Hey, guess what? I went to Walt Disney World! (No, you’re not getting a big, long trip report. We had a great time. If you want a trip report, read Kingdom Gallbladders again, but imagine that I’m in a much better mood.) Guess what I brought back with me? If you said, a stupid, stupid book that was still too weird not to read, you’re right! And here it is:
So this looks like what happens when Disney looks at the mint that the Harry Potter series made and decides that they want a kids’ fantasy series of their own. Granted, every publisher ever thought the same thing the last decade, which is why even today you can’t swing your pin lanyard around in a surplus and salvage book store without hitting the first book in a failed fantasy trilogy, where an ordinary kid learns he’s destined to defeat an evil whatever and he gathers friends together and goes on adventures and blah blah blah. This isn’t even the only fantasy series published by Disney, however, it is notable in its crazy premise — and squandered opportunity.
Let’s imagine you’re a writer and The Disney People come to you and say, “We want you to write a children’s fantasy series for us. *And* we want it set in Walt Disney World. *AND* you’re allowed to use any and all of the Disney characters if you like.” Think of all the awesome things you could do with that setup! Guess what? Kingdom Keepers, does exactly NONE of those things!
Like many books in this genre, the first few chapters before the action kicks in are spent describing all the characters and explaining the situation in great detail so that the young audience can follow along.
I’m lying. The entire plot is explained on the book’s back cover and it has to be, because at any given point I had no idea what the hell was going on or why I should care. (This book reminded me less of Harry Potter and more of those Humanimorphs [every time I write that, I cry inside] books.) We apparently have a bunch of stupid kid characters. They’re given some… eh… characterization in that one of them is the default leader guy and everyone else sometimes agrees with him and sometimes they don’t and they are able to run errands for him and… really, they’re not even as interesting as any given “Power Rangers” team. They’ve also got a grab bag of special powers that they never use creatively and which conveniently seem to appear as the plot demands. Nothing interesting is even done with the setting or the history of Disney World. There is some jazz about Walt Disney’s magical pen, a mysterious mentor guy who manages to not help the kids at all, and a nice girl who shows up and does stuff and a mean girl who shows up and does stuff. That’s literally their role in the story.
I was surprised to learn that there were ultimately five books published in this series. So technically this wasn’t a failed trilogy but… ugh.
The Best Parts:
Page v (?) – You know when a book has a copyright disclaimer this long, it HAS to be good!
Page 10 – It will ALWAYS be Disney/MGM Studios! This book says so! (By the way, this is where I completely lost what was going on here.)
Page 20 –
HOLOGRAMS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY!!!
Incidentally, I don’t want to give away this book’s stupidest plot point, but it was clearly written back when bad sci-fi writers firmly believed that holograms, which -just as a reminder- are illusory 3d pictures, could do anything.
Page 29 – Yes, and make sure you ask your parents to buy stuff for you while you’re there.
Page 41 – Morpheus, he isn’t.
Page 49 – Oh, yes, everyone plays Virtual Magic Kingdom! It’s the most popular MMORPG ever made!
Page 52 – “How DARE you suggest I watch animation that isn’t by Disney!?!”
Page 59 – Because sometimes, when large and very complicated machinery is involved, it can get dangerous. Also, this is a bad case of Did Not Do The Research, as “Fantasmic” is in the Magic Kingdom in Disneyland.
Page 64 –
LASERS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY!!!
Page 68 – Wait, did they just win a battle or something?
Page 69 – Hell, you owe the readers an explanation, for that matter.
Page 71 – So Wayne is an “Avatar” Otakin? Because “fictional things can come to life if we believe in them hard enough” is pretty much the same argument they’ve been making.
Page 84 – Oh by the way, I don’t usually point out silly names, but since these are the only interesting things about the characters: Willa, Philby, and Maybeck.
Page 93 – If anybody tells these kids that it isn’t safe ONE MORE TIME, I am going to freak. Guess what? Magical adventures tend to not be safe. You’re fighting evil wizards and riding dragons and stuff. Who said anything about safe?
Page 97 – Or they were, until silly little Facebook games came and ate VMK alive.
Page 100 – Yes, this plot really does sound stupid. Thanks for the lampshade hanging.
Page 107 – I want to believe that Escher’s Keep is real. I cannot believe in a thirteen year old who has never heard of Einstein.
Page 111 – “Once upon a time there were three wizard brothers… wait…”
Page 137 – Do you think Jez is with the bad guys? I have a hunch…
Page 145 – Well, here’s your Nightmare Fuel for tonight.
Page 192 – Wow, it’s just like “The Matrix”. But really, REALLY stupid.
Page 195 – Poetry Time! By the way, did you know that only evil people make poems?
Page 196 – “Kids still think skateboards and motorbikes are -what’s the word- radical, right?”
Page 216 – And here’s your Nightmare Fuel for tonight. What is it with this book and making all the most innocuous rides evil?
Page 231 – (There is a long and awkward pause.) Are you kidding me with this s**t? Seriously? Because I don’t even think there’s a full skeleton in Big Thunder Mountain (the Imagineers tend to not build a full thing if nobody is ever going to see it) or that it is a Tyrannosaurus. Why yes, I am a bigger WDW Geek than the guy who wrote this.
Page 256 – By the way, since when is Malificent associated with ice? (It isn’t really a spoiler that she’s the Big Bad is it? I mean, she always is whenever they do a crossover.)
Page 259 – God, you suck, Finn. You are almost as much of a failure of a hero as Peter Patrelli. (In fact, part of me is so bored by this book, I almost want to jump tracks and kick into a rant over how sh**ty “Heroes” became after the writer’s strike. But I won’t.)
Page 264 – Yes, that is what every girl who goes to college wears. That is exactly what I wore every day at college.
Page 294 – Wayne, you are officially the worst mysterious mentor character ever.
Page 315 – Hey. she’s like Namine! (You know how bad this book is? I’d rather be playing “Chain of Memories”.) Also, blonde hair = good, dark hair = evil. Thanks a lot, book! Heck, thanks a metric sh*t-ton, every work of fiction where this is the case.
Page 321 – Do you know one of the reasons why the first Harry Potter book was so beloved? It’s probably because it does not end like this: In the big finale, when Harry is about to confront the Big Bad by himself, suddenly a bunch of security guards come right the f*** out of nowhere and arrest Quirrel/Voldemort, assuring Harry that they will take care of the villain for him.
I am going to quote the following exchange, from page 54-55, because it is fairly typical. The entire book is like this:
“I want to help you”
“You have no choice,” he (Wayne) said. “At some point, you’ll understand that.”
Finn felt the words like drumbeats in his chest. “What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean.”
(And on and on…)
Things I Learned from this Book:
* – The one clever bit is the reveal that characters from older rides, like Pirates of the Caribbean, deeply resent the newer rides.
* – Holograms can do anything. They are like magic.
* – Walt Disney had a magical pen that temporarily depowers bad guys. Conveniently enough.
* – Fictional things can come to life if you believe in them hard enough. So the Otakin are right. Yay.
* – The Magic Kingdom gets really weird at night. (Well, it does IRL too. Don’t bother going for Extra Magic Hours because it gets SCARY crowded. There is a lot more to take into consideration than “Oh, the castle will look so pretty at night!”)
Things That Can Save Any Movie:
Cool Creatures? A bunch of stupid kids who are half-humans, half-holograms. I wish I were kidding.
Creative Ideas? Eh…
Memorable Character? Very, very no.
Memorable Setting? Aye, there’s the rub. Love it or shove it, Walt Disney World is a fascinating place. Sadly, nothing at all is done with the potentially awesome setting here. You want a good fantastic fiction set in Disney World? Read Cory Doctrow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.
Nifty Illustrations? No.
Drinking Game Potential? Purchase (or mix) a Blue Glow-tini so you’ll be in the same state as the author when he wrote this.
Head Movie Potential? Dude… what if, like, things came to life if you *believed* in them hard enough?
A half-Jon, half-hologram that comes to life if you believe in it. Or something.
Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark, written by Ridley Pearson, based upon the Walt Disney World characters and rides. Copyright 2005 to Page One, Inc. Published byDisney Hyperion Books, New York, NY.
ISBN #: 978-142312311-8