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Summer Reading, Part 1: Space Mountain, the Graphic Novel

Self Portrait by Space Mountain illustrator Kelley Jones.

Self Portrait by Space Mountain illustrator Kelley Jones.

Editor’s note: Here are our book picks for the summer, selected and presented by our illustrious Disney Dads bloggers. They’re books that are poignant, books that are fun, books that are our guilty pleasures, and/or books we just think you should read for the good of humanity. Here’s Frank’s pick, number 1 of 10.

Space Mountain, Disney Book Group. Written by Bryan Q. Miller. Illustrated by Kelley Jones. On sale now.

I don’t consider myself a roller coaster fan. In fact, before riding Space Mountain for the first time at age 36 (after having been convinced by my wife), I had never actually been on a roller coaster before. Now, this is because of an incident that occurred at a small neighborhood amusement park in the city of my birth, Brooklyn, NY. At the ripe old age of 4, my parents (what were they thinking?) put me on something called the Tilt-A-Whirl (Google it and be afraid). Let’s just say it didn’t end well. So from then on, I steered clear of the more adventurous rides.

It turns out, not being a huge fan of roller coasters is something I have in common with Bryan Q. Miller, writer of the new graphic novel, Space Mountain, the latest Disney attraction to make the jump from the amusement park to entertainment media. I interviewed Miller and illustrator Kelley Jones recently. Said Miller, “I only rode Space Mountain once, and back when I was 8. I’m not much of a roller coaster guy!” to which Jones added, “I didn’t ride it but I did try to make one out of Legos.”

Blending together all of the elements from Tomorrowland, Space Mountain tells the story of two young cadets of the Magellan Science Academy as they embark on a fantastic adventure 24 hours in the future. When they return, nothing is the way they left it.

Space Mountain not only incorporates the most iconic Disney Thrill Ride, but it also includes other Tomorrowland attractions like the Astral Orbiter and even the TWA Moonliner from the Rocket to the Moon attraction. “I wanted a Moonliner for my backyard, but settled on a tree house,” Jones mused.

Bringing together all the original elements from Tomorrowland must have been a huge undertaking. I asked Miller what research went into creating the world of Space Mountain. “Mike [Siglain] sent me a big bundle of old Walt Disney infotainment pieces on the world of the future, as envisioned in the ’50s. Really cool stuff. Had a chance to read through some books about the creation of Tomorrowland itself too.” Jones added, “Yeah, tons of wonderful books and photos, as well as a great DVD.”

Space Mountain is filled with some great characters too. Jones and I agreed that ARTIE was one of our favorites. “I love ARTIE (Amazing Robotic Temporal Intelligence Explorer), because he’s everything I like in a robot,” said Jones, “AND he looks like a flying saucer. I also love the Queen because she is just so scary.”

Miller saw things differently. “Tommy and Stella (the two young cadets) for me — they’re Oscar and Felix, or Riggs and Murtaugh. Oil and water that by no means SHOULD mix, but eventually learn how to work together and co-exist.”

In his dedication speech for the original Tomorrowland, Walt said, “Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure, and ideals, the atomic age, the challenge of outer space and the hope for a peaceful and unified world.” Jones’ view was pretty close to Walt’s. “I see the future as a place that will change faster and faster, so you have to hang on,” he says. “There is a lot of fun and if you don’t watch out, you might miss it. I wanted that kind of adventure to be in the book.”

With the big twist at the end, what does the future hold for the crew from Space Mountain? “We definitely have a multi-book plan,” says Miller. “Naturally, things change as we move through these stories, but we have things in place in Book I that will be revisited in both Books II, III, and beyond! We have to be judicious about what loose ends we leave, as the core of the book is time travel. We’re striving to make sure all the ‘math’ balances out by the end of the first part of the Space Mountain saga.”

Space_Mountain_CoverMiller’s writing on Space Mountain makes for a great read this summer. Kids will enjoy the thrilling adventure and relatable characters. Adults will have a blast as they travel back in time and see all the fun that Walt envisioned when he created Tomorrowland — reinterpreted through Jones’ amazing art.

Space Mountain is available now from Disney Books.

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