Recently I had the honor and privilege to sit down with author Ridley Pearson to discuss his amazing Kingdom Keeper books. For those not familiar with the series we recently did a “TMSM Explains” article dedicated to the basics of the Kingdom Keeper series. When I met with Ridley he had recently started a tour to promote his two new books “The Syndrome” and “The Return: Disney Lands.”
Ridley was nice enough to sit and visit with me and answer my and Main Streeter’s questions over a Dole Whip at the Polynesian. Before the Kingdom Keeper books were even a thought, Ridley was a mystery book writer for adults. The jump from mystery books to young adult Disney Park related books came after a family trip to Walt Disney World with Dave Barry and his family. Prior to the trip Ridley had contacted Disney to get information about Disney and the parks to be able to “one up” Dave trivia wise. After the trip Ridley contacted the person who had assisted him and after she discussed Disney Imagineers and all that they do to create the parks she asked him if he would be interested in writing a thriller for young adults in the Disney Parks that would keep in line with Disney’s standards.
In trying to keep up with the guidelines Disney had presented him (the characters could not get seriously injured, die etc.) Ridley spent a long time trying to figure out a way to do this, but still keep the story interesting and thrilling. After seeing a plastic dish with a pig hologram on it he realized that holograms would allow him to stay within the guidelines while making the story fun and interesting.
Once the first Kingdom Keepers book was complete it had to be run by uppers in Disney including the head of WDI. The approval process took a year, and to this day nothing edgy goes into a Kingdom Keeper book without Disney’s approval.
During the interview I mentioned to Ridley that I had noticed that the DHI’s in the books seemed to have connections to the MDE system, and that these connections appeared in the story line well before Disney announced and confirmed the My Disney Experience program. I asked if this was something Disney had tipped Ridley off too for the books or if it was merely coincidence he explained it was in fact coincidence. Once the original seven Kingdom Keeper books were finished fans wanted Ridley to continue the stories but Ridley knew he would either need to create new Keepers or allow the current set of Keepers to mature while taking on a new challenge.
Knowing how popular the Kingdom Keeper books are with Main Streeters I decided to ask Ridley questions from Nation Members. A week or so before the interview I asked Main Streeters in TMSM Fan Nation “if you could ask Ridley Pearson any one question what would it be?”
Would you like to see the books made into movies?
Ridley would love to see the books made into movies but currently Disney is not interested in going down that path. Ridley did suggest that those who would like to see the books made into movies should contact Disney and let them know they are interested in seeing that project come to life.
Where did you get the names for the Kingdom Keepers characters from?
All of the characters are inspired by real life people, places or just sounded good to Ridley, and the characters themselves are based on himself or people he knows. Finn was the first name that came to him but it was originally spelled Phen. Charlene and Willa were names that Ridley just liked. Philby was in part “in Spain in WW2”, Maybeck was named for Bernard Maybeck, Wayne was originally named Fred, but after a late night research trip on Splash Mountain. That night Ridley met the real life cast member Wayne who had at that time worked for Disney for 35 years and was a wealth of knowledge.
How much time do you spend researching a Kingdom Keeper book?
This can in fact vary by book, but Ridley (and in part his amazing staff) have spent an enormous amount of time researching the parks and Disney history either online, and while on at least 20 after hours park trips.
What is the best hidden secret you discovered but did not write about in a book?
When Ridley started writing the Kingdom Keeper books it was explained to him that there were certain things that Disney kept secret for various reasons. He also signed a confidentiality agreement. So unfortunately the BEST hidden secret Ridley has learned while researching the Kingdom Keepers books has not been told, because he can’t tell it.
The Keepers have been to Walt Disney World, Disneyland and on the Disney Cruise Lines. Is there a chance for a series at the Disney Parks located outside the US?
Kingdom Keepers International is a thought on the horizon but the story line to these books would be less Disney and more young adult themed.
For those who have yet to read the Kingdom Keepers series, I encourage you to check out this amazing series. If you start reading soon you will be all caught up by March/April of 2016, which is when the next book in the Return series is set to be released! Also, I highly recommend going to one of Ridley’s book signings if you have have the opportunity. Also, if you are planning on attending the D23 Expo this year, make sure you go to Ridley and Marty Skylar’s presentation “Exploring the Past, Present, and Future of Storytelling ” Friday, August 14 at 3pm.
I would also like to thank Ridley for his time and for doing this interview!
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