Home » 7 Unusual Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Disney Castles

    7 Unusual Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Disney Castles

    Walt Disney loved wienies. A master of showmanship and pageantry, he understood basic human behavior. Theme park tourists enjoy subtlety and cleverness, but nothing gets a person’s attention like an over-the-top monument. When Uncle Walt envisioned the Happiest Place on Earth, he planned for a castle to anchor the land. It was the hub in his famous spoke-and-wheel design. All parts of Disneyland would lead to it.

    Over the years, every new Disney theme park has had a similar wienie. Castles are a huge part of theme park lore, and nobody does them better than the originator. Let’s take this opportunity to learn seven more amazing facts about Disney castles!

    Sleeping Beauty is the most modest Disney princess

    Image: DisneyEvery Disney theme park castle has a princess-centric theme. Sleeping Beauty is the hostess for the first castle at Disneyland plus ones at Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland. Cinderella is the titular princess at Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland. Shanghai Disneyland is more generic in nature. Its spectacular Enchanted Storybook Castle has a Disney princess theme, but it doesn’t choose a favorite. All princesses are welcome there, I guess.

    Anyway, the size of the castles has changed a lot over the years. When Uncle Walt built Sleeping Beauty Castle, he had financial constraints. He couldn’t construct something massive, and he also knew that simply having a castle would make Disneyland memorable. For this reason, the castle is only 77 feet high. Cinderella Castle absolutely dwarfs it at a height of 189 feet.

    The Magic Kingdom wienie was actually the tallest castle for 45 years until the arrival of Shanghai Disneyland. Enchanted Storybook Castle surpassed it by eight feet. So, the next Disney theme park must have a castle taller than 197 feet to set the next record.

    Castle envy is real

    Image: DisneyHong Kong Disneyland famously cut corners during its construction. Rather than show any imagination or originality, the park planners for this theme park simply duplicated the existing Sleepy Beauty Castle at Disneyland. It has the same dimensions and is almost an exact replica of the original wienie.

    When Shanghai Disneyland opened to the public, management at Hong Kong Disneyland suddenly had a problem. Their castle was 120 feet shorter than the other Disney park in China! Understanding that this was unacceptable, the construction team at Hong Kong Disneyland quickly announced that they would redesign Sleeping Beauty Castle. Don’t be surprised if the new version is much taller. Hong Kong Disneyland’s overcompensating.

    You should visit Neuschwanstein Castle

    Image: DisneyIn a way, you already have. Neuschwanstein Castle was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty Castle. Surprisingly, it was also one of the inspirations for Cinderella Castle, which doesn’t have a great deal in common with its Disneyland sibling.

    Imagineers used the Bavarian castle as a model for several ideas that appear in both castles. There’s just not much intersection. You can to Germany and tour Neuschwanstein Castle to see the similarities for yourself. Alternately, you can watch this YouTube video right now, which saves you the trouble of renewing your passport.

    Strange math

    Cinderella Castle has 27 towers, but you wouldn’t sound crazy if you said that it had 29. That’s because one of the towers is number 29, but it’s actually the 27th tower. Yes, that’s confusing and yes, there’s a reasonable explanation.

    Disney built 29 towers for Cinderella Castle. As the park’s opening approached, they realized that they had a problem. Park guests couldn’t see the 13th and 17th towers. Other constructions in Fantasyland blocked these views, rendering the towers irrelevant. Disney park planners probably lamented the fitting nature of Tower #13 being cursed, but they adapted quickly, getting rid of the superfluous structures.

    PS: If you’re wondering, the clock is on Tower #10, and the one with the golden roof is #23, which makes Chicago Bulls fans nod vigorously.

    Concrete and steel and plaster

    Image: DisneyWhat would you need to build your own princess castle? Well, if you want to do one like Disney, you’d have to spend $4.7 million…if it were 1971. In 2017, that’s the equivalent of $30 million to build a wienie worthy of Uncle Walt.

    You’d also need about, oh, six hundred tons of steel to build the base of the structure. Then, you’d add ten inches of concrete walls to stabilize the base. Otherwise, you couldn’t hurricane-proof the castle. You’d also use fiber-reinforced gypsum plaster anchored by metal studs. Suffice to say that the blueprints for a Disney castle are amazing, detailed, and forward-thinking.

    The 20-year-plan

    Image: DisneyWalt Disney allegedly had the idea for Sleeping Beauty Castle back in the 1930s, two full decades before Disneyland would open to the public. What amazes me about this tidbit is that Sleeping Beauty the movie wasn’t released until 1959, four years after Disneyland’s debut. Uncle Walt had no reason to plan a castle around a fantasy character he had yet to use in a movie yet that’s exactly what transpired. Walt Disney was not like you or me. He was a true visionary in every sense of the word.

    Walkthroughs weren’t always a part of the deal

    Image: DisneyTheme park tourists love to roam the halls of Sleeping Beauty Castle, but that wasn’t always a possibility. In 1955, Disneyland didn’t provide walkthroughs to guests. Roughly two years later in April of 1957, Disney started using the castle for more than its attention-grabbing visuals. Imagineers designed special dioramas for the tours that told the fable of Sleeping Beauty.

    This experience became one of the most beloved aspects of a visit to the Happiest Place on Earth. Unfortunately, it had to stop for a time in 2001. They had two reasons for doing so. The first was that Disney executives feared a terrorist attack on the beloved castle. The second was that park attendance dropped in the wake of 9/11. The company saved money by discontinuing the tours.

    A few years later, Disney reinvested in the walkthroughs in a big way. The company spent $22 million refurbishing the dioramas while adding new visual techniques. How much money is that? Well, Disneyland in its entirety cost only $17 million to build in 1955, which means Disney paid $5 million more for something that wasn’t even a part of the original Disneyland experience to make it that much better….which is so very Disney.