Unexpected Friends

Today, I want to share just a little bit about what makes Disney so special to me.  If you’ve read my “about me”, you’ll see that I live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  I’m quite a ways from any parks… 1,321 miles from the Disneyland Castle, 1,338 from Walt Disney World.  (amazing, actually, that both distances are within 20 miles distance)  As far as I know, there are no Mouse Meets, Disney blog conventions, or anything of that sort in my state, or too close to me.  That being said, I made a friend because of Mickey Mouse yesterday.

At the elementary school I work at, I bring a Walt Disney World Resort mug with me, and fill it with water throughout the day.  Yesterday, as I was leaving, I stopped at the school office to ask the secretary a question.  And what did I see on her desk, half full of coffee?  A mug!!!  I smiled at her, and asked “2006, 2007”, pointing at her mug.  She had a huge grin on her face, and said yeah, and then pointed at mine and guessed the year as well.  

It turns out, she not only loves Disney, she was a Cast Member back in the day (she wouldn’t tell me exactly when, but it couldn’t have been too long ago), and worked in the parking lot at the TTC, and then later at EPCOT.  She goes as often as she can with her family, and has been a few times to reunite with other CMs she worked with.

Before I left, she said to me ‘It’s so nice to meet someone else who I can chat with about Disney.  Most people will listen along for a few minutes, but after about five, everyone wants to change the conversation’.  (I didn’t even tell her about my Twitter account, Facebook page, blog, etc…)

Have you made any unexpected friends outside of a trip to Disneyland or Walt Disney World?  Let us know in a comment!



The Hong Kong Castle


(This photo is publicly available here)

Hong Kong Disneyland opened its doors in April of 2005, the most recent park to open.  The castle is a near match to the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland – 77 feet tall, with a very similar style and look.  However, designers, in an effort to connect with their mostly Chinese audience, brought in elements of Feng Shui, changing a few areas, as well as pathways to different lands in the park.





(construction photos copyright Disney)




(This image is publicly available here)

For Hong Kong Disneyland’s 5th anniversary (yup, in 2010), Tinker Bell was introduced to the park, and in her honor, the castle was to be Tinker Bell’s Castle.  For the year, Tinkerbell’s decorations remained.  The castle is now the Sleeping Beauty Castle again, which is fitting, since it is a copy of the one at Disneyland.  The biggest difference you’ll notice between the castles if you visit both parks is that on Lantau Island, Hong Kong, there are mountains in the background.

 Have you ever dreamed of going to the Disney resorts around the world?  Which would you rather visit, Paris, Toyko, or Hong Kong?  Leave your answer in the comments below!


The Disneyland Paris Castle, Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant

Image(this photo is in the public domain and is available here)

Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant (Castle of the beauty in the woods sleeping, or Sleeping Beauty’s Castle) opened along with Disneyland Paris in April of 1992.  Because Disney Imagineers knew that there were already actual castles in the French countryside which visitors had perhaps already seen, they didn’t want to simply build a Disney replica of a castle as they had done before.  Instead, they created a castle with luscious landscaping, stained-glass windows, winding walkways, waterfalls and a wishing well.

Jack Spence, from AllEars.net visited in 2008, and has some wonderful pictures and great information available on his blog.  Two other great sites are PhotoMagique, which has many great photos, and DLRPMagic (Disneyland Resort, Paris), which has photos, videos, and more information about the resort in general.

The castle has gone through a number of special decorations throughout it’s twenty-one years, and was actually the first castle to have a cake overlay, albeit less cartoon-y than the Walt Disney World 25th anniversary birthday cake).  It has also had golden ribbons, Disney characters, and a giant not-so-hidden Mickey as a part of its festoons.



(This photo is in the public domain and is available here)

In the lair below the castle lives an 89 foot long dragon, which is typically sleeping, but from time to time lifts its head and greets guests with a puff of smoke, and stirs its tail in pools of water.  If you head over to YouTube, you can search for “taniere du dragon” and see some amateur guest videos of the dragon in action.  (Here are the results)


Inside the castle are two shops and a gallery.  La Galerie de la Belle au Bois Dormant, the gallery on the second floor, features a number of beautiful stained glass windows and tells the story of Sleeping Beauty in pictures and tapestries.  On the ground floor is La Boutique du Château, which sells Christmas and holiday ornaments, gifts and keepsakes, as well as Merlin l’Enchanteur, which specializes in hand-made glass figurines.

Are there parts of the Disneyland Paris castle that you wish were in Walt Disney World in Florida?  What changes would you make?  Leave a comment below!


The Tokyo Disneyland Castle


(This photo is public domain, and can be found here)

Tokyo Disneyland (as well as Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland) has a castle, just like its American counterparts, but it is much more difficult to find lots of information out about it.  That may be in part to the fact that many more people go to Walt Disney World than other parks, as well as other factors, such as the enthusiasm of the visitors, and the more obvious language barrier (私は日本語が話せません, ありがとう).

The Cinderella Castle at Tokyo Disneyland is said to be 167 feet tall, or 22 feet shorter than the castle at Walt Disney World.  There are many people out there who claim this number is incorrect, or that if you look at the two, you can definitely tell that one is shorter than the other.  My explanation (agree, or agree to disagree) is that in Florida, the Utilidor system is considered the first floor of the theme park, and when the castle was measured, they had to go from the bottom level to the top.  In Paris and Tokyo, they measured from the ground level, giving the 22 foot difference.


(This image is from the Tokyo Disneyland website)

The most noticeable differences between Walt Disney World and Tokyo are inside the castle.  While Walt Disney World has Cinderella’s Royal Table, the castle in Tokyo has a walk-through entitled “Cinderella’s Fairy Tale Hall, which has artwork, dioramas and other works which detail Cinderella’s life.


(This picture in the public domain and is available here)

Another difference is the paint job.  In 2006, the castle in Japan got a re-haul, with newer paint colors to help it stand apart from its sister castles.  The darker gray stones and gold sections.

So why a Cinderella castle, and not a Snow White castle?  One theory is that the Japanese people felt a stronger connection to Cinderella’s character traits than Snow White’s.  Cinderella has a strong work ethic and a sense of duty.

Although I have been to Japan twice, I’ve never had the opportunity to make it to Tokyo Disneyland.  Perhaps after going to Walt Disney World for 365 consecutive days, I’ll take a break from it and head around the world.

Thanks for reading, and please share this blog with others if you like it!

The Walt Disney World Castle

Image(picture taken January of this year)

Castle Stats

The Walt Disney World Castle, or Cinderella Castle, is the tallest of the five Disney castles currently standing.  Completed in July of 1971, this 189 foot tall structure was just one foot shorter than the 190 foot limit placed by the Federal Aviation Administration, because Disney didn’t want to have to put a blinking red light on top of the castle (the limit was raised to 200 feet years later, which is why the Tower of Terror and Expedition Everest each top out at 199 feet).  Cinderella Castle has 27 turrets, labeled #1-#29, with no #13 or #17 because they were taken out of the blueprints during construction.  The castle includes a restaurant, Cinderella’s Royal Table, and the Disney Dream Suite, a suite for up to six people to stay inside the castle, built recently in the area where Walt Disney’s apartment would have been.

The use of forced perspective (the castle actually gets smaller as it gets taller) makes it appear much larger than 189 feet as you walk down Main Street, USA or view it from other areas of the Magic Kingdom.  Near the top of the structure, windows, doors, and even bricks, or are only half-size.


While most sources state that the Sleeping Beauty Castle was modeled for the most part after Neuschwanstein Castle, it is believed that while the Cinderella Castle has it’s roots on the Disneyland model, it also had inspiration from such castles as Chateaus Pierrefonds and Chambord in France, Moszna in Poland, and a number of others.


(Cheateau Pierrefonds stone model photo can be found here)


(Moszna castle’s photo can be found here)

Cinderella’s Royal Table, inside the castle, is one of the most sought after dining experiences in Walt Disney World.  Guests have their picture taken with Cinderella in the Grand Hall before heading upstairs to dine.  While the food itself is not bad at all, the idea of meeting princesses while eating inside the Walt Disney World castle is its biggest draw.  Reservations can be made 180 days in advance, or you can try your luck by checking in with the host or hostess (although this has never worked for me).

Image(This photo is from the Walt Disney World website)

Over it’s roughly 42 years of existence, Cinderella’s castle has seen a few changes.  To celebrate Walt Disney World’s 25th anniversary in 1996, Imagineers turned the castle into a giant pink birthday cake.  And love it or hate it (many tend toward the latter), it garnered a lot of attention and definitely made the castle stand out.  It was also covered in ‘toilet paper’ and graffiti which said “Stitch is King” to celebrate the opening of the Tomorrowland attraction Stitch’s Great Escape in 2004.



While the castle is a site to behold any time of day, I feel that it looks the most beautiful at night, especially when covered in thousands of white holiday lights.  As the majority of my trips to Walt Disney World have been in January, I have a number of pictures throughout the years of Cinderella castle before Christmas decorations have been taken down.  Here are just a few from 2005, 2008 and 2010.







Do you have a favorite time to visit Walt Disney World’s Cinderella Castle, or a special memory from a trip you’ve taken?  Leave a comment below!

The Disneyland Castle

Image(this image is from the Disneyland website)

The Sleeping Beauty Castle’s drawbridge lowered for the first time at Disneyland on July 17th, 1955.  It has remained down from that day on, with the exception of the opening of the newly remodeled Fantasyland in 1983.  Sleeping Beauty castle was not actually opened to the public when the park began operation in 1955; people could simply look at it and walk around it.  The walk through the castle actually began on April 29th, 1957, a full two years after Disneyland opened.  The castle is the most photographed structure at the park, and is well known (along with it’s sisters in Orlando, Hong Kong, Paris, and Tokyo) around the world.

Why a castle?

Walt Disney wanted to build something that would draw visitors down Main Street, USA to the center of the park and Fantasyland on the other side.  Known as a “wienie” (a term coined by Disney, who loved hot dogs), people would see the castle and want to go towards it.  Also, Walt loved to travel and see different parts of the world, and wanted to bring some of the things he saw on his explorations back to his themed park, where people who could not travel to a foreign land could experience them.  A ‘Sleeping Beauty’ castle would be a great part of Fantasyland, and wouldn’t help the promotion of his upcoming film, either. 

What is it based on?

image available in the public domain, here )

There are many theories behind what the Sleeping Beauty castle is based on.  The most common (and likely) story is that Walt Disney loved the look of Neuschwanstein Castle, in Schwangau, Germany, and wanted to create a fantasy castle at his park that would be home to one of the Disney princesses.  Known as the Sleeping Beauty castle, the movie itself didn’t actually come out until January of 1959, several years after Disneyland opened.  There are other castles that also lay claim to being the inspiration behind Disneyland’s castle, but that will be covered in a separate post.

Castle Stats

The Sleeping Beauty castle is 77 feet tall, and took roughly one year to build.  It contained a number of dioramas in it’s walls that guests could view as the passed through.  Check out Disney’s official blog for a video about the dioramas.  The castle, along with the rest of the park, gets redone each year for the holidays.

Image(image available in the public domain here)


There is no way to write a short blog about the Disneyland Castle and include every piece of information about it.  However, if you have some stories or bits of trivia you’d like to share about Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, please comment below!

The Disney Castles


Probably the most well known and definitely the most photographed structures at the Disney parks are the castles.  As you walk in, the five Disney castles are waiting for you down Main Streets all across the world (or after the World Bazaar in Tokyo), and a sixth is being built at this moment.

But what made Walt Disney want to build a castle in the center of his theme park?  Why are the Disney castles several different sizes around the world?  Was there one castle that specifically inspired the castles?  

Over the next week, I’ll talk specifically about each of the six Disney castles: the original in Disneyland, the tallest in Walt Disney World, the first overseas castle in Tokyo, the ‘most realistic’ in Disneyland Paris, the most recent in Hong Kong, and what will be the newest, tallest and most interactive castle in Shanghai.

Stay tuned for new posts this entire week!