9 Real Life Locations That Inspired Disney Films

“I can show you the actual world.” — Aladdin (kind of)

1. The royal castle in Sleeping Beauty.

Based on Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria, Germany.

Sleeping Beauty’s castle located at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, is also styled after the famous Neuschwanstein castle opened in 1886 in honor of King Ludwig II.

2. The sultan’s palace from Aladdin.

Based on the Taj Mahal in Agra, India.

Built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal was completed in 1648 and has since remained one of India’s most prized architectural gems.

3. Paradise Falls in Disney Pixar’s Up.

Pixar Animation Studios

Based on Angel Falls in Canaima National Park, Venezuela.

Angel Falls is the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall, with a height of 979 meters (3,212 feet) and a plunge of 807 meters (2,648 feet). Up‘s directors visited real world locations in South America to model their fictional waterfall.

4. Pride Rock in The Lion King.

Based on a similar rock in the Serengeti of Kenya? False.

Pride Rock was created by Disney artists in Burbank “… In the movie, the Pride Lands are modeled after many different areas of Kenya. There are certain things lifted from the landscape around the Samburu District, but we used a variety of inspirations. [However] Many people try to say, “Pride Rock is based on this mountain here.” — Roger Allen, Lion King co-director

5. Pacha’s village in The Emperor’s New Groove.

Disney

Based on Machu Picchu in Cusco, Peru.

Disney animators drew their inspiration for Kuzco’s empire in The Emperor’s New Groove from the real life ruins of Maccu Picchu, built by the Incans around 1450, and located in the region of Cusco, Peru. Kuzco, Cusco. See what they did there?

6. The royal palace in Tangled.

Disney / Via simplywallpaper.net

Based off Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France.

“The idea was… to have a renaissance castle on an island, reminiscent of Mont St Michel in Normandie, France. Emulating the style of the “peinture galante” (by Fragonard) was the art direction. That was my brief and from there, I designed the castle and its surroundings. Scene per scene, it was like exploring a new world.” — Laurent Ben-Mimoun, Disney art designer

7. Atlantic from Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

Based very loosely off Angkor Wat in Siem Riep, Cambodia.

Art director David Goetz stated, “We looked at Mayan architecture, styles of ancient, unusual architecture from around the world, and the directors really liked the look of Southeast Asian architecture.” Don Hahn (Atlantis co-creator) added, “If you take and deconstruct architecture from around the world into one architectural vocabulary, that’s what our Atlantis looks like.”

8. Belle’s local village from Beauty and the Beast.

Disney

Based on small villages in the Alsace region of France.

The picture above is from the town of Riquewihr, France a town potentially used by Disney animator’s to create Belle’s “poor, provincial town.”

9. And of course, Notre Dame cathedral in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Based on the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, France.

Built in 1345, Notre Dame de Paris remains one of the world’s most famous cathedrals. In 1831, Victor Hugo reimagined the cathedral as home to Quasimodo, the reclusive bell ringer in his novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

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