Building A Better Mouse: The Story Of The Electronic Imagineers Who Designed Epcot is a retelling of the work done to open Walt Disney World’s Epcot. Written by Steve Alcorn and David Green, readers are transported into the years, months and days leading up to October 1st, 1982 when Epcot officially opened it’s doors. Building A Better Mouse has a fast pace and is a quick read, with the paperback version clocking in at 130 pages.
I don’t read many books. The thought of me writing write a book review probably has my family snickering to themselves but, here I am! I received Building A Better Mouse a few months ago and cracked it open. The short chapters and interesting stories kept me entertained, but the main reason I wanted it in the first place was the subject matter. The opening of Epcot fascinates me and does so even more after reading this book.
I’ve heard people call Epcot Center the best theme park in the world and I’m often inclined to agree with them. This isn’t the case anymore, as the park is a shell of its former self, but in the years following it’s opening Epcot was one of a kind. At the time, there wasn’t a theme park like it in the world. (There still might not be.) If you didn’t already know, Walt Disney dreamed for EPCOT to be a semi-utopian city. Standing for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, the city was to be a safe and beautiful place where great minds came to soar. Once Walt passed away, the idea was scaled down into an idea for a theme park. Showcasing the World’s countries and customs while also previewing future inventions and idealities were the parks goals, in a nutshell. It was a place to enjoy but it was also a place to learn, and not many theme parks (even today) can boast that.
Building a Better Mouse takes the readers inside of the crazy few years leading up to the opening of Epcot. Imagineering, which was known as WED at the time, was staffed by an incredible amount of young engineers who had barely found their way out of college. The authors of this book (Alcorn and Green) were members of those mostly-young teams, devoting the lions share of their time to working on Epcot’s American Adventure.
The first half of this book (approximately) takes readers into the lives of the imagineers at the time. We find out about the perks, personalities, antics and lives of those in WED, specifically our authors. Building A Better Mouse showcases the pros and cons of having a bunch of young, imaginative engineers all in one spot. While perhaps naive, this group went to great lengths to see their dreams for this theme park come true.
As the story goes on, Epcot’s opening date draws closer. My favorite part of the book is in the last quarter when the authors have moved to Florida and are spending countless hours working on the American Adventure. One of the authors had recorded his thoughts during this time and this takes up a large portion of the last 30 pages. While this may be a drawback in the literary sense, it is fascinating to see the amount of hours these engineers had poured into the project. Most weeks were well over 100-hour work weeks and there were many nights without sleep.
While reading, it’s also easy to gain a sense of appreciation on how intricate the process of creating an attraction is, specifically The American Adventure. Building A Better Mouse understands that the common reader wants to know some of the processes behind these detailed attractions and explains them in ways that are easy to understand, even to a nearly illiterate guy like me 😉
As for the negatives, there aren’t too many. This is a very light read and wouldn’t be considered great writing, but I don’t think that was ever the authors goal. I also would have liked more details on other attractions within Epcot but again, that was more of my hope than the authors goal.
In the end, I think Building A Better Mouse does what it sets out to do. The book offers a detailed look at the opening of Epcot from the imagineers perspective. Theme Park junkies (like a guy who writes on a Disney Parks blog) are sure to enjoy it from that sense. People who aren’t interested in theme parks may not be as into the book, as the writing may leave some wanting. In just looking on Amazon, there seems to be a 30th anniversary of Epcot version with pictures. I think that’d be pretty interesting but I can’t speak to those photos. Here is a link to that on Amazon, as well as a link to the original. For anyone interested in the history of Epcot, I highly recommend the fascinating story that is Building A Better Mouse.
What did you think of this book review? Would you be interested in more reviews about Disney Theme Park books? Please let me know in the comments! Thank you for reading!