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The Mouse Machine: Disney and Technology Paperback – June 9, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press (June 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252075404
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252075407
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #831,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"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

Book Description

Throughout Disney's phenomenally successful run in the entertainment industry, the company has negotiated the use of cutting-edge film and media technologies that, J. P. Telotte argues, have proven fundamental to the company's identity. Disney's technological developments include the use of stereophonic surround sound for Fantasia, experimentation with wide-screen technology, inaugural adoption of three-strip Technicolor film, and early efforts at fostering depth in the animated image.  Telotte also chronicles Disney's partnership with television, development of the theme park, and depiction of technology in science fiction narratives. An in-depth discussion of Disney's shift into digital filmmaking with its Pixar partnership and an emphasis on digital special effects in live-action films, such as the Pirates of the Caribbean series, also highlight the studio's historical investment in technology. By exploring the technological context for Disney creations throughout its history, The Mouse Machine illuminates Disney's extraordinary growth into one of the largest and most influential media and entertainment companies in the world.
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Julie Neal VINE VOICE on June 19, 2008
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
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By George H. Taylor Jr. on October 17, 2011
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Blewer on August 13, 2013
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.
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1 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Gregg Michael Nestor on August 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
A complete waste of time - the inner workings of a lavatory seat would read easier
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