And today we offer to go on a journey through real fortresses, palaces and abandoned cities, which inspired the creators of the Disney cartoon films. To see the Sleeping Beauty Castle, visit the tower where Rapunzel languished, explore the castle of Atlantis and walk the streets of the village where Belle lived from Beauty and the Beast, you should visit these places.
1. Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel in France – the castle with the tower, where Rapunzel is enclosed
The prototype of the castle of the three-dimensional cartoon “Rapunzel: A Tangled Story” was the island-fortress of Mont-Saint-Michel (Le Mont-Saint-Michel) in Normandy, in northern France. The abbey and the town around it have existed on the island since the 8th century, and today they are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are considered one of the most popular attractions in France. From the 14th-century fortress walls, one can observe the ebb and flow of the island, which cut off the island from the mainland every day. At the top of the cliff is located the abbey of Mont Saint-Michel – a unique place with a huge cathedral, knight’s halls, covered galleries and crypts, built in 10-15 centuries.
2. Taj Mahal in India – the palace of the Sultan in “Aladdin”
The creators of the cartoon “Aladdin” inspired the Indian city of Agra to create the magical city of Agra, where one of the wonders of the world is located on the banks of the Jumna river – the Taj Mahal mosque and mausoleum. It was built in 1653 by Padishah Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth. The tombs of the Shah and his wife rest in the main hall of the mosque. The Taj Mahal combines elements of Indian, Persian and Arab architectural styles. And its walls of white translucent marble inlaid with gems, change colour depending on the lighting.
3. Angkor Wat Temple Complex in Cambodia – “Atlantis: The Lost World”
Atlantis in the cartoon “Atlantis: The Lost World” has a real-life prototype – Angkor Wat, the largest religious complex in the world, lying in the north-east of Cambodia, 5 kilometres from Siem Reap. The huge Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the buildings around it were built by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century. Already in the 15th century, the temple ceased to be used and was abandoned. In the 19th century, it was rediscovered by European travellers and has since become so popular that it was depicted on the flag and emblem of Cambodia. Angkor Wat is a unique temple complex with huge bas-reliefs on Hindu mythology and Khmer history and hundreds of sculptures of gods and heavenly maidens.
4. Alcazar Palace in Segovia, Spain – the king’s palace in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”
Alcazar (Alcázar de Segovia) – the palace-fortress of the Spanish kings in the city of Segovia, in the centre of Spain, inspired the creators of the castle where the father and the snow-white stepmother lived. This palace, built in the 12th century, towers atop a cliff at the confluence of two rivers. It was built by the Moors as a fortress, after it was captured by the Spaniards, was the royal residence, and now it is a museum. The palace was built in the Spanish-Moorish style, the oldest buildings a little less than a thousand years. There are portraits, furniture and a collection of weapons of Spanish kings. The throne room, like many others, is preserved as it was created in the 15th century for the coronation of royal persons.
5. Angel Falls in Venezuela – Paradise Falls from the cartoon “Up”
In the full-length animated film “Up”, which received an Oscar in 2009, the main characters dream all their lives to go to South America and see the Paradise Falls. To create it, the studio animators spent several weeks at Angel (Salto Ángel) – the world’s largest waterfall with a height of 979 meters. It is located in Venezuela, in Canaima National Park, where it falls down from Mount Auyan-tepui. The waterfall is so high that most of the water breaks up into small drops and becomes a fog, without having time to reach the ground. Due to this, several kilometres of the forest around the waterfall are constantly shrouded in thick fog.
6. The Inca City of Machu Picchu – the Empire of Cusco in The Adventures of the Emperor
The creation of the village where Pacha lives, the authors of the cartoon The Adventures of the Emperor, was inspired by the Inca city abandoned Machu Picchu, located in Peru, 6 kilometres from the settlement of Aguas Calientes. This amazing city was built on top of a mountain range at an altitude of 2,450 meters in 1440. Abandoned by residents in 1532 for an unknown reason and for 400 years was in desolation. It was discovered in perfect condition by American researchers in 1911. The city has a palace and houses of nobles, a temple where human sacrifices were made, residential buildings and towers for astronomy. Until now, neither the real name of the city, nor the number of inhabitants, nor why it was abandoned, is known.
7. Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany – King’s Castle in Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella
Neuschwanstein (Schloss Neuschwanstein), one of the most beautiful castles in Europe, has repeatedly appeared in cartoons. He became the prototype for Walt Disney for the palaces in Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, and also appears on the headband and logo of the Disney studio. The castle stands on a rock surrounded by a forest, near the city of Füssen (Füssen) in Germany, near the Austrian border. From all the other castles that inspired animators, Neuschwanstein is distinguished by the fact that this is not a real medieval castle, but the romantic fantasy of King Ludwig II realized in 1886. The monarch, who loved fairy tales and adored Wagner’s operas, decided to build himself a real knight’s castle in the medieval style, with rooms decorated with paintings and tapestries based on the favourite sagas. Unfortunately, Ludwig II did not have time to see the embodiment of his dream – he died when the castle was not yet completed.
8. Dunnottar Castle in Scotland – Dunbroch Castle in Braveheart
Dunbroch Castle from the cartoon was created in the image of the medieval castle Dunnotar (Dunnottar Castle), standing on an impregnable rock, surrounded by the sea, on the east coast of Scotland. The first fortress was built on this site already in the 7th century. Over the past centuries, the castle was besieged by the Vikings, the Scots and the troops of the English king, here was the headquarters of the resistance and the royal residence. In Dunnothar preserved 11 buildings of the 13th century, several secret passages and caves. Also, the castle is famous for its ghosts – most of the tourists there is a girl in a green dress, a Viking and a huge greyhound.
9. Villages of the Alsace region in France – the village of “Beauty and the Beast”
The prototype of the native village of Belle was the French region of Alsace on the border with Germany, famous for its white wine and father architecture. It is not known exactly which town or village inspired the creators of the cartoon, so we advise you to visit Riquewihr, Bergheim, Mittelbergheim and Eguisheim, which are included in the list of the most beautiful villages in France. In each of them, you will find colourful medieval houses, a mill on the river, a central square with a fountain, wine cellars and endless grape fields.
10. St. Olaf’s Church in Balestrand, Norway – Church in “Cold Heart”
The church from the cartoon, where Elsa’s coronation takes place, almost in detail repeats the wooden church of St. Olaf Kirke, built in 1897 in the city of Balestrand in Norway. The church imitates the style of medieval frame Scandinavian temples. Outside, it is decorated with spires, turrets and carved heads of dragons, and inside – with wood carvings and dozens of stained glass windows. After the release of the cartoon, the church of St. Olaf became very popular with tourists, especially among couples from all over the world who want to marry her.
11. Manchak Swamps in Louisiana, USA – Swamps in The Princess and the Frog
The action of the cartoon “The Princess and the Frog” takes place in New Orleans, where key locations repeat real-life streets and houses, as well as in the swamps, where the main characters meet new friends. Swamps from a cartoon with huge trees entwined with moss and alligators hiding in muddy water exist in the real world – there are hundreds of them in Louisiana. Particularly popular with tourists are the dark Manchak swamps (Manchac Swamp), which lie not far from New Orleans. It’s dangerous to explore these places alone, but for tourists, there are night and day boat tours, during which the guide tells the story of the city, the surroundings and eerie tales about swamps, ghosts and sorcerers.
12. Chambord Castle in France – the castle of the monster in “Beauty and the Beast”
The creators of the cartoon were inspired by different regions of France. The Château de Chambord, one of the most beautiful castles of the Loire Valley, was taken as the basis of the Monster castle. It was built by order of King Francis I in the 16th century in the style of the French Renaissance and is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The roof of the castle is unique – there, among dozens of carved towers, decorated chimneys and medallions, is a large terrace. The project of the central spiral staircase was designed by Leonardo da Vinci, and all 426 rooms of the castle are magnificently decorated with an abundance of gold, carving and stucco.
13. Kauai Island, Hawaii – Hawaii in Lilo and Stitch
In the cartoon, the girl Lilo lives in Hawaii; on which of the islands, in the cartoon is not specified. The real prototype of the cartoon island was Kauai (Kauai), the oldest of the Hawaiian islands, in the centre of which an extinct volcano towers. This place is considered one of the rainiest in the world. Most of the coast of the island consists of sandy beaches surrounded by palm groves. And the creation of the native city of Lilo, Kokaua, the creators of the cartoon, inspired the city of Hanapepe, which lies in a valley with waterfalls.
14. Chillon Castle in Switzerland – Prince Eric Castle at the Little Mermaid
The prototype of the castle of Prince Eric, in which the Little Mermaid fell in love, was the medieval castle of Chilli (Chateau de Chillon), standing on the shores of Lake Geneva, 3 kilometres from the city of Montreux in Switzerland. The castle was very popular in the 18-19 centuries – Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas and George Byron wrote about him. Chillon stands on a rock towering above the lake, with a stone bridge connecting it to the shore. Most of the castle buildings were built in the 12th century, some towers were completed in the 13-14 centuries. We advise you to go inside the castle – there are waiting for you well-preserved medieval halls and a chapel, as well as a magnificent view of Lake Geneva from the windows.