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Top 10 Real Life Locations that Inspired Disney Movies

VO: Emily Brayton
Script written by Spencer Sher Top 10 Real Life Locations that Inspired Disney Movies Subscribe: ‪‬‬‬‬‬ Finding Nemo, Tangled, Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Up, you may have seen these movies and thought wow! How magical! Well they’re actually inspired by real places! In this countdown we’re taking a look at the most magical real life destinations that inspired Disney movies! We’ve included places like Chateau De Chillon, Hotel de Glace, Taj Mahal, The Great Barrier Reef, Neuschwanstein Castle, Angel Falls and the Notre Dame Cathedral! MsMojo's Social Media: Facebook: Twitter: Instagram: Snapchat:

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Top 10 Real Life Locations That Inspired Disney Movies

Have you ever wanted to jump into your favorite Disney film? Well, as it turns out, you probably can! Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Real Life Locations That Inspired Disney Movies.

For this list, we’re looking at places, spots, destinations, locations and more that exist in real life and were likely sources of inspiration for Disney and Pixar films.

#10: Chillon Castle [aka Château de Chillon]
“The Little Mermaid” (1989)

This island castle was destined to end up in a Disney film. Immaculately placed on the shores of Lake Geneva and resting at the base of the majestic Swiss Alps, the Chateau would reportedly serve as the primary inspiration for Prince Eric’s castle. While the film centers on a mermaid whose home is the ocean, this didn’t stop animators from borrowing heavily from the design of this lakeside gem. From its slanted red-tile roof to the imposing white walls that protect from seaside attacks, the castle suggests that Prince Eric probably made a trip to Northwestern Switzerland at one point in his life.

#9: Loire Valley and Alsace Region
“Beauty and the Beast” (1991)

These two distinctive French regions played a large role in the eventual look and feel of one of Disney’s masterpieces. The Alsace region, located in the Northeast of France and bordering Germany, is very much a blend of both cultures. This is reflected in the architecture of the many picturesque towns that dot the area. Animators incorporated the flat tile roofing and timber framing that characterizes many of the buildings in the region. Not to be outdone, the Loire Valley was also intricate in shaping the world of “Beauty and the Beast” - in particular, the Chateau de Chambord. This marvel of French Renaissance architecture served as the template for what would eventually become the Beast’s castle.

#8: Alcázar of Segovia
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937) & “Cinderella” (1950)

This cliff-top castle didn’t just inspire Disney once, but twice! Located in the old city of Segovia, Spain, it’s rumored that this imposing structure served as the model for both the Queen’s castle in “Snow White” and “Cinderella”’s majestic palace in the center of Walt Disney World. Many of the castle’s iconic features made their way from drawing boards to the silver screen without much change. Setting the castle in “Snow White” on a rocky ridge and including multiple spires ascending into the sky prove that one castle heavily influenced the other. In fact, pay attention the next time you watch a Disney film, chances are it’s the Alcazar of Segovia – or a castle quite like it – that is the first thing that appears on screen.

#7: Ice Hotel [aka Hôtel de Glace]
“Frozen” (2013)

This Disney film wasn’t shy when it came to borrowing from real world locations. The chapel depicted in the film was modeled after St. Olaf’s church in Balestrand, Norway. However, the piece de resistance is the Ice Palace that the character of Elsa builds in an attempt to find solitude. The fantastical palace was not simply the brainchild of a group of Disney animators but also is, in fact, inspired by a seasonal structure located in Quebec City, Canada. While the hotel is made from large bricks of ice and snow, Disney decided to give their palace a sleeker design. The finished product is one that pays homage to its Canadian muse while still maintaining its own unique identity.

#6: Taj Mahal
“Aladdin” (1992)

This one is a no brainer. From the enormous archway to the plethora of stone pillars, it is clear that the Sultan’s Palace took heaps of inspiration from this iconic Indian monument. While often mistaken for a palace, the “Taj” is in fact a tomb. Though the Disney version ignores this fact, it is plain to see that both structures share more than a passing resemblance. One difference between the two is where each of them is located, as Aladdin takes place in the fictional kingdom of Agrabah. However, the location of the Taj Mahal definitely played a part in where the story of Aladdin was to be set. We don’t see a flying carpet working as effectively in New York.

#5: Mont Saint-Michel
“Tangled” (2010)

Just off the coast of Normandy lies the picturesque island that been said to have served as the inspiration for The Kingdom of Corona. Appearing to have emerged from the sea all on its own, this island commune has all the features of a fairytale castle. However, unlike its film counterpart, the top of Mont Saint-Michel has served as an abbey for the better part of its existence. Disney animators took the basic design of the abbey and then gave it an injection of whimsy. The Kingdom of Corona is a colorful and imposing structure that catches the eyes of viewers instantly. It is clear that the film wanted to pay homage to the famous French island while working to create something that was uniquely Disney.

#4: Great Barrier Reef
“Finding Nemo” (2003)

If the plot of your movie is about a fish getting lost in the ocean, look no further than this coral reef system off the coast of Australia to serve as its location. Covering a distance of 133, 000 square miles, this natural wonder served as the backdrop to the epic story of a father willing to do anything to find his clownfish offspring. Choosing to have Nemo disappear in one of the most spectacular underwater environments known to man was not an accident. From the millions of different aquatic life forms to the seemingly never-ending rows of colorful corals, this location was beautifully adapted to the big screen. The Disney version of this environmental marvel perfectly captures the look and feel of one of earth’s wonders.

#3: Angel Falls [aka Kerepakupai Meru]
“Up” (2009)

Getting to this majestic waterfall is easier said than done. Located in the heart of the Venezuelan jungle, multiple plane rides and a boat expedition are necessary to reach the base of the falls. However, the view upon arrival is unmatched. Standing 3,212 feet tall and claiming the title of “World’s Highest Uninterrupted Waterfall”, it is easy to see why it served as the inspiration for Paradise Falls in this 2009 animated adventure film. While animators added various elements to their version, including a precarious freestanding pillar of equal height, it is clear which real-life location stirred their creative juices. Thanks to this film, the jaw-dropping splendor of Angel Falls can now be seen from the comfort of your couch.

#2: Notre-Dame Cathedral [aka Notre Dame de Paris]
“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996)

The titular location of this animated film can be found in the heart of Europe’s most romantic city: Paris. With a tower height of 226 feet, this piece of gothic architecture served as the inspiration for the home and workplace of deformed bell-ringer Quasimodo. The Notre Dame that appears in the film is nearly identical to its real-life counterpart. While the animators of the film borrowed heavily from the cathedral itself, much of the surrounding location was remodeled to more accurately resemble 15th century Paris. At least Disney’s version of the church didn’t take nearly 200 years to build!

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

Machu Picchu
“The Emperor’s New Groove” (2000)

Forbidden City
“Mulan” (1998)

Eilean Donan Castle
“Brave” (2012)

#1: Neuschwanstein Castle [aka New Swanstone Castle]
“Sleeping Beauty” (1959)

While travelling through Europe, Walt Disney came across a castle nestled in the snow-capped mountain peaks of the Bavarian Alps. It would be this majestic piece of Romanesque Revival architecture that would serve as the model for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Disney decided to use this new inspiration for two different aspects of his burgeoning empire: as the centerpiece of his Disneyland theme park in California, and as the home of one of his most famous animated princesses. For the film, animators borrowed heavily from Neuschwanstein; ensuring that the iconic castle’s multiple spires and mountaintop location were properly converted to the silver screen. This castle is truly straight out of a fairy tale.

Do you agree with our list? What is your favorite location that inspired a Disney film? For more entertaining Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to MsMojo.

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