Stepping into Animation: Places that inspired Disney films
Stepping into Animation: Places that inspired Disney films
“A dream is a wish your heart makes” are the iconic lyrics featured in the famous song sung by Cinderella in the classic animated Disney feature film. Since 1937, Disney has been making dreams come true and delighting audiences with animated films containing fascinating and gorgeous scenery. Many are familiar with the fact that the castles in Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty were inspired by Neuschwanstein Castle. But that isn’t the only place Disney has garnered inspiration. Here are some locations across Europe you can visit that inspired some of your favorite Disney animated movies.
France: “Little town, it’s a quiet village,” is where Disney garnered inspiration for Beauty and the Beast. Alsace, France is the inspiration for the opening song, though it is not that quiet. Alsace is a border region of the country of Germany where you can partake in delicious regional fare inspired by the cultures of both countries. Drive about seven hours west of Alsace and you’ll find the inspiration for the Beast's castle, Château de Chambord. At the Chateau, you can tour the castle and gardens, solve puzzles as you go through the castle and explore the vineyard.
Three hours north of the Chateau, you can find yourself in the city of romance, Paris, which inspired the settings of several Disney animated films.
The Cathedral of Notre Dame is the setting of The Hunchback of Notre Dame as Disney takes its viewers on an adventure with the bells and gargoyles. Unfortunately, visitors have not been able to go inside since the fire of 2019, but they are actively planning the reopening. If you want to eat like a true Parisian, eat you can at Paris’ oldest café, Procope, or Tour D’Argent, which both inspired the Disney animators behind Ratatouille. The kitchen from the movie was inspired by The French Laundry in Napa Valley, California, but the animators visited the aforementioned restaurants for even more inspiration. O’Malley the Alley Cat and the Tramp weaved the streets and rooftops of Paris, and it is quite evident in the setting of the Aristocats and Lady and the Tramp. See if you can see which Bourgeois homes and parks made their way into the movies as you are walking the streets.
Three hours west of Paris is Normandy where you can find Mont Saint-Michel, the inspiration for the kingdom of Corona in Tangled. While in Mont Saint-Michel, eat at their most famous restaurant, La Mère Poulard and of course, visit the Abbey.
U.K.: The United Kingdom is another place where Disney animators have drawn inspiration for multiple films. In the Great Mouse Detective, audiences can marvel at the animated Buckingham Palace as Basil tries the solve the case. You can explore the state rooms of the King yourself throughout the 10 weeks of summer, or selected times in winter and spring. While in London, make your way to The Regent’s Park where Pongo and Perdita walked in the 101 Dalmatians. At Regent’s Park, you can see over 12,000 roses in Queen Mary’s Garden, visit the London Zoo and the Open Air Theatre. One last stop in London is the neighborhood Bloomsbury, where while walking around, see if you can spot the townhouses that inspired the home of Wendy and John in Peter Pan.
Outside of the city, you can find more gorgeous locations that inspired the animators. Less than two hours from London, you can find the inspiration for The 100-Acre Wood where Pooh, Tigger and Piglet call home, Ashdown Forest. While in the Forest, you can visit the real “Pooh Sticks Bridge.” North of London, near Nottingham, is the Sherwood Forest, where the adventures of Robin Hood took place. You can visit the Forest year-round, but they hold special events such as medieval fairs and themed walks, writing workshops and scary storytelling.
Go north to Scotland to see the inspiration for the movie Brave. The Scottish Highlands were the backdrop of her story, but Eilean Donan Castle was particularly featured in the form of Merida’s DunBroch Castle. You can not only visit and tour Eilean Donan, but you can stay overnight at the cottage and apartments onsite.
Italy: The wooden puppet, Pinocchio, became a real boy in a village inspired by the Tuscan Village of Collodi. While in the village you can visit Pinocchio Park, the Butterfly House and Villa Garzoni. Around seven hours south is the Amalfi Coast, where Luca, the merboy, came out of the water and lived on land with his best friend. While on the coast, view the architecture that inspired the film as well as relax on the beaches and go hiking on scenic trails.
Norway: If the cold never bothered you anyway, head over to Bergen, Norway, one the towns that inspired the scenery of Frozen. While in Bergen, you can take guided tours, enjoy the Gingerbread Town at Christmas and festivals year-round. Less than four hours north of Bergen, you can visit St. Olaf’s Church in Balestrand, where you can see the inspiration for Elsa’s coronation (and also the name of the summer-loving snowman, Olaf). While you are in Balestrand, tour a fjord, take part in cider tasting and go mountain hiking.
Spain: Snow White and the Seven Dwarves comes from Germanic origins, but the inspiration for the castle is all Spanish. The Queen plans her evil plot in a castle inspired by Alcázar de Segovia. You can visit the castle year-round with the exception of some holidays, and a tour of the castle takes about 45 minutes.
Switzerland: Ariel eats from a dinglehopper for the first time in Prince Eric’s castle, which is inspired by the Chateau de Chillon in Veytaux, Switzerland. You can book a tour of the castle in advance in different languages or just take yourself on a self-guided tour. While in Veytaux, you can see all of Lake Geneva and go on a wine tour.
Greece: Hercules is inspired from Greek mythology, so you can see where Disney animators found inspiration all over Greece. Visit the Parthenon to see the muses, the Temple of Zeus to see where Hercules first “met” his biological father or the Island of Rhodes, which is the inspiration for Phil’s island where Hercules trains.
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