Cartoon Mouse

Build A Better Mousetrap 

Introduction to Theatre Technology
Project #1

In this age of new-fangled devices, items that were once perfectly acceptable are now out of date.  Old Style Mousetrap

Look at the simple kitchen knife.  This mighty weapon was once the only tool a person needed to whip up the evening meal.  Now, in the age of the “newer is better - or at least more interesting,” we have at our disposal - the Ginsu!  A knife that cannot only slice a pot roast like melted butter, but it can fell trees with a speed that would make a lumberjack proud!  We (being the trendy people we are) cannot let ourselves be left behind.  Like so many products on the market today, if it seems clever or looks impressive people will buy it.  Improvement or ease of function is not necessarily the key to a good product. 

You have been hired by the firm that markets such wondrous things as the Food Dehydromatic 2000, the Juicemaster 2000, and most of the other items generally seen on those late night infomercials, to develop a new and improved mousetrap.  In order to become the successful business executive that you so deeply desire to be, you must think this idea through clearly and decide on a clever or catchy way to present it both in physical and verbal forms. 

Your mousetrap is to be three dimensional in form.  You will need to use your mousetrap in order to demonstrate to us (the people watching television at 3 in the morning) how and why your mousetrap is the best one in the world.  The physical mousetrap need not actually function, but should have moving parts if possible.

The physical form of your presentation is extremely important!  No one will buy something that appears to be thrown together the night before (especially the person who is grading your projects!) Your project is expected to be fully complete for the presentation.  This means that it should be painted if it is composed of a variety of different building materials that have no particular importance to the actual final product.  Any labels with writing should be in clearly printed type.  A logo of some kind should be present on the project giving its title.  If pictures are included on light weight paper, they should be mounted on matte board or foamboard so as to make for a better presentation and ease of handling.  Graphs, charts, etc., may be used, to enhance the sale.  There are no limits as to what form your mousetrap may take, as well as the selling thereof.  Be creative!!!

The verbal selling of this product is just as important as the physical presentation.  If you’re not sure how to sell someone something that they probably don’t want or need, watch TV!  Shows like the home shopping network specialize in this type of selling.  You must be confident in your presentation and really make us want your product.  If this means rehearsing your presentation on some friends, then do it.  Your presentation should be as polished as possible.  Remember, if you are unsure of yourself or what you are trying to sell us, we will not want to buy it!

If you are still confused as to what this product should resemble, just think about the children’s game mousetrap.  That’s the one that has the little steel ball that rolls through the drain of a little plastic bathtub, down a series of ramps, hits a couple of paddle wheels, flips a switch and throws a cage over the little mouse and catches it. 

Mousetrap Game      Mousetrap Game 2

Mousetrap Workings

Also think about the various crazy schemes that Wile E. Coyote concocted to try and catch the Road Runner (your mousetrap should be successful, however.) 

Wile E Coyote

There was also a cartoonist, by the name of Rube Goldberg, who used to draw cartoons of crazy contraptions that would supposedly make all sorts of daily events easier.

Crazy Contraption

There are some of these types of contraptions in the Wallace & Grommit videos as well.  If This still isn't enough to get you thinking along the right track, check out this commercial, made by Honda, called The Cog.

The key is to come up with a gimmick.  To make it complex isn’t necessarily interesting enough.  For this project you have the option of killing the mouse or merely capturing it.  Catching or makes no difference, but how you choose to do it does!  Be outrageous.  Be ridiculous.  That is what makes this project not only fun to create, but also fun for everyone to watch.  Try for the truly unusual.

I will be available to help you solve problems but the design and execution (pun intended) are up to you.  Think ahead and start early!  This is not a quickie project. 

At the time of the assignment this project will be discussed further and any questions still remaining will be answered.  You may ask what this has to do with theatre.  This process is exactly what any of the key creative personnel in a theatre company must do to sell their ideas for the production, not to mention beginning to dabble in the realm of design.

Grading:  Total value = 10% of course grade
        Project grade divided:
                20%    for idea
                50%    for physical presentation
                30%    for oral presentation

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