One of the very first articles I ever worked on during my internship at a local magazine was about the concept of new urbanism. My editor told me about a place in Florida that had spearheaded this movement and subsequent communities that had piggybacked on the idea including “Celebration” the Disney Company’s town within a town. I was told that Celebration was the backdrop for the movie The Truman Show and that the idea behind this place was that folks could live, work and play in one area and create that small town America feel.
I was pretty excited about this piece because I love the thought of an idyllic lifestyle as much as the next person and I was happy that there was a development in the world locally that was capitalizing on this concept…but then I discovered where it was and how much it cost to live there. It suddenly hit me that perhaps what these communities are creating is a rich person’s ghetto…an insulated place where the upper crust can live without ever having to go outside their bubble and into the “real world.”
So…after watching a documentary about this Disney community, I learned that Ross had written a book about it. Ross lived in Celebration for a year and experienced all that this seemingly ideal community had to offer. To play fair, it was a Disney conceived town and we all know Disney doesn’t do things half way, but he also uncovered a lot of unrest about living in a community with and over the top HOA, a failing school system, problems with leadership, etc. There are a lot of other things mentioned in this book as well, for example: how Disney makes it “Snope” from the day after Thanksgiving until New Years Day, the ice rink that materializes in the street, the smallish lot sizes that encourages the use of public parks, and all of the things that made people want to live there that didn’t turn out the way they envisioned them.
Keep in mind that as of this writing Disney is no longer in charge of Celebration (they were not supposed to be involved long term) The AMC movie theater has shut down. While there are some people who are still thrilled with their decision to move to “the Bubble” others are not as happy with the end result. This book offers an interesting look into the ideal community and the high price of living “happily ever after.” Borrow it if you have ever been curious about this place.