We all love and know that icon of icons, the Disney castle! It triggers memories of fantasy worlds and happy times. Is the castle just the stuff of imagination, or is there a real Disney castle on which Disney modeled his design?
Well, the answer is yes, there is a real castle behind the Disney castles. The Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella Castles specifically are modeled on the Neuschwanstein Castle near the town of Fussen in Bavaria, Germany.
Neuschwanstein Castle perches on top of a hill in the Bavarian Alps for all the world like a castle from Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty.
A real fairytale castle
Neuschwanstein Castle means New Swan Castle in English and it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. In fact, over 1 300 000 people visit it every year.
It was built in the nineteenth century by King Ludwig II. You only need to look at the castle to know why he was called the Fairytale King. The castle is all turrets and towers and medieval mystery.
It was this magical look that gave Walt Disney his inspiration for the Disney castles that feature so prominently in his films and at Disneylands around the world. And it came to be, of course, the universally recognised logo of the Walt Disney companies.
King Ludwig’s inspiration
It’s clear this king loved beautiful things. In designing Neuschwanstein Castle, he looked to the great composer Richard Wagner for his inspiration.
As you move through the castle, you can see how lovingly Wagner’s operas and characters are reflected in the interiors of many of the castle’s majestic rooms.
At the same time, the King also liked his comforts. Yes, the castle was more modern than you might think.
At first sight, Neuschwanstein Castle may seem to hark back to the middle ages, but it was built with all the modern technology that 19th century Europe had to offer.
It boasted flushing toilets on every floor and an air heating system for the whole castle. No freezing baronial halls for these ladies and knights!
King Ludwig II began building his castle in 1869. The project was intended to take three years to complete.
But this Fairytale King must have been something of a perfectionist as construction ran on and on and on.
He died in 1886 before the castle was finished. In fact, the great Throne Room – of Byzantine proportion and occupying two stories of the castle – did not yet feature a throne.
The world’s first Disney castle
The world was treated to its first view of Walt Disney’s fantasy castle in 1950 when the now-classic animation, Cinderella, was released.
Imagine the excitement in 1955 when the first real-life Sleeping Beauty Castle was opened at Disneyland, California. Families could literally visit a castle straight from the storybooks!
This Sleeping Beauty Castle is the oldest of the Disney castles and is the only one whose construction was overseen by Walt Disney himself.
You can almost smell the fresh winds as they blow off the Bavarian Alps, or hear the grinding of an ancient drawbridge. The similarities are undeniable.
Disney’s dizzying heights
The Sleeping Beauty Castle is 23m high. Cleverly, the original designer, Roland E Hill, used ways to make the castle seem much taller.
He designed elements that were larger at the base and progressively smaller towards the top.
This illusion was taken even further when the castle was given a makeover in 2019. The pink shades at the base of the castle were made a little richer.
Then they were gradually lightened towards the top of the castle to give the effect of great height
It’s as if this magic castle really does reach up to the skies.
If tall castles are your favourites, don’t skip the article about the tallest castles in the world you can visit.
When you begin your walk through the Sleeping Beauty Castle, you step into a fairytale.
Scenes from the story of Princess Aurora come to life with 3D models and dramatic sound and special effects.
It begins with the announcement of the birth of Princess Aurora. As you wind through the passages and rooms of the castle, you are treated to a view of the baby Aurora as she receives magic gifts from the fairy godmothers.
You see the king and queen watching as all the spinning wheels in the land are burned.
And of course, there is the plot changing scene where everyone in the castle sleeps and sleeps.
Highlights of the story unfold as you walk through the castle: you meet the wicked Maleficent, the charming Prince and fiery dragons.
Disney castle snippets
There is no definitive Disney castle. The Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella Castles are both Disney flagship castles.
You can see a Cinderella castle at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida or at Tokyo Disneyland.
Like the Sleeping Beauty Castle, the design was inspired by real and fictional palaces and castles of Europe such as Versailles, the spire of Notre Dames de Paris and the Moszna Castle in Poland.
Again, designers point to Neuschwanstein Castle as the main inspiration.
The Florida castle took nearly two years to complete and stands around 58m high. More than 30m taller than the Sleeping Beauty Castle in California.
Interestingly, the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Paris Disneyland needed some special attributes to help it compete with the real castles and palaces that families in Europe are used to seeing.
So it, too, is taller and bigger than the original Sleeping Beauty Castle, standing some 51m high.
It receives regular fun and exciting overlays to celebrate anniversaries or the launch of a new film. And … there is a dragon to be seen in its depths that weighs 2500kg!
A castle to look forward to
Disney castle fans can look forward to the reopening of the Hong Kong Sleeping Beauty Castle in late 2020.
Rumour has it that the new-look castle will showcase all the Disney princesses we’ve learned to know and love.
If their fifth-anniversary overlay is anything to go by, we can expect this to be spectacular.
That celebration saw the castle shimmer as Tinker Bell’s Pixie Dusted Castle. The gold pixie dust glistened in the sun by day and was lit up at night.
Disney castles around the world
- Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, California, USA
- Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World, Florida, USA
- Sleeping Beauty Castle at Hong Kong Disneyland, China
- Cinderella Castle at Tokyo Disneyland, Japan
- Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Paris, France
- Enchanted Storybook Castle at Shanghai Disneyland Park, China
Walt Disney visited many castles around Europe for his inspirations, but Neuschwanstein Castle is one that had a profound impact on him.
Later building all the fairytale castles in the Disney empire he gave Neuschwanstein tremendous popularity among the travellers and fans of Disney.
Thanks for reading this article and we have many more interesting facts about castles in our blog section.