Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant is arguably Disney’s most beautiful castle. It’s romantic structure and sweeping landscape make it the perfect representation for which Disneyland Paris stands: beauty in the details. But how did this testament to French fairy tales come to life? Here are some fun facts you might not know about our beloved Sleeping Beauty castle.
1. Since Europe, and France in particular, is home to the real châteaux that inspired Cinderella’s castle in Walt Disney World and Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Disneyland, it would stand to reason that Imagineers had to come up with something truly spectacular for Disneyland Paris’ icon. “The fact that castles exist just down the road from Disneyland Paris caused us to think twice about our design, ” noted Tony Baxter in an interview with Theme Park Insider. Instead of basing Disney’s fourth castle park on something you could see in person just a few hours away, they instead chose to create a more fairy tale like structure, with (make it) pink and (make it) blue coloring, and inspired by its namesake animated classic, the French Gothic manuscript, Très Riches Heures and Normandy’s Mont Saint Michel.
2. Imagineers cut the size of Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant down 1/3 from Cinderella’s Castle in Walt Disney World to allocate more of the budget toward enhancing the atmosphere of the château. This resulted in not only the two merchandise locations within the castle, but the Galerie de la Belle au Bois Dormant upstairs and La Tanière du Dragon underneath.
3. Along the golden turrets of the castle guests will see small bumps leading up to the spires. Look more closely and you’ll notice those are actually golden snails.
4. The stained glass windows located in the Galerie de la Belle au Bois Dormant within the castle walls help tell the story of Sleeping Beauty. They were overseen by Peter Chapman, the same man who worked on restoring the stained glass in the famed Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
5. Disneyland Paris’ Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant is the only Disney castle with it’s own dragon, a huge, 79 foot animatronic, chained in the dungeon, La Tanière du Dragon. According to Imagineer Tony Baxter, it was inspired by the 1958 film, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. But as the sign would suggest, could also be interpreted as the evil Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty.
6. Atop each turret on Sleeping Beauty’s castle is a unique weather vane, each different from the rest. Look for flowers, crowns, flags and even the Disney “D.”
7. The two stores located to the left and right of the main hall were important to Imagineers as they designed Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Merlin l’Enchanteur is more than just a simple glass boutique located inside Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, it’s positively bursting with ‘odds and ends and bric-a-brac’ from The Sword in the Stone’s wizard in residence, covering walls, shelves and ceilings. La Boutique de Château (or as everyone refers to it, The Christmas Store) has elements of both fairy tale and reality throughout its design. The carvings in the fireplace by the entrance depict the “Once Upon A Dream” song sequence from the animated movie, while the intricately painted ceiling was inspired by Saint Chapelle in Paris proper.
8. To accommodate wheelchairs and some cars by regulation, Imagineers had to create the illusion of higher elevation through forced perspective and intricate landscaping complete with grassy knolls, surrounding rock work and plenty of square trees taken straight from Disney’s 1959 film, Sleeping Beauty.
9. The Disney Family coat of arms is a staple piece on each of the castles around the world. At Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant, the Disney Family crest can be found near the entrance to Fantasyland on the left hand side of the castle.
10. The facade of Sleeping Beauty’s castle faces north to south so that it looks brilliant and back lit free for guests entering on Main Street USA no matter what time of day they arrive.
And there you have it. Some (not so secret) details about Disney’s most beautiful castle. Not to shabby, DLP. Not too shabby indeed.