You smell the sugary desserts from the confectionary and the buttery scent of fresh popcorn. A kind cast member offers you a pink Mickey head balloon, that you kindly accept. Your friend approaches with a huge Mickey-shaped pretzel in her hand and offers you a bite. MMM…. salty, doughy goodness. A man’s voice on a stereo welcomes you to the Magic Kingdom and up ahead you see Cinderella’s majestic castle.
Disney parks are home to iconic foods, rides, and landmarks that are recognizable anywhere. However, there is a deep history rooted in each attraction or land that we visit. In this article, I will be sharing countries that have inspired Imagineers (Disney engineers) to create quintessential Disney landmarks. Let’s get started!
Beast’s Castle – Château de Chambord, France
This beautiful castle featured in the hit film Beauty and the Beast, can be found in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom or in Disneyland Tokyo. The inspiration for this castle comes from the same country that the film takes place in: France! France has many picturesque sights throughout its homeland, but the Loire Valley was the vision for this unforgettable Disney classic. Nestled in the center of France, the Château de Chambord was the muse for Beast’s cursed home. If you visit Paris, France, you can find this castle approximately two hours away from the city center.
Pandora – Zhangjiajie National Park, China
Sivako! In Disney Animal Kingdom Park, there’s a land tucked away on the left side of the park’s entrance, based off Pandora, the world of Avatar. Here you will witness floating rocks and the strange yet unique plants of this occult world. Highly based off James Cameron’s Avatar film, the world of Pandora looks like a real national park located in Hunan province, China. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is a treasure and is the main inspiration for the forest world in which the Avatars live. Think about that the next time you visit Animal Kingdom!
Cars Land – Route 66, USA
Nestled in Disney’s California Adventure Park, Cars Land, or Radiator Springs is a cool spot for people of all ages. Based off the Pixar movie Cars, Disney Imagineers felt proud to use this US highway as a place of reference for this unique movie and now land. Lightning McQueen and his car friends live in a small town next to Route 66, a real highway that connects different states and ends in Los Angeles County in California.
Tree of Life – Baobab tree in Africa
Native to many African countries, the Baobab tree is unique and special to African culture. With its swollen trunk and root-like branches, this type of tree was the sole inspiration for the gigantic tree we see when we enter Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Named the Tree of life, for its intricate animal carvings on its trunk, this man-made tree was created to represent the circle of life and the importance of nature in our modern world.
Tower of Terror – The Millenium Biltmore Hotel, LA
Located in Hollywood Studios, the Twilight zone Tower of Terror is the only standing attraction to keep its original storyline without being re-themed. Based off the “glitz and glitter” of the late 30’s in Hollywood, this attraction is notorious for its haunted story. The inspiration for this creepy ride comes from Rod Serling’s television series called The Twilight Zone. However, the lobby of the Los Angeles Millenium Biltmore hotel looks jarringly like the inside of the ride’s walkthrough.
While these landmarks and their emblems may be recognizable to Disney devotees, their history may not be known to others not immersed in the Disney universe. There are so many more details to add but that will have to be for another article. So, dear reader, I hope that learning about the inspiration for these memorable landmarks will let you appreciate Disney pop culture and motivate you to visit this iconic theme park.
Featured Photo: Emily Murray.