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The Mouse Machine: Disney and Technology Paperback – 11 Aug 2008


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"Telotte really shines! His passion for analyzing Disney artifacts animates each page. Descriptions are vivid and detailed; analyses are rigorous and insightful, while his engagement with case studies is exemplary. The Mouse Machine is an engaging and intelligent book for those interested in cultural studies, popular culture, media studies, film studies, mass communication, technology and society, American studies, and related fields." Eileen R. Meehan, author of Why TV Is Not Our Fault: Television Programming, Viewers, and Who's Really in Control "The Mouse Machine is a copious history of Disney's innovations and preoccupations; it makes clear just how consistently and significantly Uncle Walt used technology to gain an edge on the competition." Jon Lewis, editor of Cinema Journal and author of Hollywood vs. Hardcore: How the Struggle over Censorship Created the Modern Film Industry

About the Author

J. P. Telotte is a professor of film and media studies at Georgia Institute of Technology. He is coeditor of the journal "Post Script" and author of many books on film and media, including "Disney TV, ""Voices in the Dark: The Narrative Patterns of Film Noir, " and "The Essential Science Fiction Television Reader." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Amazon.com: 4 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Interesting material, dry presentation 19 Jun. 2008
By Julie Neal - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This academic book explores the technology behind Disney's success -- first in cartoons, then in feature films, later in theme parks. The topic is rich, and I enjoyed the book. I did feel like I was reading a textbook, albeit a textbook on a fascinating subject.

Topics covered include Disney's innovations in sound cartoons, using three-strip Technicolor film, creating depth in an animated image, television, widescreen technology, theme park development, Audio-Animatronics figures, digital animation and effects filmmaking.

Author Telotte goes into surprising depth; a full 13 pages are devoted to the technologically pioneering 1945 film The Three Caballeros, which merged animated sequences with live action. About Donald Duck's wooing of a pretty girl, the book notes "it marks a point, quickly noted by reviewers of the era, at which Disney animation becomes overtly sexualized, by depicting the animated duck as a possible suitor for a real, live woman, demonstrating what a reviewer in Time described as `an alarmingly incongruous case of hot pants' that probably discomfited some viewers expecting the usual Disney family experience."

Unfortunately, this interesting material is presented in an unappealing way. The book's pages look dry as dust, with blocks of text unbroken by subheads or tables or diagrams. Long paragraphs are made of long sentences, which are written in an impersonal style. There are no photos or illustrations of any kind.

But if you can slog through, you find gems. I recommend this book, with a strong cup of coffee.

Here's the chapter list:

Introduction: Main Street, Machines, and the Mouse
1. Sound Fantasy
2. Minor Hazards: Disney and the Color Adventure
3. Three-Dimensional Animation and the Illusion of Life
4. A Monstrous Vision: Disney, Science Fiction and CinemaScope
5. Disney in Television Land
6. The "Inhabitable Text" of the Parks
7. Course Correction: Of Black Holes and Computer Games
8. "Better Than Real": Digital Disney, Pixar, and Beyond
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
More About Animation and Film Than Theme Parks 18 Oct. 2011
By George H. Taylor Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The Mouse Machine was a book that I was very excited to start reading. With a lot of books, you have a certain notion of what to expect between the covers; at first, this book disappointed the theme park fan inside me. When I really got my teeth into it, I realized that this is a work geared towards two types of people: Walt Disney (Company) enthusiasts and animation/film buffs. The theme parks are covered, but in the audio-animatronics area, mainly. Most of the work is dedicated to covering the advances that the House of Mouse created or stumbled upon during its sojourn into popular culture.

Obviously, several high points in the Company's history take precedence: sound, color, multi-plane and special effects are all covered in great detail. The book takes a while to get going and I was tempted to put it away several times. I am glad that I continued. After the first several chapters, you get used to the academic style and start to enjoy and think about the concepts. Telotte's intent was to create a work that showed how the technological leaps were not only to heighten the art form, but also acted as a link to technology and popular culture.

"The aim of this book is to follow the company's lead in this regard, to offer a selective look at some of those, often-unseen--or unconsidered-- technological supports or developments that, in film, television, and the theme parks, have been crucial to the success of the Walt Disney Company and, at times, also a clue to its limitations." --pp. 2-3.

Ub Iwerks and Walt garner special focus, but Telotte also looks at the other pioneers in the various film departments. A lot of time is spent in looking at the development of the animated shorts--how they changed the industry technologically and artistically. Telotte does seem to have a fondness, not only for technology, but for popular culture. The other major section of the book concerns the development of special effects for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He also looks at the development and similarities between 20,000 Leagues and The Black Hole. He offer his thoughts on why the first was a success and the latter, a failure. When Telotte discusses the major technological advances of the company, he does hit all of the milestones of the animation and film development. In the chapter on the theme parks, the focus is on a few of the modern attractions, like: Dinosaur, Alien Encounter and the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. Most of the seminal theme park attractions are mentioned in passing or as antecedents with nothing more notable than as technological steps. Telotte tries to show the reader how society accepts the technology of the theme park attractions as part of the show instead of just as technology.

The chapter titles give a good impression of where the title takes us:

*Sound Fantasy
*Minor Hazards: Disney and the Color Adventure
*Three Dimensional Animation and the Illusion of Life
*A Monstrous Vision: Disney, Science Fiction, and CinemaScope
*Disney in Television Land
*The "Inhabitable Text" of the Parks
*Course Correction: Of Black Holes and Computer Games
*"Better than Real": Digital Disney, Pixar, and Beyond

There is much more to the work than I could cover in a review. Telotte advances many thoughts and concepts that lead to more critical thought about the company. Comparing what Telotte has written to the majority of the Disney literature and you find a competent and exciting work--you just need to get used to the writing style. Most works cover just the people and the art, while we see another side of the company through The Mouse Machine.

Bottom Line: This book is for the animation/film and Disney Company enthusiast. The tone is very heady and academic; most theme park-only fans will not find much of interest. Overall, Telotte adds a very solid work to the body of knowledge on the Walt Disney Company. I am glad I have the book and it adds new perspective to how we think about the monumental progress that the Walt Disney Company is known for.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An interesting and fun read. 14 Aug. 2013
By A. Blewer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Y'know, I'm really bummed to see the sales ranking and the reviews on this book are lower than some of the other Disney books on the market. Yes, this book does spend a significant amount of time on Disney's use of technology as a whole and not specifically on the parks. It covers the entire span of the corporation's history and contextualizes it within the history of technology, how Disney was influenced by and mostly how Disney influenced emerging technologies in animation, television, film, et cetera. I also see criticism that the book feels like an academic text; I didn't get that vibe at all. It may be academic but it was certainly not a difficult read, and sticks to the historical facts rather than meandering off into ambiguous theory. All in all, I'd say this was the best book I've read on the subject of Disney studies, and recommend it highly.
1 of 19 people found the following review helpful
boring,boring,boring 13 Aug. 2008
By Gregg Michael Nestor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A complete waste of time - the inner workings of a lavatory seat would read easier
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