Images by Zeon Santos
Sleeping Beauty Castle may not be a ride, or even much of an attraction, but it has become an icon –not just of the Disneyland Park, but of Disney as a whole. In fact, the design has been used as the logo for Disney products for years, which sets it apart from all other rides and attractions in the park. To better understand what makes this castle so magical, let’s take a deeper look at the park attraction in today’s Neatorama Facts.
Inspiration For The Creation
It is widely known that the castle is largely based on the Neuscheanstein Castle in Germany, but it is not an exact replica. In fact, the castle is actually flipped in orientation and also takes inspiration from various French architectures, including Notre Dame and the Hospices de Beaune. Few people also realize that the design incorporates forced perspective, making it appear to be much more tall and impressive than its actual height of 77 feet (about four stories) would ordinarily appear. This technique is also used on the businesses in Main Street.
The castle is also a lot less permanent that it appears, being constructed mostly from cement, plaster and fiberglass.
The attraction was included in the original plans for the park and it was one of a handful of attractions seen on opening day that still remains completely the same.
A Mysterious Family Emblem
At the front of the castle is a coat of arms, which many fans mistakenly believe are the Disney family crest. Interestingly, this is not actually the Disney crest and no one seems to know the true origins of the crest on display, but it is known that it was added to the castle at some point in summer of 1965.
Utilizing the Fortress
In front of the attraction is a draw bridge that connects the castle to the end of Main Street. The draw bridge actually works, but it has only been raised twice, once on opening day and once at the 1983 rededication ceremony for the new and improved Fantasyland. The gears can be seen below
The top story of the castle was originally empty, but it bothered Walt to have such a great space left unused, so he challenged his Imagineers to design something for the area. The result was a diorama of Sleeping Beauty that allowed guests to walk through the castle and follow the story of the princess.
In October of 2001, the walkthrough was closed and while Disney never gave an official reason, the two most widely accepted stories state that the building violated the Americans With Disabilities Act and that the terrorist attacks of September 11 led park officials to worry that the tight enclosed spaces in the castle could be a target for terrorist attacks.
While the timing would indicate that the closure was at least partially due to fear of attacks, the fact that there was a wheelchair accessible Sleeping Beauty experience added on the ground floor of the castle added when the attraction reopened indicates that the ADA compliance was also an issue.
On my last trip to Disneyland, I was able to visit the attraction, and I have to say, the slight revamping of the classic diorama was quite good. They went with the original style of the walkthrough, but added a few extra technologies that were not available when it opened the first time. The handicap accessible area is also pretty cool, as it recreates the experience using a closed-captioned high-def screen that shows the entire diorama.
Sparking Up Some Fireworks
Most visitors recognize that the castle serves as the focal point for the Disneyland fireworks shows that seem to operate throughout the entire year. Each fireworks show costs around $41,000 to put on per night –that’s big money for some lights and explosions!
Traditionally, Tinkerbell will fly down to the castle from the top of the Matterhorn to set the celebration in motion, although sometimes another character will do it depending on the season or theme of the show. The first Tinkerbell was Tiny Kline, a circus performer and aerialist who was only four foot ten. What’s most interesting about Tiny though was her age: she was 71 when she first performed the role.
Incompletion Or A Simple Error
All of the spires on the castle are plated in real gold, except one. There is a delightful story that it was left unplated in order to celebrate Walt’s statement that “Disneyland will never be completed as long as there is imagination left in the world.” While it’s quite a romantic notion, the truth isn’t nearly as cool. As it turns out, the spire was actually messed up in the 1990’s during the castles refurbishment. The staff believed that gold-colored patina would look better and be easier to work with than the gold leafing previously used, unfortunately, it didn’t work and the spire now looks dark and forgotten compared to its counterparts.
The Motivation For Selected Vegetation
The moat around the front of the castle is largely adorned with junipers, which may not be as stunning as many of the other landscaping used in the park, but there is good reason for their selection. Disneyland leases swans to swim in the moat on occasion and junipers are in a select group of plants that swans won’t try to eat.
It’s interesting to note that Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland are the only two parks to have a Sleeping Beauty Castle. The parks in Florida and Japan have a Cinderella castle, which is much bigger in scope and size. Those of you who have been to both parks, which do you like better?
Sources: Little-Known Facts About Well-Known Places, Wikipedia
Disneyland fans! See more Neatorama Facts:
Neatorama Facts: Haunted Mansion
Neatorama Facts: Pirates of the Caribbean
Neatorama Facts: The Jungle Cruise
Neatorama Facts: Space Mountain
Neatorama Facts: The Enchanted Tiki Room