9 Real Architectural Wonders That Inspired Disney Movies

Going to Disneyland is fun, but an amusement park has nothing on the real-life castle that inspired the one in Sleeping Beauty.

Yes, even Disney needs a little magic motivating sometimes. Animators often look to real architectural structures as sources of inspiration for the dreamy castles, palaces and cities featured in the movies that captivated your childhood

Many of these places are now popular destinations that are open for visiting and touring, not to mention photo opportunities. You can visit these enchanting locations year-round, so start planning your Disney pilgrimage now.

1. Elsa’s ice palace in Frozen was inspired by the Hotel de Glace.



The Hotel de Glace, which is constructed out of ice every winter in Quebec City, Canada, was used as visual inspiration for Elsa’s ice palace in Frozen.

The hotel is open for business January through March every year. During the 2014 season, the hotel even offered a special Frozen-themed suite where patrons could experience a day in the life of Arendelle royalty.

2. The Sultan’s palace in Aladdin was inspired by the Taj Mahal.



Aladdin was set in the fictional town of Agrabah located near the Arabian Peninsula, but the Sultan’s palace was a loose interpretation of the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. Find out more about visiting here.

3. Prince Eric’s castle in The Little Mermaid was inspired by was inspired by the island community of Mont Saint-Michel.



Mont Saint-Michel is an island in Normandy, France that features a strong aquatic element, with an abbey, monastery, and surrounding village. You can visit the island sites year-round.

4. The Queen’s castle from Snow White was inspired by Segovia CastleSnow-white


Segovia Castle in Segovia, Spain was the location behind the Queen’s castle in Snow White. You can visit year round, find out more here.

5. The royal castle in Sleeping Beauty was inspired by Neuschwanstein Castle.



The royal castle from Sleeping beauty was based on Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria, Germany. You can visit year-round: learn more on their website.

6. The castle in Tangled was also inspired by the island community of Mont Saint-Michel.



Glen Keane, the supervising animator and executive producer of Tangled has said in a junket that Mont-Saint Michel was “so very fairytale like,” so it’s no wonder the structure has been such a long-running source of inspiration for the homes of Disney princesses.

7. The city of Atlantis was inspired by Angkor Wat.



For Atlantis, Disney took architectural inspiration from a combination of areas, including loosely the temple complex of Angkor Wat in Angkor, Cambodia. “If it was truly a Tower-of-Babel, advanced civilization, that meant its architecture, language and culture must have inspired all the other great cultures of the world. That was our beginning of taking Mayan, Cambodian and Indian architecture, and devolving them, almost, into what Atlantis was like,” producer Don Hahn has said on the combination of architectural inspiration.

8. Pacha’s village in The Emperor’s New Groove was inspired by Machu Picchu.



Pacha’s hillside village was inspired by the ruins of Machu Picchu in Cusco, Peru. Not to mention that Emperor Kuzco was named after the city of Cusco. Plan your trip here.

9. DunBroch Castle in Brave was inspired by Dunnottar Castle.



Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven, Scotland was the inspiration behind the royal castle in Brave. Find out how to visit here.


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