The New Renaissance of Disney Parks Little Golden Books

If you have a young child – or you’re just young at heart! – and a fan of the Walt Disney Parks, then you’re probably already aware that we’ve entered a new golden age when it comes to Disney Parks Little Golden Books!

The past several years have seen a plethora of new Little Golden Books (plus one re-release) that are either set at the Disney Parks or based on attractions from the Parks. These delightful little tomes provide just the right amount of Disney Parks magic before a little one’s bedtime, but they’re also enjoyable to any adult who wants to bring the stories of the Parks home with them!

Enjoy this brief overview of each of the recent Disney Parks Little Golden Books and discover, once again, the Disney secret that a “little” bit of story can go a long, long way!

Little Man of Disneyland

This book was originally released in 1955 (though a new edition came out in 2015 labeled as a Disney classic), and the first of the Disney Parks Little Golden Books proves to be the most charming. Written by Annie North Bedford and illustrated by Dick Kelsey, Little Man of Disneyland tells the story of Patrick Begorra, a pint-sized leprechaun living in a Southern California orange grove.

Credit: D23

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One day, a group of strangers appear at Patrick’s grove with shovels in hand. When Patrick confronts them, they turn out to be none other than Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto, digging up trees to clear the grove for Disneyland (keep in mind that this book came out the same year Disneyland opened, thus serving as an advertisement).

To assuage Patrick’s anger at their destruction of his home, the Disney gang takes him to the studio where the plans for Disneyland are kept, where “soon Patrick found himself deep in Disneyland plans – the likes of which he had never seen. There were rows of pretty little shops, winding rivers, and overhead railroad train—so many wonderful things to see that Patrick’s head was spinning.”

Overwhelmed with the delights laid out before him, Patrick tells Mickey and friends to, “go, ahead, lads, if you can,” noting that, “The place is yours. There’s just one little thing I ask. May I build a wee snug little house and live there quietly after you have finished this Disneyland?” The Disney gang do just that, providing a secret house for Patrick within one of the Park’s many trees.

The book ends with this hint to readers:

So when you visit Disneyland, keep your eyes open wide. Maybe you’ll see a wee man in green, smoking a small clay pipe. Maybe you’ll follow him when he goes home, and find out where he lives.

Many things have changed at Disneyland over the years, but Patrick’s house, believe it or not, is still there! The next time you’re in Disneyland’s Adventureland, peek in the planters near the entry to the Indiana Jones ride and see if you can spot Patrick’s house!

Credit: Disney Parks Blog

Orange Bird

Perhaps the least explicitly advertising-centered Disney Parks Little Golden Book also follows a tiny character . . . in this case the famous Orange Bird, the Florida Citrus Commission mascot found at the Sunshine Tree Terrace in the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland at Walt Disney World.

Credit: Paula K

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In the Orange Bird Little Golden Book – written and illustrated by Jason Grandt and Scott Tilley, and designed by Winnie Ho – there’s no actual mention of the Citrus Commission, Adventureland, or even Disney World itself (save for a brief graphic cameo of Cinderella’s Castle seen in a map of Florida)! Instead, the book focuses on the tiny orange mascot’s origin story.

In the story, the character is a little orange bird (naturally!) born with an orange for a head and the ability to communicate by making magical pictures appear in an orange cloud above his head. He uses this ability to save his fellow birds from the farm cat that lives near their home – the sunshine tree!

This a sweet story that focuses on plot above advertising a particular attraction, and it probably has the cutest artwork of the recent crop of Disney Parks Little Golden Books.

The Attractions Tetralogy

Advertising for Parks attractions/rides may not be central to The Orange Bird, but it is the main impetus behind the four Little Golden Books based explicitly on rides, each of which (like The Orange Bird) is designed by Winnie Ho:

  • “it’s a small world” – Adapted by Lauren Class, with illustrations by Steph Lew, this one isn’t so much a story as a tour through various countries represented in the beloved water ride. Each country has cameos of Disney characters whose stories originate from (or are set in) that locale, plus a pronunciation guide on how to say hello in the local language!
  • Jungle Cruise – Written by Brooke Vitale, with illustrations by Paul Conrad and the Disney Storybook Art Team, this book, like it’s a small world, doesn’t so much form a story as much as serve as a series of moments from the ride. In this case, it showcases the groan-worthy puns for which the attraction is famous, including that beloved eighth wonder of the world, the back side of water!

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  • The Haunted Mansion – Another adaptation by Lauren Clauss, featuring illustrations from Glen Brogan, The Haunted Mansion turns the attraction’s silly spooks into a directly adapted storyline featuring a child sneaking into the mansion and encountering its 999 happy haunts!
  • Space Mountain – Written by Nicole Johnson and illustrated by Mike Wall, Space Mountain is the most original of the attractions-based Disney Parks Little Golden Books, in part because the ride itself doesn’t have much of a storyline to follow. An excited family takes a journey to Starport Seven-Five where they embark on an epic adventure through space and safely back home!

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Mickey’s Walt Disney World Adventure

In the tradition of Little Man of Disneyland, this Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary “Special Collectible Edition” advertises the Disney Parks (particularly Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom) using Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and their many friends.

In this case, Mickey is leading a marching band in the nighttime parade, but early in the day he loses his special drum major’s hat. A mad scramble ensues to find the unique chapeau, with Mickey and Minnie retracing their steps across the Magic Kingdom’s many lands and attractions.

Stuffed with appearances by Mickey’s Disney pals – and background cameo appearances from Parks characters like the Carousel of Progress family and Buzzy of Cranium Command! – this is a charming little story written by Cathy Hapka (with illustrations by the Disney Storybook Art Team) that brings a bit of the magic of a day at Disney World straight to your favorite cozy reading spot!

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Santa Stops at Disneyland

The most recent Disney Parks Little Golden book is the Christmas-themed Santa Stops at Disneyland. Written and illustrated by Ethan Reed – inspired by Santa’s Toy Shop, a 1950 Disney Little Golden Book by Al Dempster (which was itself inspired by a 1932 Silly Symphony short!) – this book tells the story of Santa’s annual visit to Disneyland, where he spread Christmas cheer to every land.

Whether it’s the abominable snowman, pirates, or ghosts, nobody at Disneyland misses out on a present from Santa, including the big cheese himself, Mickey Mouse!

And if you’re looking to spread a little holiday cheer – any holiday – to the young (or old!) Disney fan in your life, especially if that fan is yourself, you can’t go wrong checking out one of these cute and quirky Disney Parks Little Golden Books!

About Andrew Friedenthal