Disney Castles ‘Cross the World
A Disney Distinct Series
People ask, how does one park, or one attraction compare to another? In our new Disney Distinct Series, we compare parks, lands, attractions, event restaurants and shops from one park to another. How does the Adventurer’s hotel compare to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. How does Pirates of the Caribbean compare across all parks. Which park does the best popcorn? That’s the theme we will play out in this series.
In this Disney at Play Post & Podcast we take a look at all of the Disney castles found around the world. Apart from the parks they are in, which castle is the best? How are they distinct from each other? That’s the topic we explore in this podcast.
We offer a chart that provides a one-stop comparison of all of the Disney castles around the world. You’ll learn that no one castle is the same. They all are truly unique.
Let’s look at each in the order they were built. We start at the “Happiest Place on Earth.”
Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle
Recently Kim Irvine led a badly needed renovation of the original icon of them all, Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. Emphasized in this were heightened pinks and blues.
When this castle was first designed, it wasn’t at the end of Main Street. Rather, it was the focal point in the back of Fantasyland. Only a wall and drawbridge met you in front. Note its location in the Herb Ryman illustration below. It was the first complete park map built.
Besides taking a photo out front, what people want to do most is to go up inside the castle. This entrance welcomes guests to a walkthrough of Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Venture inside the castle to see dioramas featuring the story of Sleeping Beauty. Here we see the king and queen ordering all of the spinning wheels to be burned.
Snow White’s Wishing Well and Grotto stands nearby to the castle. It’s been a favorite for decades.
There is no stage that is part of the castle, but that doesn’t stop the Disneyland Band from performing out front. The castle below shows a slightly earlier version of the castle prior to its most recent remodel.
The castle at night was part of the closing credits to the Wonderful World of Disney shows for years. Seen through the entrance is King Arthur’s Carousel all lit up.
Be sure to check out this Tom Morris Interview where he talks about Roland E. Hill and his contribution to the design of this castle.
Magic Kingdom Cinderella Castle
One doesn’t think Walt Disney World without thinking Cinderella Castle. It is the icon of the entire property, not just Magic Kingdom.
A fantastic feature of this castle is the entryway which houses murals showcasing the story of Cinderella. These mosaic works of art are found in both Orlando and Tokyo, and sections of the murals are also found on the Disney Cruise Ships.
Cinderella’s Royal Table is one of the most popular restaurants in all of Walt Disney World. Beyond dining in the castle, guests get to meet Cinderella and other Disney Princesses.
Only a few select get the chance to stay in the Cinderella Suite. Here is a video of what that looks like:
Rather than a Snow White wishing well, Magic Kingdom offers a Cinderella wishing well.
Tokyo Disneyland Cinderella Castle
The castle is distinctly framed by the overarching atrium that hangs over World Bazaar, Tokyo’s version of Main Street, U.S.A.
Two large castle turrets border each side of the castle. They are used for entertainment support. Note the bench seating in front of the castle.
I love the landscaping package around the castle. Much better than the look and feel of the Magic Kingdom.
Want to go up into the castle? Everyone can! While it’s the same castle as in Magic Kingdom, you don’t have to have a dining reservation to visit. Instead, Cinderella’s Fairy Tale Hall provides a tribute to one of the most famous “happiest ever after” stories.
While there you can even sit on the throne and have your picture taken. But what you can’t do is see Cinderella. She doesn’t make appearances.
Exiting this attraction is done by venturing outside, where you get some beautiful views of Fantasyland.
Downstairs, Arribas Brothers hosts a shop, appropriately titled, The Glass Slipper.
There is no Cinderella wishing well, but guests can visit Snow White’s Wishing Well and Grotto. It’s on the other side of the castle closer to Frontierland, and is more open than the intimate Disneyland version. It’s also decorated with eggs at Easter.
Disneyland Paris La Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant
No castle is perhaps more ideally framed on Main Street than the one in Disneyland Paris. It seems almost perfect in size.
This castle also offers an opportunity to go explore. Note the polage displayed on the back wall. While it looks like a stained glass window, it actually turns back and forth from doves to roses.
Here the story is again told of Sleeping Beauty, but not via dioramas like at Disneyland, but through statues, stained glass murals, tapestries and more.
This castle knew how to create Instagrammable moments long before Instagram came around.
From the upper levels you have a beautiful view of Fantasyland.
The castle is flanked on one side toward Tomorrowland by a stage, and on another by a hill, with box-shaped trees reminiscent of the Eyvind Earle designs that were done for the Sleeping Beauty film.
That side of the hill allows space to create some caverns, and to house of all things…a dragon! No where else in any Disney park do you get a dragon!
Hong Kong Disneyland Castle of Magical Dreams
Lots of changes coming to this castle. But it’s worth noting how it was before the change occurred. Identical to Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland, this icon seemed smaller because it was set against a real mountain drop.
The backside of castles is as good if not better than the backside of water.
In parallel to Disneyland in California, the castle has a Snow White’s Wishing Well and Grotto, identical in nearly every way.
This castle is under a massive remodel, turning it from Sleeping Beauty’s Castle to The Castle of Magical Dreams.
Each turret of the new castle will have an icon representing a different Disney princess.
The castle will also add a new stage with fountains for shows and evening fireworks.
Shanghai Disneyland Enchanted Storybook Castle
Definitely the biggest of all castles Shanghai Disneyland’s Enchanted Storybook Castle is unlike any other. Some critics don’t like its bulk size, nor the color scheme. But the color scheme addresses challenges in Shanghai with smog. And the size provides the chance to experience the castle like no other castle does.
Four murals can be found in the interior courtyard. Here is one from Brave.
Inside is another Arribas Brothers Shop, entitled Crystal Treasures. It is an open and beautifully decored retail space.
The inner atrium offers a beautiful space with stained glass window, and a beautiful chandelier. It is the centerpiece of Shanghai Disneyland’s centerpiece castle.
Step up that staircase and you venture past bas relief sculptures of each princess starting from the most recent to the original. Here is one of them celebrating Sleeping Beauty.
Arriving at the top, you are treated to Once Upon a Time Adventure, a highly interactive experience that retells the story of Snow White. See a video below. You actually move your hands and fingers to help the animals clean the dishes.
The Royal Banquet Hall is truly royal, and puts the one at Magic Kingdom back into the Medieval ages. There are five salons, themed to Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Cinderella, The Princess and the Frog, and Mulan.
Coolest of all features at Enchanted Storybook Castle is traveling inside the castle via boat on the Voyage to the Crystal Grotto.
A mural inside the grotto shows the entire town gathering toward the castle.
We’ve just taken a quick look at each castle, but we have managed to share what makes each unique and different. Every castle is distinct, and can be enjoyed by all.
Separate the castles from the rest of the parks. If you could only visit one, and that was all you were doing, which castle would you visit? Why?