mineral King: the ski resort that wasn’t built, the Supreme Court decision that opened the courts to causes, and the national park that became bigger—all this, with all sides being heard. What a story! Splendidly told.
There’s no shortage of lore when it comes to Walt Disney and his cultural empire of movies and theme parks. But did you know that he once dreamt of building a ski resort…Writer duo Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer revisit this failed venture in Disneyland on the Mountain: Walt, the Environmentalists, and the Ski Resort That Never Was in eyebrow-raising style.
8/17/23, BlogTalkRadio Conversations Live: The authors discuss the book with host Cyrus Webb.
9/3/23, Attractions Magazine: This feature has photos from the books and a Q&A with the authors.
9/4/23, The Exchange / KWIT Radio: Host Mary Hartnett discusses the book with the authors.Link: https://www.kwit.org/podcast/the-exchange/2023-09-04/the-exchange-08-31-23-living-and-learning-in-the-loess-hills-with-brian-hazlett-and-ryan-allen-how-walt-disney-failed-to-create-a-ski-resort-in-sequoia-national-park
9/14/23, The Not Old Better Show: Paul Vogelzang interviews Kathryn Mayer and Greg Glasgow about the book.
9/13/23, The Curious Mans podcast: The authors discuss the book in Matt Crawford’s podcast.
9/11/23, MickeyBlog: The authors discuss the book in this Q&A.
9/13/23, AirTalk / KPCC Southern California Public Radio: Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer join Larry Mantle to discuss the book.
9/12/23, Rick Flynn Presents podcast: Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer share the fascinating tale of Walt Disney’s final passion project.
9/18/23, The Frankie Boyer Show: Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer are interviewed about the book.
9/22/23, VoiceAmerica’s The Soul of Enterprise: Hosts Ed Kless and Ron Baker interview the authors.
9/23/23, The Brian and Lee Show / WWDB Radio (Philadelphia, PA): Brian and Lee talk to the authors about the ski resort that never came to be.
9/27/23, iceAmerica’s Women, Life and Science: reg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer talk to host Cecilia Zapata-Harms about the controversial ski resort that ultimately did not happen.
9/30/23, Public Libraries, a magazine of the Public Library Association: A Q&A with the authors is featured in the magazine.Link: https://publiclibrariesonline.org/2023/09/glasgowmayer/
10/3/23, VoiceAmerica’s Lebenthal Report: Hosts Michael Hartzmann and Dominick Tavella interview the authors.
9/29/23, Definitive Rap / 5 Towns Central: The authors talk about the book.
YouTube link: https://youtu.be/esHSCHwgpC8
10/11/23, Daily Camera: Ella Cobb discussed the book with the authors and highlights the past event at Boulder Bookstore.
Yahoo link without paywall: https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/local-authors-unveil-story-walt-032400344.html
Daily Camera link: https://www.dailycamera.com/2023/10/11/local-authors-unveil-story-of-walt-disneys-dream-to-build-a-ski-resort-and-the-monster-environmental-movement-that-followed/
10/9/23, Theme Park Insider: A feature on the book says, “It’s one of the best Disney history books I’ve read.”
10/9/23, Theme Park Insider: Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer were interviewed on the Theme Park Insider podcast.
10/16/23, Great Day Colorado / KDVR FOX TV: Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer discuss the book.
10/24/23, Orange County Register: The book is featured in this opinion piece.
10/22/23, Powder magazine: Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer are interviewed about the book, which Powder calls, “A fascinating journey through the animator’s efforts to build a resort.”
10/17/23, Westword: Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer discuss this piece of Disney history that has a Colorado connection.
10/16/23, University of Colorado Boulder College of Arts and Sciences Magazine: Alumnus Greg Glasgow is interviewed about the book.
10/24/23, Public Policy / New Books Network: Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer are interviewed about the book.
11/3/23, Go Green Radio / VoiceAmerica: Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer discuss the book with host Jill Buck.
11/9/23, Cail & Company / New Hampshire Talk Radio: Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer are interviewed.
9/29/23, Ron Van Dam Show: Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer are interviewed about the book.
10/20/23, Thoughts from a Page podcast: Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer discuss the book.