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Keeping up with Disney's "Kingdom Keepers" : Ridley Pearson talks about all the research that goes into this popular book series

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Keeping up with Disney's "Kingdom Keepers" : Ridley Pearson talks about all the research that goes into this popular book series

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When Ridley Pearson first wrote that scene for "Disney After Dark" where the Kingdom Keepers kids are looking for clues inside of WDW's version of "it's a small world" and then get attacked by the dolls, he thought that there was just no way that Mouse House managers would ever allow something like that to appear in a Disney Hyperion book.

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"I mean, I had the dolls biting the kids and actually drawing blood," Ridley recalled. "I thought for sure that that scene would be censored as my manuscript moved through the approval process."

To Disney's credit, that frightening scene was not only left intact in the first "Kingdom Keepers" book, but Mickey has rarely - if ever - asked Pearson to rewrite or remove anything from this ongoing series.

"Obviously, for safety and security reasons, there are certain behind-the-scenes aspects of the Parks that the people who actually run these places would prefer that I not talk about," Ridley explained. "But beyond that, I've been given cart blanche to make the 'Kingdom Keepers' books just as scary and exciting as I can."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Pearson and I spoke on the phone late last week as this author was getting ready to make yet another trip to Walt Disney World. Not to do research for his next "Kingdom Keepers" book, mind you. But - rather - to meet with his fans and do some PR for "Power Play," the fourth installment in this super-popular series. Which will officially hit store shelves on Tuesday.

And given that "Power Play" actually starts out with a scene set at DisneyQuest, where Finn and Amanda are almost killed while riding CyberSpace Mountain ... Well, it only makes sense that the first stop of Ridley's WDW book-signing tour this time around should be Once Upon a Toy in the Downtown Disney Marketplace. Where Pearson will be meeting with fans and autographing copies of "Kingdom Keepers IV" from 4 to 7 p.m. today.

Then - given that  "Power Play" features an extended sequence at Disney's Hollywood Studios where (SPOILER ALERT) Willa is rescued by a certain mermaid  ...  It's only appropriate that Pearson make an appearance at that theme park's book store, The Writer's Stop. Where Ridley will be greeting Guests as well as signing copies of his latest "Kingdom Keepers" book from 2 - 5 p.m. tomorrow.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Speaking of the Little Mermaid ... Given that the "Kingdom Keepers" series has - up until now - used the Disney Villains as its chief baddies (i.e. the Overtakers), what makes "Power Play" particularly interesting is that Pearson is bringing some other players on the field. To be specific (AGAIN, SPOILER ALERT), Ariel, Mulan, Pluto and Minnie Mouse. Not to mention some Disney Villains (i.e. Jafar from "Aladdin" and Shan-Yu  from "Mulan") who appear to operating independently from the Overtakers.

So what's the deal with bringing good Disney characters into the "Kingdom Keeper" storyline? Not to mention independent Disney Villains. It's all part of Ridley likes to call (especially when he's interacting with this series' fans online) the "Big Plan."

"My long range goal has always been to get the Kingdom Keepers out to Disneyland, and then to the Disney Archives," Pearson said. "There's a certain Disney character that we haven't seen for a while that hold the key to this whole story."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Speaking of which ... While Ridley originally outlined "Kingdom Keepers" as a five part book series, given how well "Disney After Dark" sold, Hyperion immediately pushed Pearson to expand the number of books to 10.

"That seemed like way too much to me. I was worried that - if we went from 5 books to 10 - I'd spreading this story too thin," Ridley stated. "But then I went back over my outline and saw that there were in fact places that I could expand and extend the 'Kingdom Keepers' storyline. Which is why there's now going to be seven books in the series."

"And what will Book 5 in the "Kingdom Keepers" series cover?," you ask. Well, given that Pearson needs to move his characters out to California for the Disneyland and Walt Disney Archives portions of his tale ... Well, what better way is there to do that then sending the Kingdom Keepers off for a voyage on the Disney Magic?

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"I was actually complaining to someone from the Disney Cruise Line that I needed to get the Kingdom Keepers from California from Florida. And he then mentioned that they were about to reposition one of the boats in the fleet. Taking the Magic through the Panama Canal so that Disney Cruise Line could then begin offering West Coast cruises," Ridley reported. "And I went along on that repositioning cruise so that I could then have my characters see everything that I saw and experienced while they're traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast."

That - to Pearson tell the tale - is the very best part of working on the "Kingdom Keepers" books. The chances that it gives him to experience all sorts of Disney magic. Be it exploring every nook & cranny of the Disney Magic with the help of that ship's crew and/or getting to go behind-the-scenes at one of the Company's theme parks in the wee small hours of the morning.

"Very early on in the research process for these books, I got to do a walk-thru of Disney World's Splash Mountain. This cast member - who'd worked for the Company for nearly 20 years - met me at 5 a.m. and then took me through the entire attraction," Ridley recalled. "We visited every setting in this ride, where this Cast Member then told me how everything worked, pointing out of all of the hidden details. He even took me out back and showed me how they pump the water through the flume."

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And Ridley was so taken by how generous and open this Cast Member was with his time & his knowledge ... Well, I'll let Pearson tell this part of the story:

"I told him 'I've got this character - Fred - who's an older Imagineer who helps guide the Kingdom Keepers. But you're kind of the spitting image of how I pictured this character. So would you mind if I named him Wayne instead?' And Wayne said 'I'd be honored.' "

Now where this story gets fun is that Wayne continues to work at WDW's Splash Mountain. And every so often, he'll load a Kingdom Keeper fan onto one of the logs. And this boy or girl will spy Wayne's Disney nametag and then get very big-eyed. They'll then ask him if he's the Wayne from the 'Kingdom  Keepers' series. And he gets to say 'Yes. Yes, I am." "

Ridley Pearson and two of the biggest inspirations for his "Kingdom Keepers" book series.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

That's perhaps one of the more fun aspects of the "Kingdom Keepers" series. How the real Walt Disney World Resort and the fantasy version that Ridley Pearson writes about sometimes overlap and collide.

Take - for example - the recent closure of Mickey's Toontown Fair. "Power Play" actually mentions this in passing. Though - according to Pearson's expertly spun narrative - it's not because of the Fantasyland expansion project. But - rather - to quote from this Disney Hyperion book:

"They've taken down his house, you know? Minnie's, too. 'Updating,' they call it. Don't believe it. It's all because of 'the Night. ' "

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

None of the Keepers had ever heard of a particular night or event. As a group, they looked at her curiously.

"We heard noises from his house on that night," Ariel continued, oblivious to their confusion. "A struggle of some kind. He's not been seen since ..."

What's become of Mickey Mouse? Well, to find that out, you're going to need to pick up "Kingdom Keeper VI: Power Play." Which sets the stage for the "Big Plan" that Ridley Pearson will begin playing out over the last three books in the "Kingdom Keepers" series. Or - better yet - check out the Kingdom Keepers online game.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

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  • I understand that I am not this book's target audience, being 40 yrs old, but my wife got me a copy of the first book from a thirft store. And I was NOT at all impressed. I didn't think it was well done at all.

  • Way to keep on the sunnyside there Pollyanna.  I am 46 and I love these books.  I love to take one along to WDW when I go.  Lots of fun.  I preordered my copy of this one months ago and can't wait for tomarrow.

  • I agree with the first reader. I'm 30 and believe these books to be poorly written, and the Disney "research" that this guy does is terrible. In the first book, he describes Brer Fox as a wolf. Seriously, a wolf! The children also get pulled into a current that makes them plunge over Splash Mountain. He forgot to put the ride's giant upramp in the book.

  • I agree with 2/3 of the people here: The Kingdom Keepers book utterly fail to capture the Kingdom's magic.

  • "books", sorry.

  • these books needs 2 be some movies

  • Just remember- these books are not for middle aged adults who think things through- they're for teens who like to read and try to solve the mystery themselves. the books are not intended for you haters

  • I LOVE these books. Who ever thinks these books are bad or poorly written is WRONG!!! Kingdom keepers is a book based on Disney. I just want to say good job Ridley keep writting!!:)

  • 2/3/4 you guys may claim to be in your 30s or 40s but your acting more like your 80!!!!!!  These books are AMAZING!!!!!!!!  And I'm one of the real audience being 15.  So you haters can get a life!  And all the action and mystery in it makes it even more exciting!!!!!!!!!!

  • I meant 1/3/4 sorry.  Your good number 2!

  • These books are amazing. Yes, the first one has it's faults, but each book is better than the last and the storyline more than makes up for it. I certainitly recommend this series to anyone under the age of 16 or in possetion of an imagination.

  • I luv thesebooks they are great and you guys need to stop bein haters! These books are made for 9-16 year olds not 80 year old people like you, so u guys need to only post GOOD things onhere and these books do have some faults but they capture the mystery and excitement of MK Ak Epcot and HS.These books are great keep on writing Ridley!                            

                                            -Grayson a 10 year old boy

  • Hey Ridley is KK 6 going to be ona Disney Cruise Line or in Disneyland as the seventh book?

  • you have a mistake made in your book and dont get me wrong there good books but it would b better with no mistakes at all! it just confuzed em sooo much

  • I understand where the haters are coming from. Yes, in KK1 Splash Mountain has a current instead of the actual Up-Ramp, but which would be more exciting? Finn and Philby stuck on the ramp with no way to get off before the final drop, or Finn and Philby being pulled by the current both above and below water to the plummet?

    Also, being 19, I read these books at first for the Disney side to it all. The information used is great, and just the fact that these books are set on Disney property makes them enjoyable. Now I read the books for everything they have. The characters are great and their drama brings a nice mix. There are errors in these books, but that happens. When a kid reads these books, they are so involved that most don't even see the errors. The book has entertained them and that is its purpose, so in my opinion: Mission Accomplished.

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