Disney Press has an exciting new book series that draws inspiration from Disney’s rich theme park attractions. Unlike Ridley Pearson’s Kingdom Keepers series, which mostly takes place inside the berm, Tales from Adventureland by Jason Lethcoe places these attractions in the real world. The first in the series is called Tales from Adventureland: The Keymaster’s Quest.
Andy is sad that he never got to meet his grandfather, Ned Lostmore, before he passed away. But when he is willed a key at his grandfather’s funeral, he embarks on a series of clues only to discover that his adventurous globe trotting grandfather is alive, but a curse has left him little more than a talking shrunken head. Now Andy must aid his grandfather by become the keymaster and scouring the globe to collect the keys that lead to powerful and mysterious treasure before the villainous Professor Phink.
Shrunken Ned has been plucked from Disneyland’s Adventureland where he breaths new life in this series. If you were to judge this book by its cover, you would also draw the conclusion that Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room comes into play at some point, which is an accurate assumption. While we don’t get to sail the rivers of the jungles in this story, we do get to meet a skipper and take a sail around the islands on the Amazon Annie. And Disney resort references aren’t restricted merely to the confines of the theme parks, with “Kunglaloosh” from The Adventurer’s Club being used as a way to end a conversation with fellow explorers.
Andy’s first adventure takes him to Hawaii to try and beat Professor Fink to the Pailina Pendant, which can awaken a terrifying Hawaiian god that eats people. The story starts of very strong, with Andy going on a series of puzzle’s through his grandfather’s house to arrive in a secret passage and discover that he is the only one who can help save the world. The adventures to the island and subsequent Disney references are fun as well. However, the third act comes a little out of left field with no foreshadowing and ultimately becomes the least exciting part of this introduction.
Like Kingdom Keepers and Tales from the Haunted Mansion, Tales from Adventureland is aimed at younger readers. Adult Disney fans will enjoy looking for references to world class attractions and alcoholic beverages (Kungaloosh!), but shouldn’t expect the story to hold their attention all the way through.
Early in the book, there are a few teases at what future adventures might have in store, which could include The Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Expedition Everest. While not all of these attractions reside in Adventureland on a consistent basis (or at all), they all fit the theme and would make for exciting follow-up adventures. I was disappointed that the organization Andy is working with is called “The Jungle Explorers Society” instead of “Society of Explorers and Adventurers” as S.E.A. is a WDI concept that fans have delighted in, which connects even more Disney attractions around the world including Hong Kong Disneyland’s Mystic Manor and Tokyo Disney Sea’s Tower of Terror. These can obviously still be included in this series, but using S.E.A. in these stories would have made for a delightful surprise when readers eventually discover the crest on a future Disney vacation.
Overall, Tales from Adventureland: The Keymaster’s Quest provides a solid start to the series. While the ending may be a little unsatisfying, there’s a lot of promise here and with future installments expected to take on more substantial attractions, readers are in for a treat. And who knows, perhaps Andy’s adventures will connect him with S.E.A. after all.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.