Ultimate Guide to the International Disney Castles
The first time I saw Cinderella Castle, I wept. The first time I saw Sleeping Beauty Castle, I chuckled. The first time I saw a rendering of Enchanted Storybook Castle, my jaw dropped to the floor. The domestic castles that are the icons of the Parks we are fortunate enough to call our own over here in the States are certainly the most recognizable, but the imaginative and international Disney castles that have popped up overseas at the newest incarnations of the Disney Parks are in need of some much-deserved attention.
I know the castles on each of our coasts are the most famous, but details about the icons of the international Parks were recently brought to my attention…and I’m embarrassed to say that it’s taken me this long to write about them! Let’s take a worldwide tour of the International Disney Castles!
Sleeping Beauty Castle
I don’t want to be held responsible for Walt Disney rolling over in his grave, so I will start our world-wide castle tour in sunny Anaheim, California, aka at the Park that Walt Disney himself imagined, built, and walked through. Don’t judge Sleeping Beauty Castle by its size, because the tiniest of the Disney Parks castles is, like Mickey himself, the true original!
Unlike its counterpart in Florida, Sleeping Beauty Castle is always open to guests and features an under-appreciated and under-publicized attraction that is one of the coolest in the place! Climb the turrets of the castle and watch as 3D dioramic images burst to life in a flurry of light and color as the story of Sleeping Beauty is depicted all around you!
Originally the castle was meant to serve as an iconic photo spot, the center of the Park, and of course, to frame the sensational fireworks shows that take place nightly over the skies of Disneyland Park. A look back through history shows us that countless shows, parades, and celebrities have made their way to this icon in California, and will forever be known as the castle that Walt built.
I’m fortunate to have visited SleepingBeauty castle a handful of times in my life, but I would be fibbing if I claimed any other than Cinderella Castle in Florida to be my ‘home’. Not the tallest of them all, Cinderella Castle stands at 189 ft.(a whopping 100 ft. taller than Sleeping Beauty Castle!) and features the gold turrets and gray brickwork that everyone recognizes. Well, those bricks actually aren’t bricks at all, and although the castle may appear to be built in the same style of the castle from which it drew its inspiration, the entire structure is made of fiberglass!
Similarly to Disneyland’s, the castle here is not only an icon, but an attraction. Enter from Fantsyland at any time of the day to view the hand-laid mosaics that re-tell the classic tale of house maid-turned princess, Cinderella. Every time I visit Magic Kingdom, a walk through the castle is a must for me and always leaves me wondering just how the face of the Evil Step Mother could be so perfectly shaded and highlighted with just colored tiles as the medium. If you’ve never taken the time to slow down and visit the mosaic, know that you’re truly missing out on the exquisitely-executed the artistry, use of rich, deeply colored tiles, and real gold leaf accents that make up the attraction.
Sleeping Beauty Castle
Yes, it pays homage to the same Princess as the original in California, but this…oh this is the castle that plays out in every little boy and girl’s royal fantasies. The castle at Disneyland Paris appears much taller than its 167 ft. structure would lead you to believe, and that is all thanks to some of the Imagineer’s best forced perspective work to date! Built on a mock hill to draw the eye upward, the French-inspired castle’s appearance is both physically attractive and emotionally appealing.
Unlike the first two castles we toured, the original conception of the castle did not originally include an attraction…at least not until this year! If you’re looking for an all-new, Mickey Mouse-inspired experience to amp you up for his impending 90th birthday celebration, this is the show for you!
Here is what Disney has to say about it: “Gaze in awe at Sleeping Beauty Castle as Mickey leads you through a dazzling Disney Illuminations extravaganza. Magnificent fireworks, incredible light projections and stunning special effects bring classic Disney tales and new stories to life, including Star Wars, Frozen and Pirates of the Caribbean”. So…does anyone have frequent flyer miles they’re willing to loan me for my plane ticket?
Enchanted Storybook Castle
It’s new, it’s big, and it’s the first of the castles to stand on its own without a tie to a specific princess. Enchanted Storybook Castle at Shanghai Disneyland features cloud-height turrets, enormous stained-glass windows, a grandiose port of entry, and spires that are so highly detailed, it’s nearly impossible to imagine that this is not a figment of your childhood fantasies.
The spire that reaches a whopping 197 ft. into the skies makes it the tallest of the castles, and the architecture is hands-down the most detailed of them all, but it’s not only the physical structure that sets this one apart from the rest.
Unlike the castles we have here at home, the stories told on the interior walls are not dedicated to one single Princess and her story, but encompass many of the heroic and iconic Princesses, marking the first time in Disney Parks history that a castle is meant to be a shared sanctuary- Royal Princess or Park Guest. On the exterior banners, Belle, Cinderella, and Snow White are honored. Inside, the hand-laid tile method so exquisitely executed in Cinderella Castle was brought back for the Shanghai version, and the results are absolutely magnificent.
The stories of the four seasons are told through breathtakingly gorgeous mosaics featuring Merida, Tiana, Anna and Elsa, and Rapunzel. Even though I don’t have any current flights booked to China, I’m holding out hope that I’ll have the chance to see these beautiful mosaics- and the grandiose castle itself- in-person…what about you? What is your favorite of the Disney Parks castles and why? Let me know in the comments below!
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