The classic animated Disney movies are often based on fairy tales or folk tales, but some of the animated movies and many of the live-action Disney movies were actually based on novels, sometimes ones that weren’t originally intended for children.  There may be are a few animated movies here, but most of the movies based on books are live-action films which aren’t as well-known as the animated features (although I think they should be because some of them are really under-appreciated).

If you’re curious which movies were based on books and what the original books were like, check out the ones below:

Live Action


Bedknobs and Broomsticks

The book and the movie are very different from each other, although they both feature an amateur witch and the children who are visiting with her. Overall, I really prefer the movie to the original book.


The original title of the original book was Christmas at Candleshoe.  The movie starred Jodie Foster, but the book was quite different and featured a boy, not a girl.

Children of the Covered Wagon

The basis for Westward Ho the Wagons!  A group of families travel by covered wagon to Oregon in 1846.  By Mary Jane Carr.

The Family Band: from the Missouri to the Black Hills, 1881-1900

This book was Volume 5 of the Pioneer Heritage Series.  I might not be able to get hold of a copy soon because it seems to be something of a collector’s item, but this was the basis for The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band. The movie was about the statehood of North and South Dakota and the political struggles it involved.  By Laura Bower Van Nuys.

The Ghost Belonged to Me

The book is fairly well known and is part of a series about the character Blossom Culp and her friend Alexander, who both have psychic abilities.  There is a lesser-known Disney movie called Child of Glass based on the first book in the series.

Guns in the Heather

The basis for Disney’s The Secret of Boyne Castle, starring a young Kurt Russell.  It’s a story of suspense and espionage, but the location for the movie was changed to Ireland.  The original story took place in Scotland.

Lisa and Lottie

The movie that The Parent Trap (both versions) was based on.  It was originally written in German and took place in Germany and Austria.

Midnight and Jeremiah

The basis for So Dear to My Heart.  A boy raises a black lamb that was rejected by its mother and ends up turning it into a prize-winning sheep.  By Sterling North.

The Moon Spinners

The basis for a lesser-known live action Disney movie of the same name starring Haley Mills.  The novel was written by Mary Stewart and was originally intended for adults.

Mother Carey’s Chickens

The basis for the Haley Mills movie Summer Magic.

Rest in Pieces

The Disney movie, Murder She Purred, was a murder mystery told from the point of view of the amateur detective’s cat and dog.  The original book by Rita Mae Brown was also from the point of view of the animals, but parts of it were very different, and it was definitely not intended to be a children’s story.  It might be too violent for me to cover here.  I’m still deciding, but I thought that it was still worth a mention.

The Secrets of the Pirate Inn

Disney called it Secrets of the Pirate’s Inn for the made-for-tv movie, and there are some notable differences between the book and the movie.

Toby Tyler, Or Ten Weeks with a Circus

This is the basis for the Disney movie Toby Tyler, which is about an orphan boy who runs away from his foster family to join the circus.  By James Otis Kaler.

The Whisper in the Gloom

This book was the basis for the made-for-tv movie The Kids Who Knew Too Much.  The original book was by Nicholas Blake.


Basil of Baker Street

The movie The Great Mouse Detective has little in common with the original series of books it was based on although both feature a mouse who idolizes Sherlock Holmes, lives in his house, and studies his methods.


The Rescuers

This is actually part of a series of books about a mouse named Miss Bianca.

Disney Movies That Became Novels

Every modern Disney movie has a novelized version now, but I’d like to give these other novels of lesser-known movies a special mention.

The Mystery in Dracula’s Castle

A boy who idolizes Sherlock Holmes agrees to help his brother with his Dracula movie over the summer and ends up finding a mystery to solve.