BOOK REVIEW: “Kingdom Keepers: Disney at Dawn” Keeps the Adventure Going at Disney’s Animal Kingdom with Only Minor Changes in the Updated Version

“The Kingdom Keepers” series follows Finn, Charlene, Philby, Willa, and Maybeck, as they encounter their own adventures in the Disney Parks after hours. These five young teenagers were selected to become Disney Host Interactives, or DHI’s, digital holograms that would become tour guides throughout the theme parks. Yet when the kids fall asleep at night, they turn into their holograms and arrive inside the theme parks to defend against “The Overtakers”, Disney’s most-feared villains who are seeking control of Walt’s magic.

The first book, Disney After Dark, shows how the teenagers adapt to their new ability of “crossing over” into the Magic Kingdom at night. Today, we’re gonna be looking at the second installment, Disney At Dawn. There are spoilers ahead so proceed with caution, or skip near the end of this review to look at the changes that were made with the updated version.

Disney At Dawn starts off with a celebration as the DHI’s have been reinstated back into the Magic Kingdom after the events of the first book, only for the Overtakers to begin to plot on how to take over the magic again. This leads to a fast-paced start involving Finn chasing Maleficent into Tomorrowland using Tinker Bell’s zipline, followed by the kidnapping of Jess, one of the Kingdom Keeper’s close friends, who can dream the future. After her sister, Amanda, lets the group know about the dreams, they all start to put the pieces together with the help of Wayne, one of the original Cast Members and friend of Walt Disney.

The story predominately takes place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, after the Keepers discover that DHI’s were being made of animals and that there was a second server set up to start to integrate the Kingdom Keepers over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom as virtual tour guides. This is also where Jess has been kept after being kidnapped and where Maleficent has been hiding out since her escape from the Magic Kingdom. While the Keepers move throughout the theme park, they go undercover as Cast Members, Guests, and even as DiVine in order to figure out how the animals have been rallied into the fight with the Overkeepers and how to save the magic.

After the Keepers have braved the dangers through the savanna on the Kilimanjaro Safari and the Maharajah Jungle Trek, scouting from Conservation Station and encountering terrors within DINOSAUR, the climax of the story comes within Expedition Everest, where we find out that Chernabog, one of the most feared Disney villains, has been hiding in disguise as the Yeti. (So that explains why it’s been out of order for so long…)

The book ends rather abruptly after that, with the Keepers having to figure out how to continue to stop the Overtakers from gaining control. We also see Amanda and Jess joining the Kingdom Keepers and now understanding their powers a bit more as “Fairlies”, fairly humans with special abilities. All of this sets up for the next story to take place over in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and at EPCOT in Book Three, Disney in Shadow.

When it was announced that Ridley Pearson would be rewriting the entire series to better reflect the changes in the Disney Parks, I’ll admit, I was pretty skeptical. Yet after reading Disney After Dark’s rewrite, I was proven wrong with how these updated versions would change the feel of the book. Then again, the first book primarily takes place at the Magic Kingdom, where only minor changes were made to adapt to today’s theme park as we know it. Diving into Book Two, I’ve discovered many more changes, but again, ultimately minor ones that hardly change the overall story.

So, for those of you are interested in what was actually updated in Disney At Dawn, I went chapter by chapter to see what all the updates actually were.

The Keepers are still utilizing the Virtual Magic Kingdom as a secure place to chat and interact with Wayne throughout the story, which is now described as something that Wayne had a hand in bringing back, rather than Philby creating it as mentioned in Disney After Dark. Philby hacks into a computer at the Disney Vacation kiosk in Camp Minnie-Mickey to gain access to VMK from inside the park, which is sadly no longer there as Pandora: The World of Avatar now resides in its place. Philby now just hacks into a regular Disney Vacation Club kiosk in Africa in order to communicate with Wayne.

When the Keepers need to text each other throughout the park, they’re often on the theme park’s Wi-Fi, using their Nintendo DS chat function to communicate. This was one of the first things I thought about when the rewrites were mentioned, knowing that these would simply be changed to texting on their phones, but it’s a sign of the times for kids like me who grew up reading these and being amazed that the Internet would be stable enough for them to use their DS all day to stay in touch.

REVIEW: Initial Thoughts from Inside Pandora - The World of AVATAR at Disney's Animal Kingdom

The only time that Pandora: The World of Avatar actually makes an appearance is extremely brief and it only involves this plant-like structure, described as an upturned purple cob of corn. The Return, the device that allows the Keepers to “cross over” from their DHI state to human state, was hidden within the lower opening on the side for Finn to retrieve. In the original book, it was hidden within PIPA, the talking recycle can, who was cousins to PUSH who resided over in the Magic Kingdom.

When Finn ventures off to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to try to find clues in Voyage of the Little Mermaid, we see a lot of changes have been made. This is perhaps a personal favorite of mine as I remember being a kid who loved attending Disney’s Hollywood Studios at this time to see the giant Sorcerer’s Hat, ride The Great Movie Ride, and, yes, watching the High School Musical Pep Rally.

The updated version still mentions the Sorcerer’s Hat being present at the start of chapter 27, but The Great Movie Ride has sadly been changed over to Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. This also includes the lack of High School Musical, but the use of Radio Disney covers of “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl” are still used elsewhere in the book for that sense of nostalgia.

As for the rest of the edits made in this updated version, there really aren’t any big ones, and the previous changes listed don’t change the overall story in any major way. Some scenes have been condensed to get to the action a bit quicker, like most scenes within VMK and the attack inside of DINOSAUR with Willa and Maybeck. Also cut are some of Maybeck’s swearing, while although not said explicitly in the original version, it was always clear when he would have said a bad word (one that would normally have Finn grounded for a week.) It’s not a key part of the story, but it’s an aspect that I always found amusing in the original, while also telling us a bit about Maybeck’s character.

If you’re interested in purchasing the updated series, you can find them here. Only the first three books in the series have been released so far. You can catch up with my review on Disney After Dark here and make sure to check back here soon as I dive into Disney in Shadow to see what’s been changed in the third book!

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