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March 28, 2017

Author Ridley Pearson shares details about Kingdom Keepers book released today

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For “Kingdom Keepers” fans, the wait is over.

Today is the nationwide release date for author Ridley Pearson’s latest installment in his popular "Kingdom Keepers" series and sequels, “The Return: Disney at Last.” The "Kingdom Keepers" books take place inside Walt Disney World and Disneyland and aboard Disney Cruise Line ships. This newest young adult adventure novel is the final book in The Return trilogy.

Pearson was at Walt Disney World this past weekend to launch his national book tour for “The Return: Disney at Last,” and he was kind enough to make time in his busy schedule to talk with me and my children, who are “Kingdom Keepers” fans. This is the first part of our interview about his new novel. On Thursday, I’ll have exciting details about Pearson’s next Disney-themed project.

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So, tell us about “The Return: Disney at Last.” The boilerplate was shorter than in the past, so we don’t know as much about the story ahead of time.

It’s been a long road and this is the tenth book in the series – and the final book with the Kingdom Keepers in it. It was emotional for me in a lot of ways to wrap up the series, but it became clear as I was writing the second “The Return” that we were heading for a logical end to this whole thing.

The story is bifurcated. In other words, it’s got two lanes. We’re with one set of characters in the present time and one set of characters in 1955. And the set of characters in 1955 are trying to get back to the present time. The characters in present time are trying to stop a really horrible thing from happening. And those two worlds actually merge. They come together in a way. For me, it was an interesting writing process because I was really writing two stories at once.

You give some teasers on your website of things readers will find in “The Return: Disney at Last.” Could you tell us a little more about them?

Yes! Let’s take them one at a time. Graveyards after dark: Early in the novel we go back to 1955 and realize there was a real sort of voodoo-y kind of witch doctor involved with somebody who had left Disney in a bad situation and was plotting revenge. The third book really delves into the creation of the Overtakers. Where did they come from and why did they come from there? And it all involves Barracks 14, which is in the books about Jess and Amanda and Mattie and others. It’s trying to bring all the worlds back together, and so the graveyards after dark get really creepy and eerie and they’re inspired in large part by Jonathan Stroud, who is just brilliant. He has a really terrific series [Lockwood & Co.] so I wanted to pay homage to his series. So I have my characters using some of his techniques and technologies – with his permission – because they realize these dug up graves are part of what’s going on to animate the Overtakers.

It’s a really fun story for me because in Tower of Terror before it was Tower of Terror, we’re finding out how somebody thought up and figured out how to make the Overtakers out of just animated characters. That’s a huge part of the concept.

The spider comes from the Barracks and the fact that there is a method to the madness of the Barracks. That’s probably all I should say. That’s the present-time story. So, there are two interweaving stories through the novel, all the way to the end, but I think from the beginning you start to see how they are playing out. It isn’t some big mystery, but you are starting to see the origins of everything and how we got to where we are.

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At what point did you figure out this story was how you wanted the series to wrap up?

From the early days of the Barracks, I knew what was going on with them, but I wasn’t sure how I would tell the story. Once the idea for “The Return” came, which came from a reader, I knew that was a three-book series. From the day that I got the email with the idea of going back, I started figuring out what the arc of the three books would be. I don’t think I really knew until I was halfway through the third book that this was likely to end that series. And it came as something of a shock, but I realized that this was where it could end without feeling drawn out. I hope readers feel the way I do. I’m so excited about this book. I mean, I really am. I’m out of my mind about the book. I had so much fun writing it.

We’re always fascinated by the special, behind-the-scenes experiences you get to have in the parks. What types of things did you get to do while researching “Disney at Last”?

For this novel, I got an amazing tour of Disneyland, including California Adventure. I spent many, many hours inside Tower of Terror with just one other person around. It was amazing. I got all the way up into the Tower and out onto those balconies, overlooking everywhere. That world really came to life for me, and so a big part of the third book is Mattie, who is one of the Barracks 14 gals and a Fairlie, is basically stuck inside the Tower of Terror and trying to get out. A part of the book is in there and a part is going in to rescue her, and so that ride became really fun for me. That’s in present time and in the past in the same book they’re inside the hotel that this was all done at. So, the two worlds are kind of married.

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What else would you like readers to know about “The Return: Disney at Last”?

“Disney at Last” will excite you maybe more than any “Kingdom Keepers” novel and scare you more than any “Kingdom Keepers” novel. And, I hope, satisfy you because for me it’s all about that. To me, at this point, we’re a Kingdom Keepers family, and I hope it comes to the place where, like me, the reader goes, “A-ha” and is ready for the next adventure.


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March 21, 2017

Meet Author Ridley Pearson at Walt Disney World and get new Kingdom Keepers book early

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“Kingdom Keepers” author Ridley Pearson returns to Walt Disney World this week, and fans and readers will be able to meet him -- without battling the Overtakers.

As has become tradition, Pearson will be at the Orlando resort to launch his national book tour for the latest installment in his "Kingdom Keepers" series and sequels. He will be signing copies of “The Return: Disney at Last” at two events at the resort, and readers can purchase the new young adult novel before its official U.S. publication date.

The "Kingdom Keepers" books take place inside Walt Disney World and Disneyland and aboard Disney Cruise Line ships. The final novel in the original, seven-book series was published in 2014, but in 2015, Pearson released the first book in a new young adult trilogy that would keep the beloved characters alive. In "The Return: Disney Lands" the five Kingdom Keepers had to solve a puzzle of the past or face a new force of evil. Then, last year, in “The Return: Legacy of Secrets,” Finn, Charlene, Maybeck, Willa, and Philby traveled back in time to experience the opening of Disneyland in 1955 and the start of the magic we know today.

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Now, in “The Return: Disney at Last” Pearson sums up the plot this way: “The stakes are high—both for the past and the future. The finale of “The Return” series leaves the Kingdom Keepers with unimaginable choices to make.”

The book signings at Walt Disney World take place from 10 a.m. to noon March 24 at Mouse Gear inside Epcot and 10 a.m. to noon March 25 at Art of Disney at Disney Springs Marketplace. Park admission is required for the Mouse Gear event on Friday.

"The Return: Disney at Last" will be available to purchase at the Walt Disney World events for its list price of $17.99. Disney Vacation Club and Walt Disney World annual passholder discounts will be honored.

A wristband, which is required to meet Pearson, will be distributed to guests with each book purchase. Wristbands are available as soon as each store opens. For Mouse Gear, that’s 9 a.m. March 24, which also is opening time for Epcot. Art of Disney opens at 10 a.m. March 25. Each wristband allows the guest to get two books signed. Once the wristbands have been distributed, the line to meet Ridley Pearson will close.

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My son is a longtime “Kingdom Keepers” fan, and we have attended many book signings over the years. Our tips: Don't underestimate Pearson's popularity. Get a wristband early if this is a must-do event for your group. Also, your time with Pearson is brief, so be prepared. If you'd like him to write something special in your book, jot it down ahead of time.

Even with the limited time he has to spend with each reader, Pearson strives to make each interaction memorable. At several events we attended, the author surprised fans by walking through the queue and greeting every person in line and even stopping to pose for photos before he started signing books. Afterward, he usually posts photos from each event on his website, which is a thrill for young readers.

Pearson also will be signing books at World of Disney at Disneyland on April 22. Details have not yet been announced.

The official U.S. release date for “The Return: Disney at Last!” is March 28, 2017.


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February 14, 2017

Kingdom Keepers author Ridley Pearson gives readers opportunity to be Disney Imagineers

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Disney’s Imagineers have some of the coolest jobs around. Who wouldn’t want to help create the theme parks we all know and love? Well, now’s your chance to experience what they do – on a much smaller scale and from the comfort of your own home.

“Kingdom Keepers” author Ridley Pearson is inviting readers to accept a series of writing challenges in the Disney School of Imagineering, which features prominently in his latest series of Kingdom Keepers books. The challenges will center on the theme “writing for the Disney parks,” and the first assignment has been posted on kingdomkeepersinsider.com:

“A big part of being an Imagineer is paying close attention to detail. Whether you're working as a character, designing a new ride, or (in our case) writing for the parks, it's the details that make the Disney experience so special. For your first assignment, think of a detail in a Disney park, like the weather vane on the top of the Haunted Mansion, or the bulletin board in Dinoland USA (If you're stumped, try Google). Once you have a detail in mind, write a backstory for it. Where did it come from? Why is it there? What about it is significant or magical? Have there been any times it was used or involved in a part of Disney or character lore?”

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To participate, you must post your entry on the website after creating a free account. Other readers will be able to view your work and vote for their favorites.

A word of advice from KKI Brooke: “A quick note before we begin: Many of these challenges deal with actual locations in the Disney parks. If you've never been, that's okay! Google is full of blogs and maps, photos and videos, so there's no need to miss out just because you don't spend as much time in Walt Disney World as the Keepers. Even if you do go to the parks every week, take some time to do your research. Preparation is key, and you never know what you might learn.”

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New challenges will appear every two weeks leading up to the release of Pearson’s “The Return: Disney at Last” on March 28. Great news for readers in Orlando: Pearson will kick off his book tour again at Walt Disney World and guests will be able to buy “The Return: Disney at Last” before its official release date. Pearson will be signing copies at Epcot on March 24 and at Disney Springs on March 25.

The "Kingdom Keepers" books take place inside Walt Disney World and Disneyland and aboard Disney Cruise Line ships. The final novel in the original, seven-book series was published in 2014, but the following year, Pearson released the first book in a new young adult trilogy that would keep the beloved characters alive. In "The Return: Disney Lands" the five Kingdom Keepers had to solve a puzzle of the past or face a new force of evil. In “The Return: Legacy of Secrets,” Finn, Charlene, Maybeck, Willa, and Philby travel back in time to experience the opening of Disneyland in 1955 and the start of the magic we know today. No, in “The Return: Disney at Last,” the Kingdom Keepers must face unimaginable choices.

"Kingdom Keepers" fans will be happy to know that Pearson already is at work on a new trilogy set at Epcot, according to an article last week on D23.com. Pearson confirmed to me that the new series will indeed bring back familiar "Kingdom Keepers" characters as well as introduce new ones.


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March 15, 2016

Get newest 'Kingdom Keepers' book early and meet author Ridley Pearson at Walt Disney World

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Fans of the “Kingdom Keepers” series will be happy to know that the latest installment from author Ridley Pearson will be released this month, and he is kicking off his national book tour at Walt Disney World on March 25. Pearson again will be signing the books at two events at the resort – both in new locations -- where readers can purchase “The Return: Legacy of Secrets” before its official U.S. publication date.

The "Kingdom Keepers" books take place inside Walt Disney World and Disneyland and aboard Disney Cruise Line ships. The final novel in the original, seven-book series was published in 2014, but last year, Pearson released the first book in a new young adult trilogy that would keep the beloved characters alive. In "The Return: Disney Lands" the five Kingdom Keepers had to solve a puzzle of the past or face a new force of evil. Now, in “The Return: Legacy of Secrets,” Finn, Charlene, Maybeck, Willa, and Philby travel back in time to experience the opening of Disneyland in 1955 and the start of the magic we know today.

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Pearson sums up the plot this way: “But like all things Disney, nothing is as it seems. The early days of the Tower of Terror, the origin of the Overtakers (Disney villains), and the real power of magic unfold in an unexpected series of events that propel both the Keepers and Disney itself into a darkness no one saw coming. Along the way, the Keepers visit Walt Disney's hilltop home, Disneyland's opening day and reception, and find themselves separated from friends sixty years away. The three Fairlies, young women in Disney's School of Imagineering, girls with astonishing powers of their own, have unmasked a long-buried secret that threatens the lives of their friends as well as everything Walt Disney worked for.”

The book signings at Walt Disney World take place from 4 to 6 p.m. March 25 at Art of Disney at Disney Springs Marketplace and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 26 at Mouse Gear inside Epcot. Park admission is required for the Mouse Gear event. This is the first year for Pearson to make an appearance at Epcot, and that signing is longer than the one held at Hollywood Studios in past years.

"The Return: Legacy of Secrets" will be available to purchase at the Walt Disney World events for its list price of $17.99. Disney Vacation Club and Walt Disney World annual passholder discounts will be honored.

A wristband, which is required to meet Pearson, will be distributed to guests with each book purchase. Wristbands are available as soon as each store opens. For Art of Disney, that's 10 a.m. March 25. Mouse Gear opens at 10 a.m. -- although Epcot opens at 9 a.m. -- on March 26. Each wristband allows the guest to get two books signed. Once the wristbands have been distributed, the line to meet Ridley Pearson will close.

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My 13-year-old son is a longtime “Kingdom Keepers” fan, and we have attended many book signings over the years. Our tips: Don't underestimate Pearson's popularity. Get a wristband early if this is a must-do event for your group. Also, your time with Pearson is brief, so be prepared. If you'd like him to write something special in your book, jot it down ahead of time.

Even with the limited time he has to spend with each reader, Pearson strives to make each interaction memorable. At several events we attended, the author surprised fans by walking through the queue and greeting every person in line and even stopping to pose for photos before he started signing books. Afterward, he usually posts photos from each event on his website, which is a thrill for young readers.

Pearson also will be signing books at Disneyland on April 15 and 16. Details have not yet been announced.

The official U.S. release date for “The Return: Legacy of Secrets” is March 29, 2016.



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March 28, 2015

Author Ridley Pearson discusses newest 'Kingdom Keepers' books, 'The Syndrome' and 'The Return: Disney Lands'

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New York Times best-selling author Ridley Pearson visited his home-away-from-home -- Walt Disney World -- this week to launch a book tour promoting his newest novel in the popular "Kingdom Keepers" series. Although the original series of seven books set in the Disney Parks and on Disney Cruise Line ships wrapped up last year, Pearson is writing a trilogy of sequels under the name "The Return." The first, "Disney Lands" was made available early to theme-park guests who attended two book signings at the resort.

During his time at Walt Disney World this week, Pearson sat down with my children and I to discuss his latest work. My 12-year-old son is an avid Kingdom Keepers reader, and my 10-year-old daughter just started discovering the adventures for herself, so we had plenty of questions for the author.

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Question: How did you decide the premise for this next trilogy in the Kingdom Keeper series?

Answer: For "The Return," the challenge for me as a writer was to not write the same book and just put a different title on it. " I'm fascinated with the idea of something between employment and internship with the super creative young people that Disney runs into, which would take the shape of an Imagineering school. I wanted to write a series about the Imagineering school, so "The Syndrome" leads you into Imagineering school and "The Return" picks up there. And it happened that I was still dragging my feet not knowing where the conflict would come from. I got an email from a 10-year-old reader, and he said, "What if one night Finn got on the King Arthur carousel and when he got off, things were totally different?" And I said, "Well, there's the series!"

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Q: Although society's increasing dependency on technology is an underlying theme in "The Return," the trilogy really focuses on another subject. Tell us about that.

A: Clearly, the trilogy is more about the backstory of The Overtakers. Who is responsible? Are the villains themselves responsible? Is there a human behind it? If there is, how does that relate to Barracks 14 and the Fairlies? As we dug into that more in the Kingdom Keepers series and we discovered that there was a divide even among The Overtakers, how did that come to be? Why are Maleficent and Ursula in two different camps of the same villainy. Wouldn't they be stronger if they were united and probably have more power if they were united? Clearly, in the Kingdom Keepers series, they represent two different sides of the same dark side. That will be fully explored in this trilogy. I hope that this trilogy will become this massive "a-ha" for KK readers. I've been working on this stuff since the second book and I sort of waited 8 years [for the reveal]. It's a culmination of a lot of outlining and work and seeding.

Q: One of the really special things about the Kingdom Keepers books is that you describe parts of the Disney Parks and Disney Cruise Line ships that most people don't see. What behind-the-scenes research did you do for "The Return: Disney Lands"?

A: In "The Return," there is a mixture of Disneyland past and present. And, creatively, I really wanted to look at where Disney started and where they have evolved to. "The Return" series, I hope, will accomplish that in a lot of ways.

I've been to the [Walt] Disney Archives multiple times. Anything you do at the Archives is unusual. They let me have access " Walt was prescient enough to have stenographers in every meeting and there are photos of the carbon copy pages of all those meetings in the archives. You get to go into these loose-leaf notebooks and listen to Walt talking to all the creative people behind all of the amazing animated films and the park and everything else. That was remarkable insight they've given me.

They brought out the original book in the fairytale animated films that they turn [the pages of] when they say, "Once upon a time"" With white gloves, they turned them for me just the way they were turned in the films.

I've been upstairs in the property side of it with [Disney archivist] Kevin Kern and handled all these amazing artifacts from the films. The biggest goosebump moment was walking through the archives at one point and [Walt Disney archives director] Becky [Cline] stopped me and grabbed me by the arm and said, "Look!" There were Dave Barry's and my books on shelves in the archives. It never occurred to me that Disney would bother to archive my books, but they archive everything Disney. I'm going to be there forever. I about cried. And they've got all the scripts from "Peter and The Starcatchers." It was just remarkable. I'm just a little footnote of Disney history in there. It gave me goosebumps.

Inside the parks: I was inside Walt's apartment, which I've been in multiple times now, and I had a little plot séance in there. I was just stuck on this plot piece and I asked to just be left alone and I just sat on the floor in there, and it all filled in. It just sort of solved itself.

I've been inside the Dream Suite out there and that's been incredible. I've been inside the train complex and inside Lilly Belle where she's parked, so I've had some terrific experiences, but not like maybe going down the utilador. There is no utilador out there, but I've found tunnels and things left over from old rides. I've been up in the sky lift station that is off limits. It was crumbling and old and there were words written up there. You know that's The Overtakers' hangout in the seventh book.

I've done some really fun stuff [at Disneyland] but nothing like seeing the dolls move in [it's a] small world. I was on the ride after dark with no music and no movement. The dolls were frozen, looking really scary, and you could hear the boat - creak, creak, creak, splash, splash, splash - and out of the corner of my eye, I saw two of the dolls step forward. I literally jumped! I was with an Imagineer and I said, "Did you see that?" And he said, "Don't be silly. It's turned off. You didn't see anything." Well, multiple people have seen this happen, so it turned out I wasn't the only one. It sure freaked me out.

Q: Have you started writing the second book in the new Kingdom Keepers trilogy? Will fans again be invited to write segments through specific challenges?

A: Yes, I have started "Disney Divides," and I hope so. We did that with the first book, and they wrote some of the quotations that go throughout the book. They were brilliant. I actually had to vet these because I wasn't sure people hadn't borrowed these quotes. They were so wise and spot on. I worked with Colloquy Books to do this and I kept saying, "Are you sure these weren't plagiarized off the Internet somewhere?" And they said they were all original and they were wonderful. So I hope to do something like that. I love working with the Insiders. It could start up pretty soon now that I'm writing and I've outlined the whole thing. We would have a better idea of what to ask for.

Q: We noticed the cover art has changed between editions of the first book. Why? And do you help come up with the art ideas for the book?

A: Disney does the covers for the books, and they did an old woodblock cover for the first edition of the first book that I loved. But they didn't like it, ultimately, so they changed that look. I wish the whole series had had that look. And then we had what they call a second pass, so they published all the books under a different look. And they were nice enough to listen to some changes that I would prefer. I really wanted to bring the villains' eyes out, so the third and final look to the books are the villains' eyes with the kids running and doing different things. I still hope for one more pass I'd love to get the kids off [the cover] so it's just the eyes and a piece of the park. I think "The Return" cover is amazing and I doubt we'll ever change those at all.

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Q: What is your favorite book that you have written?

A: I think the first Kingdom Keepers book will always be an iconic book for me, just the way I love Magic Kingdom because it's iconic and it started it all. My favorite book by far is "The Return," and I had the most fun I've ever had writing "The Syndrome" because I got to write from inside Jess's thoughts and inside Amanda's thoughts and inside Mattie's thoughts. I love Amanda, so to be able to be Amanda for several months is an amazing experience for me and I hope to do more of that.

Q: But what about Finn?

A: Oh, I love Finn. Finn is me, really. I'm a combination of Philby and Finn.

"The Return: Disney Lands" goes on sale on March 31. "The Syndrome" already is available.



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March 4, 2015

Meet author Ridley Pearson at Walt Disney World and get newest 'Kingdom Keepers' book early

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Author Ridley Pearson announced this week that, once again, guests at Walt Disney World will be able to purchase his latest "Kingdom Keepers" novel before the official release date this month. Pearson kicks off his national book tour at the resort on March 25 and will be signing the books at two events.

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"Kingdom Keepers" is a popular Young Adult series that takes place inside the Walt Disney World theme parks and aboard Disney Cruise Line ships. As the original "Kingdom Keepers" series wrapped up last year, Pearson comforted fans by announcing a new trilogy would keep the beloved characters alive. "The Return: Disney Lands" is the first in the new series and has a U.S. publication date of March 31.

Pearson sums up the plot this way on his website: "With the defeat of the Overtakers behind them, the five teenagers known as the Kingdom Keepers should be celebrating. By all accounts, they saved Disneyland from certain destruction. Why then did their mentor leave one last puzzle for them to decipher? The Keepers must solve a puzzle of the past, or be crushed under an evil that makes the Overtakers seem like gentle souls."

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The author also has been busy creating "Fairlies Adventures," a series of novellas in the "Kingdom Keepers" series. The first, "The Syndrome," was released March 3. Pearson says the name comes from the "fairly human" girls Amanda, Jess and Mattie. "Over the years, they've protected and supported the five Disney guides with their paranormal abilities," he wrote.

The book signings take place from 4 to 6 p.m. March 25 at Once Upon a Toy store at The Marketplace at Downtown Disney and 9 to 11 a.m. March 26 at the Writer's Stop inside Disney's Hollywood Studios. Park admission is required for the Writer's Stop event.

"The Return: Disney Lands" and "The Syndrome" will be available to purchase at the Walt Disney World events for their list prices of $17.99 and $12.99, respectively. Disney Vacation Club and Walt Disney World annual passholder discounts will be honored.

A wristband, which is required to meet Pearson, will be distributed to guests with each book purchase. Wristbands are available as soon as the store opens. For Once Upon a Toy, that's 10 a.m. March 25. The Writer's Stop opens at 9 a.m. (when Disney's Hollywood Studies does) on March 26. Each wristband allows the guest to get two books signed. Once the wristbands have been distributed, the line to meet Ridley Pearson will close.

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My 12-year-old son is a Kingdom Keepers fan, and we have attended several book signings over the years. Our tips: Don't underestimate Pearson's popularity. Get a wristband early if this is a must-do event for your group. Also, your time with Pearson is brief, so be prepared. If you'd like him to write something special in your book, jot it down ahead of time.

Pearson also will be signing books at Disneyland on March 28. From 10 a.m. to noon, he will be at Disneyana on Main Street, U.S.A., in Disneyland park, and from 2 to 4 p.m., he will be at the World of Disney store at Downtown Disney.



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January 15, 2015

Fans invited to submit writing and artwork based on Ridley Pearson's 'Kingdom Keeper' books

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Author Ridley Pearson has long celebrated the fans who have made his "Kingdom Keepers" books best sellers, even inviting them to help him write the last novel in the original young adult series that is set at Disney properties. That book, "The Insider," was published last spring.

Since then, Pearson has been at work on a trilogy that picks up where "The Insider" left off. The first book in the new series, "The Return: Disney Lands," has a U.S. publication date of March 31. The author also has been busy creating "Fairlies Adventures," a series of novellas in the "Kingdom Keepers" series. The first, "The Syndrome," will be released March 3. And throughout the creative process, Pearson has again solicited submissions from fans, the best of which will be included in the projects and their promotions.

Although some writing contests have closed, there still are some ways young adults can be involved with their beloved "Kingdom Keepers" series. Last summer, Pearson invited readers to participate in eight writing challenges that ended on Sept. 1. The deadline has been reached, but the entries (and the winners) are posted on kingdomkeepersinsider.com, so fans can have a sneak peek at what will be in the finished novel.

Pearson sums up the plot on his website this way: "With the defeat of the Overtakers behind them, the five teenagers known as the Kingdom Keepers should be celebrating. By all accounts, they saved Disneyland from certain destruction. Why then did their mentor leave one last puzzle for them to decipher? The Keepers must solve a puzzle of the past, or be crushed under an evil that makes the Overtakers seem like gentle souls."

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As for the "Fairlies Adventures," Pearson says the name comes from the "fairly human" girls Amanda, Jess and Mattie. "Over the years, they've protected and supported the five Disney guides with their paranormal abilities," he wrote.

Writing challenges still are open for the first novella on TheKingdomKeepers.com. According to the website, "If you, collectively, can decipher the clues in time, you'll unlock sneak previews and behind-the-scenes intel on this awesome new book."

Plus, artists are asked to submit drawings of Amanda, Jess and Mattie by Jan. 17 for a chance to be featured in the book trailer. Submissions should be sent to Pearson's assistant Jen at jen@ridleypearson.com. Fans can view the art as it is submitted on Pinterest at http://www.pinterest.com/ridleypearson/fairlies/

The team has utilized fan art for projects in the past, including T-shirts for the book publicity tour.

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Speaking of the tour, for the last several years, Pearson has launched each new "Kingdom Keepers" novel at Walt Disney World. No word yet on whether he will be in Central Florida for the release of "The Return: Disney Lands," but stay tuned because we definitely are watching for the announcement. In the meantime, here are some tips and thoughts about what to expect at such a popular book signing, should it come our way again.



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July 11, 2014

Author Ridley Pearson announces sequels to popular Kingdom Keepers series

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Fans of the Kingdom Keepers series who are sad after finishing the final installment this spring won't have a longer-than-usual wait to be reunited with some of their favorite literary characters. That's because author Ridley Pearson announced on his website and social media this week that he is working on a trilogy that picks up where book seven, "The Insider," left off. And, true to the pattern of the last several years, the first follow-up novel will be released next spring. "The Return: Disney Lands" has a publication date of March 31, 2015.

Even while writing "The Insider," Pearson was clear that he was not ready to stop writing about the popular teenage characters who protect Walt Disney World, Disneyland and Disney Cruise Line ships after the guests go home.

"We were debating something considerably different for the second series, and I think it won't be all that different in a lot of ways because I'm having a hard time letting go of the characters and the readers polled are having a hard time letting go of it being about the [Disney] parks," Pearson told me. "They'll be older. I hope it will be mostly the same characters and also set in the Disney parks."

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The official news came as the author announced Thursday that he is again soliciting writing submissions from fans, and the best will be included in "Disney Lands." Unlike the fan participation on "Insider," which invited readers to work on a chapter at a time, this year's submissions are framed as eight writing challenges that run simultaneously with a single deadline. They are outlined on the Kingdom Keepers Insider website -- prose, poetry and even song lyrics -- and the competition has begun.

Fans can send their submissions through the website or the free Kingdom Keepers Insider app, which is available across all digital platforms.

Don't fancy yourself a writer but you enjoy the Kingdom Keepers characters? You still can read and vote for your favorite submissions online through Sept. 1.

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The first challenge features the very popular queen, Elsa, from the hit animated movie, "Frozen." Your mission, should you choose to accept it: "Describe the visuals of seeing (Cast Member) Elsa in her surroundings at the meet-and-greet inside Walt Disney World's Princess Fairytale Hall. If you haven't been there, you can make it up! (or do a web search for images and then put into your own words)."

It will be interesting to see how this writing prompt fits into the novel. Pearson released this description of his upcoming book: "With the defeat of the Overtakers behind them, the five teenagers known as the Kingdom Keepers should be celebrating. By all accounts, they saved Disneyland from certain destruction. Why then did their mentor leave one last puzzle for them to decipher? The Keepers must solve a puzzle of the past, or be crushed under an evil that makes the Overtakers seem like gentle souls."

The Kingdom Keepers Insider website offers one last clue: The Kingdom Keepers are going to Imagineering school. What do you think is going to happen in this sequel?



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February 27, 2014

Author Ridley Pearson launches final 'Kingdom Keepers' book at Walt Disney World in March

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"Kingdom Keepers" fans who will be visiting Walt Disney World next month are in for a treat. Author Ridley Pearson will be signing copies of the final installment of his series, and guests can purchase the book days ahead of its national release date.

"Kingdom Keepers: The Insider" is the seventh book in the popular Young Adult series that takes place inside the Walt Disney World theme parks and aboard Disney Cruise Line ships. But this book was created differently than the others in the series because Pearson allowed readers to help write the book. By using a free app, also called Kingdom Keepers Insider, fans were allowed to submit ideas and actual writing to be considered for publication.

When I interviewed Pearson at the start of this process last year, he said, "I really feel so grateful to the readers that I felt it a little unfair if I was the only one who decided how this whole world was going to come to a close."

"I'm going to post a chapter every Sunday and a piece of the outline for the next week. The readers will come in and vote on things and give me suggestions and write fan fiction that I will actually clip right into the book. Then I will finish that next chapter and post it Sunday, and we'll start the process over. So, in real time, the reader will be seeing what the book is going to be as I'm writing it and help me decide where it goes. Near the end, we'll stop that and I'll finish the book on my own " It's really going to be a fun process."

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Now, it's time to see what the collaboration has produced. The book, which will be released on April 1, is described this way: "In this, the final installment in the epic Kingdom Keepers series, betrayal and ambition push the boundaries of loyalty. Chasing scattered clues in pursuit of a long-lost icon, whose magic offers a fighting chance against an evil that Walt Disney himself created, the Keepers find their hearts and minds tested in the park where it all began. Bonds that once threatened to fray are renewed under the pressure for survival. As the five are pushed to their limits"and then beyond, feelings intensify behind self-imposed walls of well kept secrets."

As he has done for the past several years, Pearson will make two appearances at Walt Disney World to promote the book. On March 26, the author will be signing books from 4 to 6 p.m. at Once Upon a Toy at Downtown Disney Marketplace. The next day, March 27, Pearson will visit Writer's Stop at Hollywood Studios from 9 to 11 a.m.


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My 11-year-old son is a huge Kingdom Keepers fan, and we have attended several book signings. Over the years, we have collected some tips that may be helpful to first-timers. Here's what you need to know:

** Lines will begin forming hours prior to the Downtown Disney signing, so plan to be there early. A limited number of wristbands will be distributed.

** In order to get an autograph, you are required to purchase KK7 at Walt Disney World. Each person with a wristband is allowed to purchase two copies of the book. Fans who want to purchase the book but don't want to wait for an autograph are directed to a separate queue. (Passholder discounts are applicable to these purchases.)

** Regular theme-park admission is required for the event at Hollywood Studios.

** Your time with Pearson is brief, so be prepared. If you'd like him to write something special in your book, jot it down ahead of time.

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** Be on the lookout for surprises while waiting in line. Last year, Pearson took the time to walk through the queue, greeting all his Kingdom Keepers readers and posing for photos before the event started.

** If you arrive too late to obtain a wristband, which guarantees a meeting with Pearson, ask about the stand-by queue. Another group of guests are given different wristbands in case the author has time to meet additional fans during the event.

Finally, for the many fans who are sad to see this series end, don't fret too much. Pearson has indicated a new series would continue the adventures of the Kingdom Keepers.

"We were debating something considerably different for the second series, and I think it won't be all that different in a lot of ways because I'm having a hard time letting go of the characters and the readers polled are having a hard time letting go of it being about the [Disney] parks," he told me. "They'll be older. I hope it will be mostly the same characters and also set in the Disney parks."



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November 5, 2013

Do you have what it takes to be a Kingdom Keeper at Disney's Animal Kingdom?

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Am I smarter than a fifth-grader? I guess I have to admit I'm not after my adventure last weekend with my 11-year-old son at Disney's Animal Kingdom. We set out to solve one of the new Kingdom Keepers Quests in the "2014 Birnbaum Guides to Walt Disney World" that was released at the end of September.

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For those not familiar with the term "Kingdom Keepers," it comes from a popular series of books by the same name from author Ridley Pearson. The Kingdom Keepers are students who protect the theme park from Disney villains, known as Overtakers in the books.

In 2011, Disney Youth Programs launched the first Kingdom Keepers Quest, a self-guided tour that Pearson helped design to create an immersive experience for the series' fans at Magic Kingdom. Because that program also has educational components -- such as building skills in problem solving, creativity, language arts, mathematics and critical thinking -- it is offered to groups of students.

Fans like my son, who weren't visiting the Magic Kingdom with their schools, though, were disappointed and had no such opportunity, so the self-guided adventures were created with Pearson's input. In 2012, the first individual tour took Kingdom Keepers fans through five quests in the Magic Kingdom.

As a fourth-grader, my son found the challenges in the Magic Kingdom to be difficult enough to keep his attention without being so overwhelming that he wanted to give up. Some of the clues came from "Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark," the first book in the series, which means participants need to have some basic knowledge of the characters in the book. (There is a new Kingdom Keepers Quest set in the Magic Kingdom in the Birnbaum Guides.)

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The new Kingdom Keepers Quest at Animal Kingdom uses a few clues from the second novel, "Kingdom Keepers II: Disney at Dawn," word play and the ability to read a map (or familiarity with the theme park's layout). My son breezed through the first of four quests at Animal Kingdom, only to be stumped by this clue in the second: "Now think of yourself as floating/flying. Find P.O. Box 275 stuck to a wall in the area." And I couldn't offer any assistance.

We searched high and low for this item, having spotted several other P.O. Boxes identifiable by small print, to no avail. We even resorted to asking two cast members, who had no idea what we were talking about. There was construction in the area at the time of our adventure, so I have to wonder if the P.O. Box in question was behind those walls. If you do find P.O. Box 275, please tell us where in the comments below!

When participants successfully complete the Animal Kingdom quest, they will have a code to enter online to receive a printable reward for their hard work. The Kingdom Keepers Quests take about 60 to 90 minutes total to complete -- compared with 3 to 4 hours for the Disney Youth Programs version. (The folks at Disney World, though, are in the process of developing an Animal Kingdom quest for school groups, too.)

Self-guided scavenger hunts and games -- such as Kingdom Keepers Quests, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, and A Pirate's Adventure: Treasure of the Seven Seas -- are a popular trend at Walt Disney World recently, and with good reason. The adventures can be completed in short periods of time in between FastPasses and dining reservations with little to no wait. In addition, the games can be stopped and resumed at will, making the flexibility appealing. The activities are fun and mentally stimulating, giving park guests one more way to outsmart a villain and protect a Disney kingdom. And don't worry if you need help. Just ask the nearest fifth-grader you find.



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April 9, 2013

How fans can be Kingdon Keepers for a day at Walt Disney World

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This weekend, my 10-year-old son set out to be a Kingdom Keeper at the Magic Kingdom using the self-guided quest in Birnbaum Guides 2013 Walt Disney World edition. We didn't encounter any villains, but we did have fun with a new challenge in a favorite theme park.

For those not familiar with the term "Kingdom Keepers," it comes from a popular series of books by the same name from author Ridley Pearson. The Kingdom Keepers are students who protect the theme park from Disney villains, known as Overtakers in the books.

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In 2011, Disney Youth Education Series (YES) launched the first Kingdom Keepers Quest, a self-guided tour that Pearson helped design to create an immersive experience for the series' fans at Magic Kingdom. Because that program also has educational components -- such as building skills in problem solving, creativity, language arts, mathematics and critical thinking -- it is offered to groups of students.

Fans who weren't visiting the Magic Kingdom with their schools, though, were disappointed and had no such opportunity -- until this year's Birnbaum Guide was published. So, what can fans like my son expect from the individual self-guided quest?

"[The quests] are all me, so they're the same feel," Pearson told me recently. "I think that because of space limitations, they're certainly truncated. " They may be a little more difficult in YES, but those take 3 to 4 hours, and this one takes, maybe, an hour and a half."

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Don't be fooled, though. Birnbaum's Kingdom Keepers Quest is not simple -- at least not for a fourth-grader and his mother. We didn't have any difficulty finding the various locations in Magic Kingdom that the clues describe, but some of the codes and word play took multiple readings to decipher. This was especially true of the first quest in the set of five. Fortunately, you can solve the quests in any order and then put the clues together for the final answer, so we did skip the first one and save it for the end.

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Embedded in each quest are passages from "Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark," the first book in the series, which hint at some of the answers. And, if you have a smartphone and download an app, there are extra goodies you can unlock in the Magic Kingdom to help entertain and guide you through the quests. I don't want to give those surprises away, but the ones we saw were pretty darn cool. Plus, smartphone users can tackle an additional Expert Challenge Quest.

Can't get enough Kingdom Keepers? You're in luck. Disney Youth Education Series currently is testing a new quest for school groups at Animal Kingdom that will launch soon. Individual fans will get their own Animal Kingdom quest in the 2014 Birnbaum Guides for Walt Disney World, which will be released this fall.

"I'm just finishing now a new [Birnbaum quest] for 2014 that is four pages of Magic Kingdom and four pages of Animal Kingdom," Pearson told me. "I think we'll build that out as the years go forward."

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In the meantime, fans can meet Pearson this week when he appears at Walt Disney World to sign copies of the latest book in the series, "Kingdom Keepers 6: Dark Passage," which was released April 2. For details on these events and more about what's in store in the next Kingdom Keepers books, please see my earlier blog post.

March 16, 2013

Ridley Pearson says fans will help write last 'Kingdom Keepers' book in series

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"Kingdom Keepers" readers: Get ready for a couple of new adventures. Author Ridley Pearson has some exciting news for fans of the young-adult series that is set in Walt Disney World and aboard Disney Cruise Line ships.

Of course, readers of the series know that the sixth installment, "Kingdom Keepers 6: Dark Passage," hits shelves April 2. But what they probably don't know is that after they read the book, readers actually can participate in the writing of the seventh and final book in the series - and they will be able to read most of it as chapters are produced weekly.

"I have outlined the seventh book, but I really feel so grateful to the readers that I felt it a little unfair if I was the only one who decided how this whole world was going to come to a close," Pearson said when my 10-year-old son, a "Kingdom Keepers" fan, and I interviewed him recently at Epcot.

So, Pearson has spent two years with the help of a software company, to develop an app called Kingdom Keepers Insider (KKI). (Initially, it was referred to as Kingdom Keepers 7 Fan Fiction Experience.) The free app will be available across all platforms, and there will a web version for people who don't have access to an iOS or Android device.

Pearson described Kingdom Keepers Insider like this: "I'm going to post a chapter every Sunday and a piece of the outline for the next week. The readers will come in and vote on things and give me suggestions and write fan fiction that I will actually clip right into the book. Then I will finish that next chapter and post it Sunday, and we'll start the process over. So, in real time, the reader will be seeing what the book is going to be as I'm writing it and help me decide where it goes. Near the end, we'll stop that and I'll finish the book on my own " It's really going to be a fun process."

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Pearson is embracing fan fiction, something many authors might not do, so we had to ask his thoughts on all the stories written by fans who are inspired to create their own stories with his characters.

"I haven't experienced much of it because I didn't want anyone coming back and suing me and saying, 'Oh, that was my idea.' But it's a world that is so active in the Kingdom Keepers world. I have experts that I work with - high school juniors and seniors who are really well-read in the series - and they participate in all this and they are all part of KKI," he said. "This software protects me, but allows people to write fan fiction within it that then I can use if I want. Everyone is happy."

But hardly anyone is happy about the series drawing to a close, including Pearson. "I kind of wish it wasn't, but I have always felt it should. I don't like open-ended series," he said. "I wanted to end this originally at five books, and Disney talked me into seven."

For fans who dread April 2014, when the last "Kingdom Keepers" book will be released, Pearson offers some comfort -- there will be a second "Kingdom Keepers" series.

"We were debating something considerably different for the second series, and I think it won't be all that different in a lot of ways because I'm having a hard time letting go of the characters and the readers polled are having a hard time letting go of it being about the [Disney] parks. They'll be older. I hope it will be mostly the same characters and also set in the Disney parks," he said.

"On my last book tour, I took a hand poll of what people wanted - the same characters or the same locations. It was weird because I expected it to go one way, but it was 50-50. I was going to take the same characters and move them overseas into kind of a different world -- more our world, but with the Overtaker world coming into our world. I haven't started it yet. So we'll just have to see."

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In the meantime, Pearson is poised to begin his national book tour for KK6 in April. "In 'Kingdom Keepers 6,' the Kingdom Keepers are halfway through a long cruise that's going through the Panama Canal, and there are added Overtakers and there are some added helpers to the Kingdom Keepers. The stakes are much higher because of the Overtakers involved, and some really scary stuff happens that readers may not forgive me for," Pearson said.

He may well find out when he visits 11 stops on his book tour, beginning April 2. Pearson will be back at Walt Disney World to meet fans and sign books toward the end of the run. He is scheduled to appear from 4 to 7 p.m. April 10 at Once Upon a Toy at Downtown Disney Marketplace and from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. April 11 at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Admission is required to attend the theme-park signing. (You can read about last year's event on my previous blog post.)

A tip to fellow Kingdom Keepers fans: We have attended the Downtown Disney book signings for the last two years and readers line up well before the start time. Fans should expect the same as this popular series continues with the last two books.


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About Kingdom Keepers

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in the Kingdom Keepers category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Hour of Code is the previous category.

Kohl's Cares is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.