83 pages 2 hours read

Ridley Pearson

The Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2005

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Summary and Study Guide


First published in 2005, Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark is a fantasy-adventure for middle-grade readers by Ridley Pearson. Young Finn Whitman and his fellow Disney Hosts each night turn into holograms who visit the Magic Kingdom, where they must defeat a cadre of evil Disney characters trying to break out of the park and take over the world. Winner of the Sunshine State Young Readers Award, the book is the first of more than a dozen novels in the New York Times bestselling Kingdom Keepers series. An online game and an interactive website supplement the series.

Author Pearson received a fellowship to Oxford University and later won the Quill Award from the Missouri Writers Hall of Fame. He has published more than two dozen adventure novels for young readers; he also writes suspense thrillers for adults, including the Risk Agent, Walt Fleming, and Lou Boldt series.

The 2020 revised edition of Disney After Dark reflects changes made to the theme parks since the first edition. The ebook version of the 2020 edition forms the basis for this study guide.

Plot Summary

Thirteen-year-old Florida resident Finn Whitman wins a Disney audition to be the model for a new animated host at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. The recording session uses computers that copy Finn’s words and actions and transform them into a hologram that greets park guests. Four other kids—Charlene, Willa, Maybeck, and Philby—also become Disney Host Interactives, or DHIs, the models for the holographic hosts.

At night, when they’re asleep, the kids wander the park as glowing, translucent holograms. An elderly Disney Imagineer, Wayne, greets them and explains that their real purpose is to fight against evil Disney characters brought to life by the world’s intense belief in them. Wayne says these dark beings, the Overtakers, are causing chaos in the park at night when no one can see them except the five holo-kids.

The teens must fall asleep at the same time to meet in the park and protect one another, but Finn can’t locate the others to coordinate with them. A girl at school, Amanda, offers to help and locates the other DHIs. Finn first gets Charlene and Philby to meet him in the park at night. They encounter audio-animatronic robots from the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, and one burns Finn’s arm with a Buzz Lightyear laser. Finn uses a laser to disable the pirate robots, who retreat.

Finn gets grounded because he cannot explain what looks like a cigarette burn on his arm to his mom. At school, he nearly collapses from a sudden attack of freezing cold, but Amanda helps him recover. They meet with Maybeck and convince him to join them. Finn and Amanda enter an online chat room where all the DHIs appear as avatars. Finn convinces them to go to sleep at nine o’clock and meet at the park.

It works: The kids show up together at the Central Plaza. Wayne leads them to a secret hideout high in the tower of Cinderella’s Castle. There, Wayne shares a story told to him by Walt Disney, which contains clues that might help solve the problem of the Overtakers.

The story describes sun, cloud, wind, and stone—images repeatedly appearing among the Magic Kingdom rides. Walt hinted to Wayne that the solution to the story involves a quill. The Disney Imagineers developed the DHI program to transform five capable, smart kids into beings with holographic powers to fight the Overtakers.

The team realizes they all felt cold at the same time that day. Wayne says that was when the holographic computer servers went down. Maybeck, a computer whiz, agrees to learn more about the servers to see if he can protect them and the team.

The group meets the next night at Frontierland’s Indian Encampment. They hide inside a teepee that the holographic broadcast can’t penetrate, which makes them invisible. A cold feeling sweeps over them, and a raspy-voiced woman approaches, saying she can feel their presence and warns them to leave. She peers into the teepee but can’t see them; they recognize her as Maleficent, one of the most evil Disney antagonists.

The holo-kids meet at the Fall Games event at Disney World’s sports complex, where they again feel cold. Finn meets a beautiful girl, Jez, who says he’s her favorite Disney host. That evening, Amanda and Jez show up at his house, but Finn must sleep, so he feigns a fever, and they leave.

Once asleep, Finn recalls Wayne’s comment that Walt Disney wanted to bring a new perspective to the resort. Finn has everyone wear 3-D glasses to look for clues. Charlene, Maybeck, and Willa check the Small World ride and discover the letters Y-I-R on a wall. Finn and Philby go to Splash Mountain and find the letters F-M-A against some painted clouds. Maybeck, meanwhile, has disappeared.

The next day, Finn and Amanda ride their bikes to Maybeck’s place and try to rouse him, but his aunt says he won’t wake up. Finn realizes Maybeck is being held hostage at nighttime Disney. On the way home, Finn and Amanda are chased by an assailant on a motorbike, but Amanda points at him, and he hurtles backward. Finn demands to know who she really is, but she won’t answer.

Finn and Philby find Maybeck tied up in a storage shed inside Space Mountain. Finn shows Maybeck how to use his holographic body to walk through walls, and the boy escapes. Maybeck admits he ditched Charlene and Willa to meet up with Jez, but it was a trap.

Charlene and Willa visit the park during the day. Wearing their 3-D glasses on the Winnie the Pooh ride, they find a painted letter “S” but nearly drown when their car is trapped between out-of-control fire sprinklers and locked exit doors. They find a pipe jammed between the doors, pull it free, and escape.

Finn’s mom demands to know why the clothes he wears to bed are dirty when he wakes up each morning. Finn confesses the truth about the kids’ nightly visits to the Magic Kingdom, but she doesn’t believe him. Frustrated, he goes to sleep and arrives at the park, where he and Philby discover the last letters, T-P-N, on the rocks of Thunder Mountain. They barely escape a skeleton of a T-rex that emerges from the mountain and chases them. The team figures out that the letters together spell “my first pen”—a reference to one of Walt Disney’s original drawing tools, which on display at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Finn visits the museum and hides there after closing. He steals the pens and some architectural plans from Walt’s old desk. As he tries to leave the building, he is frozen against an exit door as someone outside tries to capture him. Though he loses the plans, he escapes and follows a running figure, only to bump into Amanda, whom he concludes must be one of the baddies.

During a Halloween party at the park, Amanda and Charlene suddenly faint, and Finn realizes it’s Jez’s doing. He and the boys follow her and Maleficent to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Downstairs, they discover a jail with many cells and new padlocks on the doors. The Overtakers plan to imprison the staff and take over the park.

The boys venture deeper underground. Maleficent and Jez corner them and demand the pens. Finn helps the boys escape and then discovers that Maleficent can’t touch the pens. He shoves them at her face; she flies back, injured, and he escapes.

Dressed as Disney cast members, the five kids plus Amanda make a day trip into the park’s underground passageways, searching for Maleficent and the missing plans. They find her hiding in a computer room, lure her out with fake pens, stab her with the real ones, and escape with Walt’s plans.

Outside, Jez tries to steal the plans, but Finn shifts into his holographic form and interacts with her until his hologram breaks a curse that holds her captive to Maleficent. Jez changes back into Jess, whom Amanda has been trying to rescue. Maleficent chases Finn; he escapes down a trash chute, and the witch follows, but Wayne and others capture her at the bottom of the chute.

Two nights later, the DHIs meet at the Castle apartment. Finn places a drop of ink from Walt’s pen onto the old plans, which begin to glow. The kids look outside: The entire park shines in the same way. Wayne says the glow purifies the park of evil. The kid’s work is done at last.