Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Nice Effort, But It Doesn't Deliver

Secrets of the Mouse: An Unofficial Behind-The-Scenes Guide to Disneyland Park, By Alan Joyce., 2008; 192 pp.

Going into a bookstore and saying you'd like a guidebook to a Disney theme park is kinda like walking into a Starbucks and saying that you'd like some coffee. No matter what bookshop you visit, you're going to be confronted with a lot of choices - there are are a lot of books to choose from, each with their own take on the parks, and every day new titles appear hoping to provide readers with a new and fresh perspective on the Disney park experience. And it's not just the big publishing houses vying for the Disney fan's or the park visitor's attention - thanks to the emergence of several self-publishing websites, a lot of first-time authors are bringing out out books on the parks in the hope of becoming the next Arthur Frommer or Steve Birnbaum. In today's post, I'm going to review a recently released self-published work on that promises to give readers a glimpse behind the curtain at many of Disneyland's most popular attractions.

Secrets of the Mouse provides concise information on the lands and attractions of the Happiest Place on Earth, including attraction history, information on attraction elements such as ride vehicles and theming, and details often overlooked by infrequent or casual guests. Besides information on attractions, the book also gives readers hints on where to find some hidden Mickeys in the attractions and attraction queues, and it provides some games to pass some time while waiting to board an attraction. The book is intended to be a guide for enhancing a guest's Disneyland experience; it's not so much intended to provide readers with information on what to visit and when as much as it's supposed to provide a ready reference to help a visitor get more out of their visit. For a self-published unofficial guide to the Park, Secrets of the Mouse is pretty well illustrated (although more than a few photos are on the fuzzy side), and it's a quick read; each entry on a particular attraction is about one to two pages long, so a reader can quickly go to the entry for an attraction and read up on it a quickly as he or she queues up to ride.

If you're an author and you're going to name your book Secrets of the Mouse, you'd better be ready to deliver some fascinating and surprising information, and... well, for the most part, this book doesn't. Don't get me wrong - it's not a bad book, and I did learn a couple of things I didn't know about Disneyland by reading it, but the book really doesn't deliver on the promise of its title if you're a die-hard Disneyland fan. You're getting some of the Mouse's secrets, all right, but they're probably ones you're already familiar with if you've done some reading about Disneyland or if you've been on one of Disney's official tours. The book also suffers from being a jack of all trades but a master of none; it's got some good information on attractions, some fun hidden Mickey hunts, and some fun games to play, but not enough of any of them to make this book really stand out form amongst the books available. Secrets of the Mouse would make a good gift for someone who's just starting to discover the little things that make a Disney theme park so special, but if you're past that initial stage of discovery, there are better choices out there.

Secrets of the Mouse provides a nice introduction to some of the history and hidden details found in Disneyland's attractions and to hidden Mickey spotting, as well as providing some fun games to pass the time while waiting in an attraction queue, and would make a nice supplement to a guidebook for someone unfamiliar with the California theme park. However, the book covers topics that have been covered before and covered in better detail in books that have been previously published, and someone who's already at least somewhat familiar with the little touches that make Disneyland a special place would be better served looking elsewhere (I'd suggest The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland and Disneyland Detective if you're looking for information on attraction details, and Disneyland's Hidden Mickeys if you're interested in hidden Mickey hunting). The book tries to be many things for many people, but in the end is only moderately successful at covering any of the topics included.

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