Related: Alcorn McBride company profile / Themed Design: When Less is More… / Leadership vs management in theme park operations: Donnie Mills of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay / Theme park design & animal attractions for Busch Entertainment
I actually read “Theme Park Design” for the first time on the way over to the IAAPA show back in mid November . Faced with the constant struggle that was the British Airways’ in-flight entertainment system (the world’s least sensitive touch screen) or a couple of good books it was no contest. A book, I decided, was better for the blood pressure.
Author Steve Alcorn (left) knows his stuff. A theme park veteran of over 25 years, he joined Walt Disney Imagineering in 1982, where he was a consultant on the electronic systems for the Epcot center. In 1986 he formed Alcorn McBride, the show control and AV company which works with major theme parks around the world.
“Theme Park Design” takes the reader on a trip through a notional major theme park, looking at how rides and attractions are designed, developed and operated and at all the potential pitfalls and issues encountered along the way. There is a methodical break down of which disciplines are involved in bringing a ride or attraction to life and how these skill sets work together. It is not – mercifully for this reader -a technical manual but an overview of the often very lengthy process which concludes with a ride being open to the public. Providing a detailed and fascinating glimpse into a world of cables, electronics, baseball caps , late, late nights and bucket loads of acronyms (PLC s, MTBF, MTTR etc) I found the book a neatly formatted, concise guide to what goes on behind the scenes at a theme park.
I learned a great deal too. One superb chapter looks at The Reedy Creek Improvement District (essentially Walt Disney World) and details some mind boggling statistics (dry cleaning of 32, 000 costumes a day , pouring 46 million cokes a year etc ) which serve to highlight the vast operational challenge a big theme park provides. Other chapters identify the different species of engineer and designer; ride control, show control, lighting, special effects systems to name a few and the many different kinds of rides and experiences available in theme parks today.
So, for an entertaining and readily digestible journey through the mechanics of the theme park industry this book is highly recommended. "Steve Alcorn’s Time Portal and Floating Lily Pad World" – a fictional theme park attraction we follow from inspiration through to development – isn’t going to see the light of day but if it did this book would give you a sound idea of the trials and tribulations the concept went through and the huge number of talented people involved in its creation.