There is an incredibly wide selection of books available on every aspect of the Disney Company. This article highlights my favorite Disney books that feature the Disney films, theme parks, and company history. Over time I will continue to update this page, but for now I will present to you my favorite books, plus new books that were released this year.
Everyone in my family knows me as a Disney enthusiast. Therefore, quite frequently, the gifts I receive on Christmas morning are Disney centric. This is the perfect page to send off to your family–who I am sure knows you as a Disney fan–so that they know what to get you for Christmas. Each of the books are presented with a brief description and link to their page where you can find them on Amazon.
Disney Book List: For the Disney Fan
The books are separated into categories based on the style. The categories include: historical reading, coffee table books, and in the park reading.
Historical Disney Book Reading
The Disneyland Story by Sam Gennawey is the closest thing that Disneyland has to an historical textbook. This book is constructed as the biography of Disneyland. Not only does this book provide hundreds of quotes and stories, but it provides a thorough bibliography for each chapter that provides much more thorough reading. When you are ready to go on a deep dive into the history of Disneyland, this is the book for you.
The Unofficial Disneyland Encyclopedia contains references for almost everything, every person, and place in Disneyland past and present. With explanations for items ranging from the now defunct Crocodile Mercantile store to the area previously known as Magnolia Park. Each time that you open up the book, some new tidbit will jump off the page.
The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion walks readers through the twisted story leading up to the creation of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. This fascinating story could be the most unique back story to any Disneyland attraction because Walt Disney passed away and left no heir apparent for who would be the leader making the final decisions on the project. Each scene of the attraction is highlighted and dissected piece by piece. A fun read.
Before Ever After: The Lost Lectures of Walt Disney’s Animation Studio consists of the manuscripts of the lectures given to the Disney Animators as the studio was transitioning from creating short films (Silly Symphonies) to their first feature film (Snow White). The book was partly compiled by legendary Disney producer Don Hahn. You can hear more about the book and Don’s work at Disney in our podcast interview.
Mouse Tales: A Behind-The-Ears Look at Disneyland was the first popular non-Disney approved book to appear on the market. The book is filled with stories collected from ex-Cast Member interviews. This book is lighthearted and really dishes on the past of the Disney company. Watch out if you don’t want to have any of the secrets of the park divulged. This book reveals the early not-so-politically correct backstage happenings in Disneyland.
On the Disney Beat: Over 30 Years of Chronicling the People and Places in Walt’s World is a combination of a memoir and history book highlighting a few key people in the “Disney World.” The book is written by long time journalist Chuck Schmidt. Over the years he has been responsible for providing unique coverage of the Disney Parks and opens up about being a member of the press in this book. He also highlights the stories of a few incredible people he has met over the years working for Disney.
Everything I Know I Learned From Disney Animated Feature Films: Advice For Living Happily Ever After is the most recent book by Disney historian Jim Korkis. That alone should have you jumping at the bit to purchase the book. Inside you will find life lessons mixed with Disney history told in a way that only Jim Korkis could.
Incredible Stories From Disney Cast Members
In Service to the Mouse: My Unexpected Journey to Becoming Disneyland’s First President is my top recommendation for anyone who is even slightly interested in Disney history or business. This book written by Jack Lindquist, the first president of Disneyland, offers a behind the scenes look at all of the fun he had while working for the company. The book is a light read–separated into chapters by story. If you are anything like me, you will laugh out loud and finish the book the same day you pick it up.
Dream It! Do It!: My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms is the memoir of Disney Legend Marty Sklar, who served as head of Walt Disney Imagineering for quite awhile. The book is written in a similar style to In Service to the Mouse, however this book focuses on the history and facts while In Service highlights the emotional situations.
Inside the Disney Marketing Machine is the memoir of Lorraine Santoli, former Director of Corporate Synergy for The Walt Disney Company. In the book, she shares stories from her early days working with the celebrities as a Disney publicist, time leading the marketing Disneyland, and unique appointment to the new division of corporate synergy under Michael Eisner.
Windows on Main Street: 35 Years of Creating Magic at Disneyland Park is the memoir of Van Arsdale France, the man who created the world class concept of “Cast Member” training and the Disney University program. The book not only provides incredible lessons learned from his work creating the Disney training programs, but also stories ranging from the construction of Disneyland to the tough managerial style of Walt Disney. This book has been out of print of years, and was only just republished. This masterpiece is a vital addition to your Disney library.
The Adventures of Tom Nabbe is an aptly titled book as it reflect the author’s first role working for Disney: playing Tom Sawyer. Nabbe lived just down the road from Disneyland and visited frequently during the construction of the park, which led him to be hired as the first actor to play Tom Sawyer. You won’t want to miss this book that culminates in the years leading up to Tom Nabbe receiving his well-deserved window on Main Street and Disney Legend award.
From Jungle Cruise Skipper to Disney Legend: 40 Years of Magical Memories at Disney is written in a similar style of one of our Disney Dose podcast interviews. The book traces the life of Disney Legend William “Sully” Sullivan from his first days working in Disneyland through his forty year career at Disney which culminated in his leadership of the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. The book includes many fascinating stories that are a perfect addition for anyone who is a fan of the details behind the Disney history.
Fiction Books Featuring Disney
The Kingdom Keepers series are perfect books for anyone eight and up who wants a fiction book. This is a Young Adult series written by Ridley Pearson that tells the story of what happens at the Disney theme parks when the guests go home.
Disney Coffee Table Books
Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making Magic Real is perhaps my favorite book in my entire Disney library. The book walks the reader through the creative process that the Disney Imagineers use while creating each new attraction, restaurant, hotel, or entire theme park. The book is filled with glossy photos and insightful information.
Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making MORE Magic Real was written as a follow up to the Imagineering book I mentioned above. This book reveals even more information and updated stories based on the projects developed since the release of the first book. Once again, this is one of my favorite books in my library.
The Posters of the Disney Parks provides a unique look into the changing process of creating the masterful Disney parks posters. Also inside is a beautiful gallery highlighting the most unique Disney parks posters from around the world. This book is a great piece to leave out on the coffee table for people to flick through.
Disney Movie Posters: From Steamboat Willie to Inside Out was produced as a follow up to the successful Disney Parks Posters book explained above. The book contains every Disney movie poster from “Snow White” all the way up to “Inside Out.” The book is a fun visual addition to your collection, but if I had to choose between this book and the Disney Parks Poster book, I would choose the Disney Parks book.
Designing Disney by John Hench was recently described by Disney Imagineer Kim Irvine as the book you need to read if you have any interest in Disney history, working for the company, or design. The book highlights Imagineer John Hench’s life of work and advice.
The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic was recently updated to highlight new changes and stories from the Haunted Mansion attraction. This book traces the creation of the attraction through stories and photos from the first conception of a haunted house in Disneyland through the completion of the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland and of the other Disney Parks around the world.
Pirates of the Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies is written in a similar style to the Haunted Mansion book mentioned above. The book follows the creation of the attraction through it’s inspiration of the block buster Pirates of the Caribbean films. These glossy books tell the story through rare photos and stories and are great additions to your library.
Decorative Art of Victoria’s Era is the original book from which Walt Disney Imagineer’s drew inspiration to create the Haunted Mansion. The original concept drawing for the mansion was traced straight from pages of this book. While it was published in 1950, the price is still relatively low considering the mark that it had on Disney history.
Books to Pass the Time in Disneyland or Walt Disney World
These books are filled with information and written in a way that is perfect to read at home or to take with you into Disneyland. These books help to enhance the magic in the parks or bring the magic home with you.
Steven Barret has written Hidden Mickey guides for each Disney theme park around the world: Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise Line. These books identify the hidden Mickeys that Imagineers often incorporate into the various new attractions. Bringing this book along on your vacation turns your trip into a special scavenger hunt.
Seen, Unseen Disneyland is a photo guide to the unique design elements of Disneyland. This book will surely reveal something new to you during your next visit to Disneyland. Filled with fun photos and details from Disneyland park, this is a great way to visualize hidden details from Disneyland at home.
Lots to Do In Line, a sort of multiple choice test for the small details hidden in the queues for attractions around you, is a nice way to pass the time spent waiting in line. The questions range from recounting specific details on a sign to locating items on a scavenger hunt list. The book is great for families with young children. There are versions for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
The Imagineering Field Guide series is a fun pocket sized book that provides insightful tidbits of information about the history and surroundings in Disneyland and Walt Disney World. The book series includes rare concept art, interesting facts and figures, glossy photos, and incredible stories. Click here to see all of the Imagineering Field guides created for each park.
Disneyland Secrets Makes the Perfect Christmas Present
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my new book, Disneyland Secrets: A Grand Tour of Disneyland’s Hidden Details. The book is filled to the brim with secrets, each developed into a brief story that illuminates a forgotten moment in Disney history, sheds light on a neglected area of the park, or reveals something new about an iconic attraction, such as:
- Why is the address of Disneyland 1313 Harbor Boulevard?
- What’s up with the Jewish menorah on Main Street?
- Why is there a fake book called “Walt & You” at City Hall?
- Where can you find Sherlock Holmes at Disneyland?
- Is there really a pet cemetery at the Haunted Mansion?
Shhh! I don’t want to give it away. The answers are secret, until you read this book.
The book is now available on Amazon in both print and Kindle editions. For the Christmas season we are offering exclusive bonuses to those who purchase the book. Included are even more secrets and a free copy of the digital version of the book. Claim your bonuses after purchasing here.