Whether you are a Disney fan yourself or looking for a perfect gift for the Disney fan in your life, one of these books about Disney World and Disneyland is sure to be hit. What better way to bring some of the magic home than by diving into a book!
Some of these books are published by Disney (so may be a little biased), but a good chunk of them aren’t. You’ll find everything from Walt Disney biographies (there are lots of those) to deep dives into parks to coffee table books full of concept art. Most of these books are non-fiction, although there are a couple novels here geared toward younger readers.
Whether you’re looking for park development history, animation behind-the-scenes looks, or books about Disney as a business, we’re got the right book for you. If you are a Disney fan, this list of books about Disney should give you a pretty good TBR (to be read) pile!
Non-Fiction Books About Disney World and Disneyland
The Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History by Nathalia Holt
They never got mentioned in the credits, but from the very beginning of Disney’s animated films, women have been essential to getting movies made. This book dives into the history from Snow White to Frozen, telling the stories of women who worked on these films and the way they revolutionized movies. This fascinating book will make you watch Disney movies with a different lens after you read it. For fans of narrative non-fiction. (Note: I REALLY enjoyed this book!)
Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler
From his early days revolutionizing animated films to his theme park empire, Walt Disney lived a life like no other, driven by creative ambition. This is perhaps the quintessential biography of Walt Disney, tracing his story from his family of origin to his death before the completion of Disney World. For fans of doorstop biographies.
The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger
Bob Iger became the CEO of Disney in 2005, and led the company through years of unprecedented growth, acquiring companies and expanding theme parks and creative properties. Here he tells his lessons learned from his years as head of the company, sharing both the extreme difficulties (the book begins with the tragic 2016 alligator attack) and the great successes. For fans of business books and memoirs.
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
Pixar, a part of Disney since 2006, has been a giant of animation ever since the debut of Toy Story. In this book, co-founder Ed Catmull gives a behind the scenes look at how Pixar operates, with insight on how to work as a creative team, solve problems, and sustain growth. For fans of books about business and creativity.
Disney’s Land: Walt Disney and the Invention of the Amusement Park That Changed the World by Richard Snow
While Disneyland may be an iconic theme park today, it had a rocky beginning — from objections within the Disney family to an almost disastrous opening day. This book chronicles the history of the development of Disneyland, the theme park that changed the way we view theme parks. For fans of non-fiction and Disneyland.
Walt Disney: An American Original by Bob Thomas
If you want to read a biography about Walt Disney but are a little intimidated by the page count of Neal Gabler’s book, this might be the right book for you. It’s put out by Disney, so some readers point out that less flattering facts are slightly glossed over. But many see this as an excellent portrait of Disney’s life. For fans of biographies.
The Disney Story: Chronicling the Man, the Mouse and the Parks by Aaron H. Goldberg
If you are looking for a detailed and straightforward book about the history of Disney, this very well might be the book for you. There’s not much of a narrative in this book, but there’s not supposed to be. This is basically a giant detailed timeline of Disney, starting with the release of Steamboat Willie and going into the 2000s. For fans of facts, trivia, and history.
Buying Disney’s World: The Story of How Florida Swampland Became Walt Disney World by Aaron H. Goldberg
A lot of books about Disney World focus on the development of the theme park. But this one focuses on the procurement of the land and how exactly the “Florida Project,” which became Disney World and contains its own municipality, went down and how a swamp was turned into a theme park. For fans of history.
To Pixar and Beyond: My Unlikely Journey with Steve Jobs to Make Entertainment History by Lawrence Levy
While not explicitly about Disney, Pixar did eventually become part of the Disney family and this business memoir walks through some of the early days of the company. Pixar definitely didn’t seem like it was going to be a success from the beginning, and this book tells the story of how a company many doubted would work became one of the most influential animation companies of all time. For fans of business memoirs.
The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World, 3rd Edition: Over 600 Secrets of the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom by Susan Veness
Do you know where to find Belle’s childhood growth chart? Or where to find Sorcerer Mickey on Carousel of Progress? If you love Disney easter eggs hidden in the parks, this book is a must-have. Veness walks through every corner of the theme parks, explaining design elements and hidden features. The books also includes a timeline of each park’s development. For fans of Disney park trivia.
Marty Sklar started working for Disney just one month before the opening of Disneyland, and he eventually became a Disney legend. This memoir steps through his decades of creative work at Disney. For fans of business memoir.
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Coffee Table and Gift Books About Disney World and Disneyland
Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making More Magic Real by The Imagineers and Marty Sklar
This coffee table book about Disney World and Disneyland will have Disney fans flipping pages for hours. Between behind the scenes Imagineering information to tons of color photos and concept art, this books takes you into the process of Imagineering for Disney.
Poster Art of Disney Parks by Daniel Handke and Vanessa Hunt
We’ve all seen them: the Disney World or Disneyland attraction posters with bright colors and imaginative illustrations. They may bring up instant nostalgia and/or make you want to take an immediate spin on your favorite ride. Here a sampling of this poster art is compiled in a book, some of them full-page illustrations, and each organized by land.
Maps of the Disney Parks: Charting 60 Years from California to Shanghai by Vanessa Hunt, Kevin Neary, and Susan Neary
Would now be the right time to tell you that I LOVE Disney maps? And honestly if you are a Disney fan you probably understand. I spent hours of my childhood studying the maps in our guidebooks, and this is now a book I want. Compiling maps from Disney parks across the world and from 60 years of history, this book is for Disney map lovers. (Also note that this book has an interesting cover…it unfolds in the center like a map.)
The Disney Book: A Celebration of the World of Disney by Jim Fanning
This coffee table book explores the world of both Disney films and theme parks. The book includes photographs, concept art, and trivia. While it does touch on both films and theme parks, the biggest chunk of it is devoted to films. Also, this book has been reviewed by the School Library Journal is recommended for kids ages 8 and up, but it is definitely not targeted for kids specifically and adults will enjoy it as well.
The Disney Monorail: Imagineering a Highway in the Sky by Jeff Kurtti, Vanessa Hunt, and Paul Wolski
The Monorail at Disneyland and Disney World has some truly dedicated fans. If you are one of them this might be the book for you. The Disney Monorail compiles photographs and history of the construction and operation of the monorail in a coffee table book fans will pour over.
The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas
Written by two legendary Disney animators, this book takes a deep dive into animation including the history, development, and techniques used in the Disney movies we love. It comes with plenty of process illustrations, early sketches, and animation timelines. This is for true animation geeks.
The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook: From Delicious Dole Whip to Tasty Mickey Pretzels, 100 Magical Disney-Inspired Recipes by Ashley Craft
Popular with Disney foodies, this cookbook can help bring your favorite theme park dishes home to your own kitchen. The recipes are broken up by park, making it easy to find your favorites. Recipes included here are Disneyland Churros, Blue Milk from Batuu, Cheeseburger Spring Rolls from Magic Kingdom, and so many more.
The Disney Princess: A Celebration of Art and Creativity by Charles Solomon
The creative development and animation that has gone into the Disney Princesses over the years is truly and story in and of itself. This book focuses solely on the story of these princesses, from early animations to background stories of their development. It includes every princess from Snow White to Moana.
Walt Disney’s Disneyland by Chris Nichols
If you want a book that really focuses on photographs of Disneyland, this book is a great option. Walt Disney’s Disneyland walks through the history of Disneyland through pictures, concept art, and minimal text. A perfect coffee table book for Disneyland fans.
A Portrait of Walt Disney World: 50 Years of the Most Magical Place on Earth by Kevin Kern, Tim O’Day, and Steven Vagnini, Illustrated by Fabiola Garza
This book is being released in conjunction with Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration, so it isn’t out just yet. It will be released on September 28, and I’m willing to bet it will be a must-have in any collection of books about Disney World. It promises park history, photographs, concept art and more.
Books About Disney World and Disneyland for Children and Young Adults
I am Walt Disney by Brad Meltzer, Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
Part of the Ordinary People Change the World series, this picture book biography focuses on Walt Disney. It pairs bold illustrations with informational text, focusing on what inspired Walt Disney to dream big and how he has continued to inspire us. Recommended ages: 5-8 years.
National Geographic Readers: Walt Disney by Barbara Kramer
National Geographic just has a way of making information fun for kids, and this book on Walt Disney is no exception. It is full of pictures, bright colors, and not too much text on the page (so as not to overwhelm young readers). While the information is brief, this is a great introduction to Walt Disney for young readers (and the price makes this an easy grab). Recommended ages: 7-9 years.
Who Was Walt Disney? by Whitney Steward
Part of the popular “Who Was” series, this biography on Walt Disney is perfect for kids wanting to know more about the man behind the magic. The book starts with his childhood in Marceline, Missouri and goes through his animation career and theme park building. Perfect for young readers looking to start biographies. Recommended ages: 7-10 years.
Where Is Walt Disney World? by Joan Holub
This book delves into Disney World for kids, taking them through the parks and behind the scenes. Just a warning: if your kids are still fully invested in the magic, this may not be right for them (it can ruin some of the illusions). But if you have an older kid who wants to know how the park works, this may be just right. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
Walt Disney: Drawn from Imagination by Bill Scollon, Illustrated by Adrienne Brown
Biographies about Walt Disney for young readers are clearly a popular thing. If you have a young reader who loves biographies in your family, this is another one you can put in their hands. It traces Walt’s history from his childhood in Marceline, Missouri, through animation and theme park creation and ultimately to his somewhat sudden death. It’s geared for slightly older readers than the Who Was series books. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
Meet the Disney Brothers: A Unique Biography About Walt Disney by Aaron H. Goldberg
Another biography for young readers about Walt Disney, this book also focuses on both the Disney brothers. It tells the story of their childhood and their development of the Disney empire together. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
Birnbaum’s 2020 Walt Disney World for Kids: The Official Guide by Birnbuam Guides
If you’re looking for a book that will introduce your kids to all the different lands and rides in Disney World, Birnbaum’s guide is excellent. It breaks down the sections of the parks, gives ride reviews from kids, shares tips for visiting the park, and has hints for where to find hidden Mickeys. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark by Ridley Pearson
This thriller about Disney World for middle grade readers sets five teen Disney guides against villains come to life in the Magic Kingdom. Maleficent is leading a band of villians to destroy the park, and Finn Whitman and his fellow Disney guides must save it. This is the first book in the Kingdom Keepers series. Recommended ages: 9-12 years.
Disneylanders by Kate Abbott
On her last trip to Disneyland before high school, Casey meets Bert. They spend the day together, and Casey just might be falling for him. But Bert also has secrets and doesn’t seem to be there with any family at all. Recommended ages: 13 and up.
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