The beautiful worlds found in our favorite Disney movies are works of imagination, but even they are rooted in real-life locations. These images comparing some of Disney’s most iconic locations with their real-life counterparts will make you believe in magic!
The degrees to which Disney’s artists borrowed on these real-life sources can vary, but for most, the link is obvious. A number of Disney’s classics were also based on existing traditional fairy tales, meaning that the references to real-life castles were all the more appropriate.
Sleeping Beauty – Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany
Image credits: paparountas
The Royal Castle in Sleeping Beauty was inspired by Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany. This castle was built by Ludwig II of Bavaria in 1892 as a personal retreat and a tribute to Richard Wagner, his favorite composer. Ludwig II, known by some as the Swan King, was an enthusiastic art patron, leaving beautiful structures throughout Bavaria.
Beauty and the Beast – Alsace, France
Image credits: Tambako The Jaguar
This small village square in Beauty And The Beast was inspired by Alsace, a picturesque region in North-West France that, throughout most of Europe’s history, was politically German. As such, it has a blend of these two cultures, which can be found in the names of various locations and especially in the region’s beautiful pastoral architecture.
Tangled – Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Image credits: PEC Photo
The Kingdom of Corona in Tangled was inspired by Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France. This unique island commune is periodically cut off from the mainland by tidal waters. This made it an easily defensible position that was ideal for a fortified cloister. Today, its striking appearance makes it a popular attraction for tourists.
Up – Angel Falls, Venezuela
Image credits: Alice Nerr
Paradise Falls in Up was inspired by Angel Falls (also known as Kerepakupai Vena in the indigenous Pemon language) in Venezuela. With an uninterrupted fall of 979m (3,212ft), it is the world’s highest waterfall. It falls from a mountain called Auyantepui, which is one of several table-topped “tepui” mountains in Venezuela.
Aladdin – Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Image credits: Razvan Ciuca
The Sultan’s Palace in Aladdin was inspired by the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. Thought by many to be a palace, the Taj Mahal is actually a magnificent tomb that Emperor Shah Jahan began building in 1632 for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The iconic tomb is is encased in white marble and surrounded by lush gardens.
The Emperor’s New Groove – Machu Picchu, Cusco, Peru
Image credits: Vegard Saetrenes
Pacha’s village In The Emperor’s New Groove was inspired by Machu Picchu In Cusco, Peru. This mysterious Incan site 2,430m (7,970ft) up in the mountains of Peru is thought to have been the residence of Incan emperor Pachacuti. After the Spanish Conquest, the site remained forgotten to the outside world until it was rediscovered in 1911.
Mulan – Forbidden City, Beijing, China
Image credits: Makenzie & Shakyston & Abigail
The Emperor’s home in Mulan was inspired by the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. Though it is now open to tourists, it was once home to the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The expansive palace was considered “Forbidden” because it was the residence of the emperor, and no one could enter or leave without his permission.
The Hunchback Of Notre Dame – Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France
Image credits: Stéphane Briand
The cathedral in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame was none other than the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The iconic and imposing cathedral is one of the most well-known examples of Gothic architecture in the world. It took almost 200 years to complete and was one of the first buildings to use flying buttresses in Europe – architects had to add these imposing supports when they noticed that the upper walls were buckling under the building’s weight.
The Little Mermaid – Chateau De Chillon, Lake Geneva, Switzerland
Image credits: Elfi Kluck
Prince Eric’s castle in The Little Mermaid was inspired by Chateau De Chillon on Lake Geneva in Switzerland. The chateau dates back to the Roman empire, when it was used to guard a road through the Alps. Not only is the since-updated castle itself beautiful, but its position directly on the shores of Lake Geneva makes it the perfect fairytale setting.
Wreck-It Ralph – Grand Central Terminal, New York City, USA
Image credits: Diliff
Game Central Station in Wreck-It Ralph was inspired by Grand Central Terminal in New York City. The terminal was torn down and rebuilt in its current style in 1913. The iconic station is in active use to this day despite bomb threats.
Beauty and the Beast – Chateau De Chambord, Loir-Et-Cher, France
Image credits: Sylvain Sonnet
The Beast’s castle in Beauty and the Beast was inspired by Chateau De Chambord in Loir-Et-Cher, France. It was built in 1547 by King Francis I as a “hunting lodge.” Many have said that the building’s peculiar roof, with a veritable forest of chimneys and spires, looks more like the skyline of a city or town than that of a palace.
Frozen – St. Olaf’s Church, Balestrand, Norway
Image credits: Heather Tesch
The Chapel in Frozen was inspired by St. Olaf’s Church in Balestrand, Norway. It was also known as the English church because its construction was begun by Margaret Green, an Englishwoman who lived in the nearby mountains with Knut Kvikne, the man she fell in love with. Though she stayed there with him, she was also very pious, and began building the church with him to be able to practice her Anglican faith. Unfortunately, she died before it was completed.
The Princess And The Frog – Louisiana bayous, USA
Image credits: saveblueplanet
The bayou of New Orleans from Princess And The Frog was inspired by the real-life swampy lakes, marshes and slow-moving rivers that characterize the state of Louisiana. The bayous are home to swamp creatures like alligators, catfish and turtles, which have inspired creepy tales of ravenous supernatural swamp beasts.
Brave – Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland, UK
Image credits: Sebastien Wasek
The Royal Castle in Brave was inspired by Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland. Though the current castle standing on Eilean Donan (which means “island of Donnan” in Gaelic) is a reconstruction completed in 1932, the island has an ancient history. It is said to have been the site of a monastery in the 6th or 7th century, and it later became home to a castle that protected the Mackenzie clan.
Cars – U-Drop Inn, Shamrock, Texas
Image credits: Morten Larsen
Ramone’s House of Body Art in Cars was inspired by U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas. The curious inn was inspired by, of all things, a nail stuck in the soil. After Route 66 was decommissioned, the inn closed down and fell into disrepair. Now, however, it is a national art-deco architectural monument and the site of a Tesla electric vehicle charging station (or supercharger)!
Atlantis: The Lost Empire – Angkor Wat, Angkor, Cambodia
Image credits: Oliver J Davis Photography
The city of Atlantis in Atlantis: The Lost Empire was inspired by Angkor Wat in Angkor, Cambodia. Though Atlantis was based on a legendary sunken Greek island that may or may not have existed, its visual inspiration is definitely real. Angkor Wat began as a Hindu temple and was later re-purposed as a Buddhist temple complex in the 12th century. In any case, it is the largest religious monument in the world!
Frozen – Hotel De Glace, Quebec City, Canada
Image credits: Pierre-Arnaud
Elsa’s ice palace in Frozen was inspired by Hotel De Glace in Quebec City, Canada. The hotel is a seasonal structure that appears on the outskirts of Quebec City in Canada every winter. Its architecture actually varies from year to year, but its extraordinary nature – the fact that it is constructed from bricks of ice – made it the perfect inspiration for a palace in Frozen.
Snow White – Segovia Castle, Spain
Image credits: Fernando de Antonio
The Queen’s castle in Snow White was inspired by the Alcazar of Segovia, a castle found in central Spain. It was used, to various, for hundreds and hundreds of years by various Spanish monarchs until it was badly damaged by a fire in 1862. It stands on a cliff at the confluence of two rivers, giving it a shape similar to the prow of a ship.