26 Amazing Adult Retellings of Disney Classics
Fairytale retellings are TOTALLY a thing right now. Almost every day a new book catches my eye with a twist on a beloved tale. Disney is known for turning popular folklore and stories into animated movies. These adult retellings of Disney classics are the movies that we loved, but in a book!
When we started discussing which adult novels reminded us of our favorite Disney classics, this post essentially made itself. Adult Disney book? Yes, Please
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Adult Retellings of Disney Classics: Original Classics
Sleeping Beauty & Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
Sleeping Beauty is a tale that is truly universal. There have been countless retellings over the years, but Jane Yolen’s is by far the darkest and most unique. Rebecca loved to hear her grandmother tell the story of Briar Rose but got upset when she realized her grandmother’s story was different than the version her friends knew. On her deathbed, her grandmother confesses that she is Briar Rose.
The resulting tale of Rebecca’s uncovering her grandmother’s past – specifically her ties to a Holocaust death camp are harrowing and moving. I read this book in high school and it stays with me today. Even though this is a middle-grade book, this is one of the Disney books for adults that will stay with you.
Snow White & Mirror Mirror by Gregory Maguire
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first full-length Disney movie ever made. It is a true classic and a fairy tale in every sense of the word. If you are looking for adult Disney books, Mirror Mirror is Gregory Maquire’s retelling of the Disney classic with his own modern spin.
Dumbo & The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Aside from the obvious circus theme we have going on here, there is a magical quality to both stories. Dumbo features the fantastical elephant flying, talking animals, and the like. Night Circus, ups the ante with performers who can literally do magic. Both stories feature love throughout be it the mother/child bond or a more amorous affection between lovers. The Night Circus is a truly magical book in this list of retellings of Disney classics that will leave you wishing you could visit this Circus for real. If you love the circus, we have a list of the 14 Best Carnival and Circus Books to Read Now and we have a list 11 Magical Books Like The Night Circus.
Cinderella & Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian
This was the first pairing that came to mind when we decided to do a post of Disney books for Adults. Theodosia has been left an orphan after her mother, the queen was brutally murdered before her eyes. She is given the new title of Ash princess and forced to wear a crown of ashes that will fall apart and cover her with soot to embarrass her. It also serves as a reminder to those that were once loyal. I’m not sure you could get much closer to Cinderella if you tried. This book is YA so it is a perfect one for adults and teens and was a must on a list of retellings of Disney classics.
Alice in Wonderland & Alice, I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
Alice in Wonderland was written by Lewis Carroll over a century ago, but did you know Alice was based on a real girl? 10-year-old Alice Liddell Hargreaves was the inspiration behind Carroll’s famed novels and she is the subject of Benjamin’s book. The story is set when Alice is eighty-one and looking back on her life and the adventures she has had on her real journey – Life. It’s a fantastic historical fiction perfect for those wanting to peek behind the veil of Carroll’s work. If you are looking for adult Disney books, look no further.
The Jungle Book & Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
This book was one of my favorite reads when it came! Weylyn Grey is orphaned and raised by wolves. He has an amazing ability to communicate with animals. Like Mogali, Weylen must learn to navigate the world and find his place. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances reminds me of a modern take on the Jungle book and is a perfect choice in Disney books for adults- especially if you are a fan of magical realism.
Disney Books for Adults: Fairy Tale Re-tellings
Beauty and the Beast & A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Mass
The classic tale of Beauty and the Beast has been re-told for centuries. The story of the terrible monster who changes when he learns to receive love has been made into books, television shows, and movies. A Court of Thorns and Roses is one of the retellings of Disney classics that has taken on a life of its own. So much that we have an entire list of 18 Sensational Books Like A Court of Thorns and Roses
Little Mermaid & The Mermaid’s Daughter by Anne Claycomb
This book was such a surprise in the wonderful way that it related to the original tale of the little mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson (no pun intended). Generations of women have tried to fight the curse that has followed them since the little mermaid herself. This story is well-written with a great modern take! If you are looking for Disney books for adults, this book is a perfect choice.
Aladdin & City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty
Aladdin is a folk tale that originates in the Middle East. Aladdin and the magic lamp is a classic. The City of Brass is an AMAZING fantasy that has everything you loved about Aladdin. Nahri has never believed in magic when she accidentally summons a djinn. This is the perfect book about genies and Arabian nights. If you are looking for retellings of Disney classics, this book is a must-read.
Tangled & Cress by Marissa Meyer
Cress is the third book in the Lunar Chronicles. Cress is kept by herself in a satellite with only screens as company. It is in the future and in space but, it is loosely based on the story of Rapunzel. If you love a twisted fairytale, this one is for you. And if you read the Lunar Chronicles and loved them, we have a list of other great books for you to read! This is on of the retellings of Disney classics that has become a classic itself.
Princess and the Frog & The Frog Prince by Elle Lothlorien
When I was a newly minted mom of two immersed in the cycle of midnight feedings, I turned to romantic comedies to keep me awake. I found The Frog Prince and loved it so much, I often opted to read a few more pages instead of catching up on much-needed sleep. When Leigh finds out that her boyfriend is the would-be Prince of Austria living in self-imposed exile, she doesn’t think twice. After all, Austria no longer has a monarchy – but when parliament moves to reinstate the throne, her boyfriend turns into a Prince once again overnight and she’s along for the ride.
This contemporary romance is like a warm hug that left me with a smile. It is a feel-good pick from this list of Disney books for adults.
Frozen & The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S Lewis
Frozen, the worldwide phenomenon was originally based on the story The Snow Queen. There was definitely no singing, no Sven, and no Olaf. The sisters did not save each other with love. Rather, the girl saves the boy when she thaws his frozen heart. In the classic tale by CS Lewis, the snow queen is the villain! We love the different takes on this story in this Disney book for Adults and both of these are classics themselves.
Adult Disney Books Based on Books
The Great Mouse Detective & The Beekeepers Apprentice by Laurie R. King
The Great Mouse Detective was an underrated classic in my opinion. A clear take on Sherlock Holmes, the story revolves around a mouse named Basil who lives on…yep, baker street. He tries to solve the mystery of the kidnapped toy-maker and deals with his arch-nemesis Ratigan.
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice is also a Holmes-inspired tale, specifically, this story (and the subsequent series) features Mary Russell, a retired Holmes’ neighbor, and eventual wife. Together they solve some very clever mysteries that are as good as Doyle’s originals. What I love about these is Mary is an intellectual match for the great Holmes – total girl power! As adult Disney books go, this is one of our favorites.
Gnomeo & Juliet – Juliet by Anne Fortier
Gnomeo & Juliet is a more recent Disney movie edition and features the retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in the world of garden gnomes in warring backyards. Disney takes some creative liberties with Shakespeare’s tale of woe, but it’s still a retelling. Fortier’s retelling of the same tale is my favorite retelling of all. It takes place in a dual timeline of present-day and 1340 in Siena, Italy (We have an entire list of 20 Amazing Books Set in Italy).
The present-day timeline revolves around the descendants of the real Romeo and Juliet trying to break the curse. I adored this book so much, I’ve read this Disney book for Adults / classic Shakespeare retelling at least 4 times. Part mystery, part romance, part historical fiction – this one has it all.
Hercules & Circe by Madeline Miller
I have loved Roman and Greek mythology since I was a little girl, maybe it was because of Disney’s take on Hercules, or maybe it was because of my love of Du’Lauries Greek Myths. This love has followed me my whole life, The Odyssey is one of my favorite books and now Madeline Miller’s Circe is creeping up the ranks. Circe was one of my favorite books of 2018. It features the goddess Circe and her life of exile. The writing was captivating and I truly couldn’t put it down. If you love the mythology aspect in retellings of Disney classics, you can check out 14 Brilliant Greek Mythology Retellings Worth Reading.
Sword and the Stone & The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Sword and the Stone is Disney’s attempt at turning the legend of King Arthur into a children’s movie. No romance, no fighting, but still a bit about Merlin and, well, the sword in the stone. The Mists of Avalon is not for children under ANY circumstances unlike some of the other Disney books for adults. Bradley’s sweeping saga is filled with magic, fighting, scheming, and romance in a book that is riveting and unexpectedly dark. The book is a reimagining of Arthurian legend whose scope is a fantastic achievement. More impressive is Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote 7 other tomes in the Avalon series.
Fantasy / Sci-fi Disney Books for Adults
CoCo & Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
This pair in retellings of Disney Classics is a little more untraditional because, on the one hand, you have a boy looking for his family on the Day of the Dead and on the other hand, you have Richard Mayhew. He finds himself unexpectedly non-existent to people in London and trapped in Neverwhere- the dark underground of London (London Below). Richard must go on a quest with Lady Door to save the world if he wants to save himself. Much like Coco’s quest to find his past and learn about himself, Richard must look at himself and decide who he is. If you are looking for Disney books for adults, this is one of the creepier books on the list.
Mulan & Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
Badass warrior women. Need I say more? Mulan is arguably the strongest, fiercest Disney heroine of all. She LITERALLY fights the bad guys and goes to war for her country (and to protect her father’s legacy.) Meanwhile over in the land of GOT, there are about a dozen hardcore lady warriors who can stand up to any man. Also, Mulan and Daenerys both have dragons – so there! This is a must-read adult Disney book.
Wreck-It Ralph & Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This is a pretty obvious correlation. Wreck-It Ralph takes place in the world of video games, more specifically inside all the video games of the arcade world. Ralph doesn’t like his lot in life where he is the villain in his video game. He goes off to test his hand at being a hero somewhere else. Cline’s book also takes place in the world of video games, though not quite as literally. Set in 2045, Wade Watts lives to play a virtual reality game called Utopia where he is trying to unlock a puzzle and survive blurring the lives of what is and isn’t real. This is a pick from Disney books for adults you should not miss.
Historical Fiction Disney Books for Adults
Anastasia & I was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon
A newly released book, I was Anastasia focuses on the life of the most famous Anastasia imposter of all. The novel is a dual timeline going backward from Ana’s perspective and forward from Anastasia’s until the timelines meet. We get glimpses into what really happened when the Romanovs were overthrown and what would influence a person to claim to be someone else. We are so happy that this is now a Disney film because it is a favorite from the list of Disney books for adults.
The Rescuers & Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
The story of the rescuers is about two mice rescuing an orphan child named Penny from a kidnapper who has sent her to retrieve a diamond. While the book Orphan Train has no mice, it is the more serious side of American history. Children were sent via train from the east to the midwest from the late 1800s through to 1929. Both books look at Orphans in the United States. Both the movie and this pick from adult Disney books are equally touching.
Robin Hood & Maid Marian by Elsa Watson
Who cares that Disney’s version of this tale cast animals in every role. Robin Hood is Robin Hood and it’s as adventurous as it is romantic. I adore this film growing up, and when I got older the Kevin Costner version (excuse me while I clean up this drool.) Watson’s tale focuses more on Maid Marian – a young widow determined to keep her lands, her fortune, and her life out of the hands of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. She turns to the prince of thieves for help in protecting her fortune and ends up giving away her heart instead. This is a fantastic pick from this list of Disney books for adults.
Brave & Lost Queen by Signe Pike
Brave is a fantastic story set in Scotland about a princess who doesn’t want to sit around doing typical girl things. She wants to be a warrior like the rest of her clansmen. In a bid to get her mother to understand her feelings, she turns to magic to disastrous effect. The Lost Queen also takes place in Scotland and involves magic, but this tale is a twist on Arthurian legend – the main protagonist is a little-known Scottish queen who has to fight to save her kingdom. As Disney books for adults go, these stories are pretty similar.
Contemporary Fiction Adult Disney Books
Up & A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Jackie and I literally high-fived over this analogy – no, Ove does not attempt to fly away from his life by setting his house afloat with balloons. Instead, Ove is trying to attempt to fly away by committing suicide because he wants to die and join his lost love in heaven. The curmudgeon Ove and Up’s Carl are cut from the same cloth for sure. Also, I dare you not to cry during either the movie or the book. If you loved a man called love as much as we did, check out 13 Books Like A Man Called Ove: Second Chance Novels to Love
Tarzan & Castle of Water by Dane Hucklebridge
I’m still thinking about Castle of Water more than a year after reading this story. The book revolves around two deserted plane passengers who have to forage and live off the land as they try to survive in a tropical paradise. Tarzan’s plot is a little darker as he is forced to survive the harsh jungle after his parents are killed by a Jaguar. Both tales end up being stories of survival and love. While Castle of Water doesn’t have a soundtrack by Phil Collins, the prose written by Hucklebridge is still a work of art.
Monster’s Inc. & The Circle by Dave Eggers
Bare with us on this one, because it’s logical but not an easily predictable leap. Monster’s Inc. at its core is really about corporate corruption. Think about it, the head guy needs to obtain more power so he makes a backdoor deal with a bad guy to get the job done in the most unethical way possible – in this case, stealing children to make them scream. Totally makes sense right? So yeah, there are some business lessons for us adults to take-away from the otherwise fuzzy tale of silly furry monsters. The Circle meanwhile, is about a social network whose founders are trying to get literally everyone in the world to use. They do some pretty dastardly things, though it takes a while for them to flesh out completely in the book. Trust us, these two match up exceedingly well.