Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Book Review: In Service to the Mouse by Jack Lindquist with Melinda J. Combs

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Lots of fascinating stories of behind the scenes at Disneyland
Cons: Just that the writing style is very simple
The Bottom Line:
Behind the magic
At a world famous park
For those who love it

Insider's Look at Disneyland's History from Opening to the 90's 

Sometimes, as soon as I hear about a book, I know I will enjoy it.  That was definitely the case for In Service to the Mouse, a memoir from Jack Lindquist.  How could I not enjoy a book written by someone who spent roughly 40 years working at Disneyland?

Technically, Jack wasn't hired until the fall of 1955, but he tried to get a promotion with Disneyland and a client with his advertising agency going to coincide with the park's opening, so he was there while the park was still being built.  He even was able to attend opening day, and his reaction pretty much fits the stories you've heard about it.

When they were getting ready to start some publicity for the park, Jack was hired, and he slowly climbed the ranks until, in the late 80's, he was named the first official president of Disneyland.  Along the way he got involved in creating the Magic Kingdom Club and was highly involved in Walt Disney World, including multiple trips abroad to attempt to get countries on board for the pavilions in EPCOT.  He also championed a second theme park in California, although he isn't happen with the result that is California Adventure.  (Frankly, I think his idea sounds even worse although not that far from what we wound up with.)  Along the way, we also get tributes to Walt Disney, Frank Wells, and a pleasant portrait of Michael Eisner.

Each chapter is a self-contained story that is roughly in chronological order, although sometimes several chapters fit a theme and cover quite a wide time span.  Frankly, the time line was hard to follow between chapters.  To me, this fits the idea of a memoir and not a strict autobiography, so I was perfectly fine sitting back and enjoying the ride.

My only real complaint was the writing style.  It was aiming for conversational, but it missed that and hit basic instead.  It was certainly readable, but it was a little flat most of the time.

However, I was still able to get into the stories being told and really enjoyed them.  I'm not sure how much a non-Disnerd would enjoy the book, but for anyone who loves Disney, especially Disneyland, they will find the stories here fascinating.  Jack even gives us some of his thoughts on ways to keep updating Main Street which I'm not sure I completely like but I find intriguing.  He was involved in much more than the parks; for example, he takes responsibility for Disney buying the Anaheim Angels.  There are also stories about dignitaries who came or almost came to the park, the famous attractions from the 1964 World's Fair, and the day the park was forced to close early due to political protests.  (And it shows just how the media has changed in the last 40 years.)

Many of the chapters are short; I'd guess the average length is 3 or 4 pages.  That helps make the pages fly by, although at 240 pages, this isn't a long read.

In Service to the Mouse certainly has a limited target audience.  Those outside that audience probably won't enjoy it.  But if the subject matter appeals to you, you'll love it.

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