This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Disney Parks related Little Golden Books! The iconic Little Golden Book series started all the way back in 1942, and believe it or not the first book published in association with Walt Disney was not long after, in 1944. Nearly 80 years later, the Disney brand has become synonymous with Little Golden Books with hundreds of titles released, including ones based on the animated movie library (Pinocchio, Little Mermaid, Encanto) along with everything else under the Disney brand umbrella (Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar). Our favorite Disney Little Golden Books are those based around our beloved theme parks. The first Little Golden Books featuring Disney theme park related content debuted with the opening of Disneyland in 1955 and have continued to be released – albeit somewhat sporadically – ever since. For whatever reason, we are currently in a Disney Parks Little Golden Book renaissance, with several park specific books being released over the last several years and today we’re going to look at all of them, starting with…
# 6 – The Orange Bird
While most of our list today features Little Golden Books based on Disney park attractions, we are going to start off with a book featuring The Orange Bird. For those who don’t know, The Orange Bird’s origin story dates back to the early days of Walt Disney World when the Florida Citrus Commission agreed to sponsor the Magic Kingdom’s Sunshine Pavilion. This corner of Adventureland was home to the Sunshine Tree Terrace treat stand and the Tropical Serenade Show, now known as the Enchanted Tiki Room. In return for the Florida Citrus Commission’s sponsorship of the pavilion, Disney created Orange Bird as their mascot. During those early years, The Orange Bird was even a walkaround character in the park!
The Orange Bird book has a strong pedigree, as one of the people involved with the book is Disney Imagineer Jason Grandt.
One of my favorite parts of the entire book is a wonderful little map of Florida with various points of interest throughout the state.
In a great touch, for the picture of Disney almost dead center in the state, you have Cinderella Castle and one of the old timey Bob-A-Round boats.
Some other fine feathered friends are included in the story, including young versions of the Aracuan Bird and Professor Owl. You’ll notice in the pages below that it reveals The Orange Bird has special powers and can make pictures above his head and basically will them into reality. This was a next level bonkers revelation for me. Later in the book the Little Orange Bird tries to stop a cat from attacking his fellow bird friends and creates a stop sign, a large dog, and even a human being. The Orange Bird may be low key the most powerful character in Disney history, stronger than Thanos, Dr. Strange, and that sorcerer guy Mickey was an apprentice for, combined.
SATURDAY SIX readers will remember Professor Owl from the Disneyland Sing Along Song series, including one of the greatest pieces of media the company has ever made: Disneyland Fun.
Seeing a Citrus Swirl in the book made my day. It’s one of my all time favorite Disney treats. For me – because I’m not a huge fan of pineapple – it blows away a Dole Whip.
While The Orange Bird’s presence in the park today is relegated to mostly merchandise, there are references to him on property. One of our favorite Easter Eggs at Skipper Canteen is a book titled “Native Orange Birds of the Southeastern United States.”
# 5 – The Jungle Cruise
The opening page of the Jungle Cruise has a wonderful tribute to the Jungle Cruise park signage.
It is pretty clear right away that the Jungle Cruise book was created in support of the Jungle Cruise live action movie, as the main characters of the book have more than a passing resemblance to the onscreen personas of Emily Blunt and The Rock in the film.
The Jungle Cruise Little Golden Book hits all the high points of the attraction and uses the same gags we hear from the skippers. So basically, it’s awesome. Everything you want to see is here; giant African rock python, gorillas raiding a camp, dangerous hippos, an ancient temple and more.
# 4 – Space Mountain
The dad of the story represents a good amount of theme park guests who have no problem waiting for their loved ones to ride Space Mountain, but have no interest in riding it themselves. Roller coasters are a different breed of theme park attraction, and one where you are completely in the dark? A total non-starter for many, and I get it.
However, for those of us who love coasters, Space Mountain has passed the test of time and then some.
One of the many Urban Legends of the Disney parks (which include the ability to disassemble Cinderella Castle for hurricanes and the brown path in Liberty Square representing sewage/poop) is that some of the asteroids in Space Mountain are actually chocolate chip cookies. While the Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom debunks this “fact,” our Space Mountain book does have fun with the idea.
While attractions like Jungle Cruise, it’s a small world, and the Haunted Mansion have lengthy storylines that easily translate to books, the introduction of a Space Mountain Little Golden Book is a game changer. If you can do a book on Space Mountain, you can do one on any attraction. Test Track… Kilimanjaro Safaris…Tower of Terror… let’s go Disney!
# 3 – it’s a small world
Visually speaking, it’s a small world Little Golden Book is the most stunning of any in this list. Each page takes you to a different country in the world and they are filled with landmarks and Disney characters (which were added to the Disneyland version of the attraction back in 2008).
# 2 – The Haunted Mansion
Like it’s a small world, The Haunted Mansion Little Golden Book is based on the Disneyland version of the attraction rather than Walt Disney World’s. You can tell this right from the jump by the attraction façade used.
For Haunted Mansion fans this book is a Must Get, it pays tribute to everything we all love about the ride, including the Stretching Room.
Once boarded onto a Doom Buggy, the book takes us through all the classic moments from the ride.
Every major spirit is represented, including the Hatbox Ghost (who is only at the Disneyland version of the attraction), Madame Leota, and the Hitchhiking Ghosts.
I have a soft spot for the singing busts. Have always loved that gimmick.
For me personally, the creepiest part of the entire ride is that small ghost at the end saying “Hurry Back!” Was very glad the book included her.
# 1 – Mickey’s Walt Disney World Adventure
This one was interesting. Back in 1997, as part of the 25th anniversary of Walt Disney World, there was a Little Golden Book titled Mickey’s Walt Disney World Adventure. The book was rereleased this year, with a 50th anniversary logo. The original book has Mickey Mouse making his way through the various lands of Disney’s Magic Kingdom. If you were expecting a major enhancement showing many of the changes over the last 25 years, well, you’re out of luck. Basically we get a couple new pages, that 50th anniversary logo on the cover, and that’s it.
There is a lot to love about this book, but first we’ll look at one of the only changes made for the update. In the original version, Mickey and Minnie enter Tomorrowland via the old entrance archway and we see some aliens in the background. This page has been removed from the new edition.
It has been replaced by this page. Not only do we get Mickey and Minnie on the Peoplemover, but the Carousel of Progress show building is in the background and characters from CoP are on the Peoplemover too! What an improvement!
To give an example of how little effort was put into this “50th anniversary edition,” they have Mickey and Minnie taking a ride on the Grand Prix Raceway. This attraction was renamed the Tomorrowland Speedway in 2008.
Later in the book we get Mickey and Minnie heading towards Frontierland, but we see the riverboat behind them. Among the characters on the riverboat is Buzzy, from Cranium Command. This EPCOT attraction closed in 2007.
While on Pirates of the Caribbean, one of Donald’s nephews (Huey) is wearing a Figment hat. These hats were ubiquitous in the parks for a long time, but not anymore (as anyone who has gone in the last decade plus could tell you).
Okay, time to check out the most significant change in the book. In the original version, Mickey and Minnie were onboard the Skyway looking down at the original version of Fantasyland. In the 50th anniversary edition of the book, this two page spread does not exist.
It has been replaced by this two page artwork featuring New Fantasyland. It’s absolutely wonderful and features Mickey and Minnie riding Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (with Prince Eric and Beast’s castles in the background). It would have been really neat to have a couple more references to things that have been added to the parks since 1997. Mickey and Minnie having fun with Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, sitting in the audience at the Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor, or standing in front of the Tangled restrooms (well, maybe not that last one).
All in all, even with just the few additions to the 50th anniversary edition, this book is AMAZING. Mickey and Minnie go through every land in the park and it is adorable. I absolutely love it. Order it IMMEDIATELY and you’ll be glad you did.
So there you have it: SATURDAY SIX Book Club: Disney Parks Little Golden Books! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out the THEME PARK ENJOYMENT INDEX, giving a monthly recap of all the theme park news you need to know (and a lot more you don’t need to know, but we’re gonna tell you anyway). You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
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Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, Digital Maestro Scott Walker, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, artist @SonderQuest, the mighty maven of merchandise Hedgehog’s Corner, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, the permit princess Alicia Stella, master cartographer Tommy Hawkins, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Absolutely no help was added by SeaWorld Influencer @SuperWeenieHtJr. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.