I’ve touched upon this idea in a variety of ways including exploring vintage Walt Disney World books and offering up ideas of young adult books I’d love to see in the parks and resorts. No matter how I present the topic of books for children and young adults at Walt Disney World, there is one inescapable truth I that stares me in the face, there are little to no specialty books for young children inside the Vacation Kingdom.
Once upon a time there were paper doll books for the Country Bears, books about Donald or Mickey visiting Walt Disney World, volumes based upon the industries presented in EPCOT Center, a stellar picture book from Kathy Jakobsen about a family’s trip to the original Florida park, Countdown to Extinction had hologram picture books, and the Haunted Mansion even had a comic book for a short while. There were options for all age groups available that enticed the imagination and challenged children and families to raise the bar of their literacy in a unique and fun way. If we consider that education can be done in an entertaining fashion as one of founding principles of how Walt Disney presented all of his enterprises to the public, then finding fascinating books that can carry new information to kids in a fun way and inspire them to dream about Walt Disney World should be a foregone conclusion.
When you are able to find a selection of books in the parks these days, often times in the Art of Disney outposts, they are filled with Imagineering texts, Hidden Mickey Guides, and art books. Now, as a book gluttonous adult, I’m not complaining at all. These glimpses into the through process of attractions and art and the histories and stories of the parks are always welcomed, but there should also be a balancing point for younger readers.
Currently, if you are looking for a book that has a focus in or around Walt Disney World and is not simply a variation on a book of fairy tales, about the only book you are going to find is the one that tells the story of Duffy, the Disney Bear. Say what you will about Duffy, I know some love and some have a strong distaste for him, but his story provides a narrative that enhances the activities that are unfolding in the parks. Now, whether you are fond of Duffy or not, it doesn’t seem reasonable that only one character or experience in Walt Disney World is highlighted in their own children’s book.
Just think about the possibilities! We discussed the idea of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style series before, but what else? Couldn’t Figment let his imagination run away with him, literally? With 999 happy haunts, how many tales have we not yet explored? Why are the trains of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad runaways? The future of agriculture, transportation, space exploration, and energy have changed in the past 30 years, couldn’t we do with an update to the educational volumes produced for Epcot? Baby animals seem to attract a ton of interest in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I think baby animals exploring the trails, savannas, or ruins would be a great series for children, don’t you? Ghosts stories from the Hollywood Tower Hotel. Movie-making texts. The stories of the streetmosphere characters of the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The Jungle Cruise, Space Mountain, Norway’s trolls, Chester and Hester, the Muppets, there is no end to what could craft an incredible Walt Disney World picture book or young adult reader.
In my mind, it’s time to stop dreaming about the potential for books geared towards children and slightly bigger children, and those of us who like to pretend we’re still there, and start doing. Literacy, more than ever, needs every helpful nudge it can get. The stories don’t have to just be in paper print, bring them into the 21st Century and have copies that could also be available on the Nook or Kindle or produce Read-A-Long stories that have mp3 files. No matter what the topic or subject matter, no matter how it is presented, the truth of the matter is this is an area that Walt Disney World needs to embrace and create, and I hope children of tomorrow have as many Walt Disney World books to fawn over as I did when I was a child of the Vacation Kingdom.