6 Things to Do in Walt Disney World If You Love Reading

When you think of Walt Disney World attractions, you probably think of attractions that are based on movies, such as Dumbo The Flying Elephant or Toy Story Mania!, or attractions that inspired movies, some popular (e.g. Pirates of the Caribbean) and some less so (e.g. The Country Bears). There are also attractions inspired by books, although many of them went first from book to movie before becoming an attraction. In recent years, due primarily to author Ridley Pearson, yet another category has been added: attractions that inspired books. What this talk of inspiration means is that if you love reading, you can connect that love to your Disney experience. Here’s how…

1. Tom Sawyer Island

As I mentioned in my post on Mark Twain, this island in Magic Kingdom was inspired by two novels: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. While there is a Disney movie based on these novels (1995’s Tom and Huck), the attraction predated the movie by twenty-two years, and, to my knowledge, the only change that was made to the island as a result of the movie was the renaming of Fort Sam Clemens to Fort Langhorn. Therefore, it’s the most “literary” attraction on this list, and the one you’ll appreciate most by reading the books first. All names on the island are mentioned in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; see if you can figure out all the references! (I’ll admit I still need to do this.)

2. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

While it’s true that this attraction was inspired by Disney’s animated shorts about Winnie the Pooh, it’s also undeniable that A.A. Milne’s books play a key role. After all, at the start of the ride, you enter through Chapter 2:

The beginning of The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction in Magic Kingdom Park in Walt Disney World

I love the incorporation of the book pages throughout the queue and attraction (as well as in the 1970s shorts and the recent film Winnie the Pooh). If you’ve never read the original stories, you simply must. They’re full of awesome quotes, such as:

“What?” said Piglet, with a jump. And then, to show that he hadn’t been frightened, he jumped up and down once or twice in an exercising sort of way.

“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.
“So it is.”
“And freezing.”
“Is it?”
“Yes,” said Eeyore, “However, ” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”
(The House at Pooh Corner)

3. Swiss Family Treehouse

This attraction exists because of the 1960 Disney live-action film, Swiss Family Robinson, but that film was based on the 1812 novel by Johann David Wyss. To be honest, I’ve never read the novel, but the attraction is so rich in detail that it would be interesting to see how much was accurately translated from book to film to attraction.

4. Mad Tea Party

This is admittedly a simple attraction—spinning around in a tea cup—so you can’t expect much for literary references. Still, it’s another attraction based on a movie based on a book, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Perhaps, to make the attraction more educational, you can think about the answer to the riddle “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” as you spin.

Bonus: if you’re a fan of the book The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, look for a plaque near Mad Tea Party with a quote from Pausch.

5. Kingdom Keepers

Now we’re transitioning from attractions based on books to books based on attractions. The Kingdom Keepers series by Ridley Pearson is about a group of teenagers who get mixed up in magical plot by the Disney villains to take over the Disney Parks (and then the world!). The first book, Disney After Dark, is set primarily in Magic Kingdom. The second, Disney at Dawn, focuses on Animal Kingdom. The third, Disney in Shadow, takes place in Epcot and Hollywood Studios. The fourth, Power Play, starts in Downtown Disney and then jumps between the Parks. Future books will involve the Disney Cruise Line and Disneyland. The books are aimed at young adults, but they’re fun reads for grown-up Disney fans too.

I actually got to meet Ridley Pearson a couple years ago when he did a talk at my teacher friend’s school. He was a great speaker, and he mentioned how the character Wayne from the books is based on a real cast member who is a ride operator at Splash Mountain. I went to WDW a couple months after that, and I saw Wayne! I didn’t get a picture, but it was an exciting moment.

6. Bridge to Neverland

This book, by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry, is currently a standalone, but it’s related to the Peter and the Starcatchers series. That series tells the story of how Peter Pan became Peter Pan and ended up in Neverland. Bridge to Neverland is set in modern day and tells the story of two teenagers who have read Peter and the Starcatchers and discover evidence that the events in that series really happened. The attraction Peter Pan’s Flight ends up playing a role in the plot. Again, this book is written for YA readers, but adults will enjoy it too. I do recommend reading the four Peter and the Starcatchers books first to get the most out of the story.

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A reading-themed day in Walt Disney World will long begin before your trip—first, you have to read all the books! Here’s your official reading list:

  1. Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  2. Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  3. A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
  4. A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
  5. A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young
  6. A.A. Milne, Now We Are Six
  7. Johann David Wyss, The Swiss Family Robinson
  8. Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  9. Ridley Pearson, Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark
  10. Ridley Pearson, Kingdom Keepers II: Disney at Dawn
  11. Ridley Pearson, Kingdom Keepers III: Disney in Shadow
  12. Ridley Pearson, Kingdom Keepers IV: Power Play
  13. Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry, Peter and the Starcatchers
  14. Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry, Peter and the Shadow Thieves
  15. Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon
  16. Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry, Peter and the Sword of Mercy
  17. Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry, The Bridge to Neverland

Once you’re in the World, you’ll find most of the book-related attractions in Magic Kingdom. Experience Tom Sawyer Island, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Swiss Family Treehouse, Mad Tea Party, and Peter Pan’s Flight. Then you can seek out the locations of your favorite scenes from the Kingdom Keepers books (maybe stop by Splash Mountain to see if Wayne’s there!). Bonus points if you take your books with you and read them in the Parks!

Well, I have some reading to do. How about you? Have you read any of these Disney-related books?

One thought on “6 Things to Do in Walt Disney World If You Love Reading

  1. It was so exciting to meet Ridley Pearson and be able to share my interests with my students. During his presentation he mentioned that he was working with Disney to create an educational tour based on the Keepers’ series. All 120 students looked at me with pleading eyes. Unfortunately, we are a little too far for that to be reasonable. I do hope someday I can experience the Kingdom Keepers’ Quest. Check it out…

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