The Wonderful Worlds of Walt Disney

They aren’t just about films and bad tween television.  They also used to do a lot of books.  A lot of wonderful books.

Back in the days before videos, if you loved the Disney films, you had the chance to see them every several years when they were re-released (I, in fact, saw Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Mary Poppins and Fantasia all in the theater).  But, other than that, you had the books to get you through either what you were trying to remember or what you had never had a chance to see.

The Disney Company has released all sorts of books through the years, various tie-ins with all of their films and such.  But I want to focus on two types of books, specifically, which we happen to have in our library.  The first is the Little Golden Books that Disney released through the years (they had a tie-in with them for a long time).  The other is the set of books called The Wonderful Worlds of Walt Disney that was released in 1965.

our collection of Disney Little Golden Books

The Little Golden Books (l to r, from top):

  • Mickey Mouse and the Best-Neighbor Contest (1977)
  • Mickey Mouse’s Picnic (1950)
  • Mickey Moose and Goofy The Big Bear Scare (1978)
  • Mother Goose (1952)
  • Sleeping Beauty (1986)
  • Alice in Wonderland Meets the White Rabbit (1951)
  • Cinderella (1997)
  • Sleeping Beauty (yes, we have it twice)  (2004)
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1997)
  • The Little Mermaid (1998)
  • Lady (1954)
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  • The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1994)
  • Lady and the Tramp (1991)
  • Lady and the Tramp (yes, we have it twice)  (1954)
  • Donald Duck Instant Millionaire (1978)
  • Favorite Nursery Tales (1973)
  • Donald Duck and the Big Dog (1986)
  • Mickey and the Beanstalk (1988)  –  not pictured

Now, there is no way on earth I am going to attempt to list all of the Disney Golden Books.  First of all, this isn’t even all of the Disney Golden Books we have.  I didn’t include the Pixar books and I didn’t include any Pooh books (Pooh will get his own For Love of Books post at a future date).  The collaboration between Walt Disney and Little Golden Books began when it was still Big Little Books put out by Whitman Publishing in 1933.  There are several pages devoted to the collaboration in the wonderful Golden Legacy, the story of Little Golden Books (and by the way, the LGB will also get their own post later on).  The numbering system for Disney books in the Little Golden Books system seems to have begun around 1947 with the first five titles, in order, being Johnny Appleseed, Peter and the Wolf, Dumbo, Snow White and apparently, Peter and the Wolf again.  Several of the books that we have are old enough that they still have this numbering system (Mickey Mouse’s Picnic is D15, for instance), and in several of them, printed in the late 70’s, it lists a variety of titles and their numbers (it also lists a variety of other LGB and the numbering goes up to 600).  Then, at some point in the 80’s, they must have done a renumbering, because we have many titles with a three digit number, followed by a two digit number and there is just too much for me to try to track it all down.

Needless to say, they are wonderful books.  Many of them, of course, are adaptations of the various Disney animated films.  But there are also a lot of good Mickey and Donald stories.  The books hold up wonderfully well and I was surprised to flip through Mickey Mouse’s Picnic just now, which was Veronica’s from growing up, and know it exactly – I must have also read it a bunch of times as a kid.  These books spanned across generations and it seems that we all knew them.  They keep producing them and all the ones with later dates are ones we have bought for Thomas, usually at the Used Book Superstore, which is a great place to find used children’s books.

Flipping through Walt Disney’s Mother Goose (which I also seemed to know), I found, at the book, an advertisement for the other series that I want to write about here – the one I am even more familiar with and which many people might not be familiar with at all.  It is The Wonderful Worlds of Walt Disney, a four volume set, also printed by Golden Press, complete in slipcase that I had growing up.  Those books were already starting to fall apart when they got to me and by now they are mostly in pieces.  My copy of the set is one that I bought off EBay several years ago after finding one volume at a Library sale and being reminded of it (Veronica just revealed she had it as a kid as well – which explains the missing send away card in the back of one of her Little Golden Books).

the four wonderful books of my childhood

  • Walt Disney’s Fantasyland
    • This book consists of 15 stories, mostly adaptation of the animated films.  Of those, we have Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, Peter and the Wolf (Make Mine Music), Bongo (Fun and Fancy Free), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Dumbo of the Circus, Cinderella and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Fantasia).  We also have all of the poems from Walt Disney’s Mother Goose.  Most of the stories make use of illustrations from the films, except, for some reason, Snow White and Cinderella.  There is also Grandpa Bunny, which was an early LGB, The Three Little Pigs, The Grasshopper and the Ants, The Ugly Duckling and The Brave Little Tailor (all Disney shorts in the 30’s) and, oddly enough, Babes in Toyland, which was a live action Disney film.  For a long time, this was my only knowledge of those classic Disney animated films, long before I ever got a chance to watch any of them.  This was also the book I remember as being in the worst shape, with the last several pages missing during my childhood.
  • Walt Disney’s Worlds of Nature
    • In some ways this was both my least favorite and my favorite.  On the one hand, it doesn’t really have any narrative stories like the others.  But it has some great descriptions of animals in nature.  It starts out with larger landscapes (Arctic, mountains, prairies, deserts), then focuses on specific animals, giving a couple of pages to a wide array of creatures.  But there’s one bit that I always returned to on pages 83 and 84.  I have always been terrified of wasps and always been fascinated by tarantulas.  It tells the story of the pepsis wasp, which is also called a tarantula hawk.  They battle tarantulas, stinging them, leaving them alive.  Then it will lay an egg on the tarantula for the baby to eat when it is born.  I am reminded of Charles Barkley talking about how often he has seen The Perfect Storm and how each time he hopes they will come out alive.  I always root for the tarantula and I know it will always lose.  But I can’t help but be fascinated, even now, 30 years later.  I still have distinctive memories of sitting at the end of the hall in the house on Sylvan in front of the brown bookcase with the doors at the bottom, reading these pages over and over again.
  • Walt Disney’s America
    • The 17 stories in this one begin with Lady and the Tramp.  Then we have Toby Tyler (a live action film from 1960), Paul Revere, Donald Duck at Disneyland, Uncle Remus Stories (Song of the South – just about the only way to experience it), Ben and Me (a short from 1953), Davy Crockett (very big for Disney in the 50’s, but I became interested in him thanks to the kids biography I had of him that had been my dad’s), Old Yeller, Savage Sam (a sequel to Old Yeller), Johnny Appleseed (from Melody Time), Tonka, Polyanna, The Shaggy Dog, The Flying Car (which was the LGB version of The Absent-Minded Professor), The Navajos (from their Peoples and Places series), The Grand Canyon (a short little Mickey and Donald story) and Nomads of the North (one of their nature films).
  • Walt Disney’s Stories from Other Lands
    • There are 20 stories in this one.  We, again, have several of the films (Mary Poppins, The Sword in the Stone, Alice in Wonderland – titled Alice in Wonderland Meets the White Rabbit just like the LGB, 101 Dalmations, Peter Pan, The Adventures of Robin Hood (the Disney film The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men), The Swiss Family Robinson, Bambi, Big Red and Darby O’Gill.  There is also Zorro (from the Disney show), The Cold-Blooded Penguin and Goliath II (more shorts).  Then there are several little travelogues for Portugal, Sardinia, Morocco, Lapland, The Highlands, The Danube and Switzerland, all from the Disney motion picture series People and Places.

Between the four books, they provide stories from all the Disney animated films up to that time except Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.  Plus they also capture so many of those harder to find live action films, as well as all of their nature documentaries.  It’s not too hard to find the whole set for sale on-line.  If you get it, you won’t regret it.  I’ll bet your kids will spend hours looking at these books.  It’s better than having them spend hours staring at a Kindle.