Book Review: Theme Park Design by Steve Alcorn

Theme Park Design: Behind The Scenes With An Engineer by Steve Alcorn. 224 pp. 2010.

This book is a must-have for anyone interested in the engineering side of theme park design.

Steve Alcorn is the co-author of Building a Better Mouse, one of the few books to take an insider look at building a Disney attraction. He formed Alcorn McBride in 1986 and the company has become the leader in show control, lighting, audio and video equipment for the theme park industry. Steve also teaches a class about theme park imagineering. You can find more information at Imagineering Class.

Spread over 50 chapters, Steve takes us through every step of theme park design from an engineer’s perspective, making this book very unique. The Walt Disney Imagineering books favor the artistic side of Imagineering while Steve shows us everything that has to happen once the designs are set. After reading Theme Park Design, you will garner a monumental sense of what it takes to design and construct an attraction.

Steve has a great style and he is careful to steer us away from jargon, overtly-technical terms and engineering play-by-play. Often, Steve will start out with a  description of a specific engineering tract and slide into an anecdote about EPCOT or another theme park attraction. I would say that those were the hidden gems of the book, but Steve is so affable that the entire book has a friendly, charming and excited tone. It is obvious that Steve loves what he does and wants to share it with the world.

Not only do you see the amount of people it takes to imagineer an attraction, but you get a glimpse of all of the different disciplines involved. For example, Steve spends a good amount of time describing and differentiating the various jobs/titles that are used in building an attraction (project engineer vs. system engineer or directors vs. producers). It is surprising how much information Steve is able to relate on such a personable level.

Anyone looking for an insider’s perspective about working in the theme park field must read this book. Especially if you are looking for a career in the industry; Steve offers a chapter about what he typically looks for in a potential candidate. Take his advice seriously–he is someone who hires in the industry and works with the big names in themed design.

Plus, how you you go wrong when you read that Steve’s favorite dark ride is Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride!

I received a copy of this book for review purposes.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Theme Park Design by Steve Alcorn

  1. I agree that it is a nice rad, but I do think that Building a Better Mouse gives you a better understanding of how much people put into these attractions.

    The most interesting item to learn was that his wife is the only person doing her job at all of Walt Disney World.

  2. Drew,

    Building a Better Mouse is a fantastic read. Especially considering the time period. And that no one else has come forward with similar titles or stories.

    I enjoyed Theme Park Design for many reasons, including the fact that it is another niche publication that fills a void.

    Thanks for the comment!

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