- Paperback: 140 pages
- Publisher: Theme Perks Incorporated (1 October 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0972977759
- ISBN-13: 978-0972977753
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 0.9 x 22.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
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Building a Better Mouse: The Story of the Electronic Imagineers Who Designed EPCOT Paperback – Import, 1 Oct 2007
About the Author
Steve Alcorn is an entrepreneur, engineer, inventor, author and teacher best known for his involvement in the theme park industry. In 1982 he joined Walt Disney Imagineering (then known as WED Enterprises) as a consultant, where he worked on the electronic systems for Epcot Center. During his two years with Imagineering he designed show control systems for The American Adventure, wrote the operating system used in the parkwide monitoring system, and became Imagineering's first Systems Engineer. In 1986 he founded Alcorn McBride Inc. The company's show control, audio, video and lighting equipment is used in most major theme park attractions around the world. Mr. Alcorn is the author of several novels available at themeperks.com. Through Internet instruction provider Education To Go, Mr. Alcorn teaches online classes at over 1000 universities and colleges worldwide. He also teaches a survey class in Theme Park Engineering at themeparkengineering.com David Green is the president of Monteverdi Creative, Inc. (www.montverdicreative.com), which provides creative and technical design services to companies in the entertainment industry. In addition to his three years at WED working on Epcot, Tokyo Disneyland, Fantasyland Rehab and Houston WEDWay Peoplemover, David spent another 11 years at other divisions of The Walt Disney Company. He is a trained journalist and published author in non-fiction, fiction and poetry. Since founding Monteverdi Creative, David's clients have included DIRECTV, Technicolor, Pioneer Home Digital, Visual Terrain, Smart Design, Thinkwell, Dedica Group, Concrete Pictures and others.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I do believe that one place where Disney fails, is they are all about the experience while you are there. Anyone who appreciates are generally likes to understand the artist. Disney sticks a mouse wrapper on it, and that is all you will ever see. While the book feels a little disjointed, I am giving it some grace as he has stated that he is not a writer, he is an engineer. He is just a guy who went through a really rough experience, and wrote about it. Being a maker myself, stories like this are fascinating and am just happy to have a peak inside a fairly closed world.
- I worked and still do in the world mr Alcorn describes
- I used Alcorn control systems in my designs; they were well adjusted controllers for the industry
Working on Amusement Park installatios is an amazing and relatively distinct experiece; it is a composition of doing things that are at the same time fun and serious, frontline science and magic, seriousness and imagination in one drink.
I have dedicated my life to contributing to a better life for others; education, defense, health, entertainment. Of all, the professionally toughest and most effective is the industry mr. Alcorn projects through his shared experience.
The book is rather short, with only 130 pages of text, and the edition I read would have been considerably improved by the addition of pictures and diagrams to better tell the story. There is a new "30th Anniversary" version of the book, which includes a note that it is now "with Photos," so if you are considering purchasing the book, then I recommend the newer version [Note: At last check, Amazon was selling both versions of the book for the same price]. Continuing my list of gripes is that with two different authors it can sometimes be difficult to know which one is telling the story, but my biggest complaint with the book is the casual use of first names. Whether it be Mark, Marty, Jane, Brian, Jenny, or a host of other names I often felt as though I should have known who people were as they appeared in stories. Early in the book more than a dozen engineers and managers are introduced within a few pages, so the second time I read the text I made note of all of their names and (when-provided) the descriptions of their jobs, but even after doing so I still found a host of new characters appeared in different anecdotes without a proper description of who they were or what role they played in the story. Generally speaking, I could still figure out what was going on, but it would often have helpful to know who some of these people were - managers, colleagues, co-ops from college, engineers from another team? Too often it felt like people telling inside jokes that I wasn't in on.
Despite that criticism, the story is otherwise very-well written, introducing the "normal" work environment of a Disney imagineer in California in the late 1970s and early 1980s and documenting how their lives and jobs changed as employees relocated to Florida in preparation for the opening of EPCOT Center. The book documents the increasingly hectic days when the previews prior to the park's opening drew near through transcripts of an audio diary kept by engineer Glenn Birket. This successfully conveys the strain everyone was under to bring the American Adventure online in time to the park to open, along with the seemingly impossibly long hours that were needed to do so. The book also serves as a reminder that projects of the size of EPCOT Center don't last forever, and as much as building the park consumed the lives of so many people, it was not long after construction was complete that their services were no longer needed. As the author's elegantly describe, their "ears were amputated."
"A project like this is so vast in scope it will take the cooperation of many people to make it a reality." These were the words of Walt Disney, describing his original concept for EPCOT in a film promoting the plans for his Florida Project. Near the beginning of the book the authors quote several paragraphs from that film that were part of the "pixie-dusting" of young engineers (and presumably others who built the park) as they started their careers as Disney Imagineers. These words, in particular, serve as an important reminder that actual people, lots of them, built the park that so many of us look back upon with fond memories. It is easy to remember the shows and rides, but Building a Better Mouse sets out to make sure we don't forget the people behind the scenes who made that happen.
There's plenty of detail about the specific engineering problems that had to be overcome and you get a good sense of the chaotic, hot and muddy work environment in which they were expected to create highly sensitive and complicated electronic devices. I took a star off for just a few quibbles centered around some difficulties in following the story. Ironically for a book written by an engineer, there are almost no "schematics" to speak of. Photos of the machinery or even drawings (if Disney wouldn't allow the use of photos) would really of helped. Also, there are a ton of people mentioned in the book but I really never felt like I got to know any of them. It was just a bunch of names of people working really, really hard.