Disney Fan? Like To Travel? You Can Visit The Real-Life Places That Inspired Disney’s Animated Features!

Although we don’t do it all the time, when Joe and I have a opportunity to visit a place where a movie we enjoy was filmed, we visit it if we can. We’ve seen lots of places where they filmed the Harry Potter films, and even spent several days in Salzburg, Austria, visiting places where they filmed The Sound of Music. We’ve also been to lots of locations in New York that were used in movies, such as The Plaza (Home Alone 2) and Katz’s Deli (When Harry Met Sally). Oh, and I TOTALLY geeked out when we visited A Christmas Story House (it’s a museum now) a few years ago.

Over the years, we’ve come across a few places in our travels that had Disney references in them. i.e., when we went to France, we stopped at Notre Dame Cathedral, and in 101 Dalmatians, Pongo dragged Roger to the park, which is fashioned after Queen Mary’s Garden, in Regent’s Park. But it turns out that nearly every Disney animated feature was based, in part, on a real place. Take a look:

Aladdin – Taj Mahal, Agra, India

The Sultan’s Palace was inspired by the Taj Mahal. Meaning “Crown of the Palace,” it’s an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna river in the Indian city of Agra. It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan (reigned from 1628 to 1658), to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The tomb is the centerpiece of a large complex, surrounded by gardens, that also includes a mosque and a guest house.

Beauty And The Beast – Alsace, France

The little town (it’s a quiet village) was inspired by Alsace, which is a cultural and historical region  in eastern France, on the west bank of the upper Rhine, next to Germany and Switzerland.

Brave – Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland, U.K.

The Royal Castle in Brave was inspired by Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland. The current castle is actually a reconstruction that was completed in the early 1930s, but the island it’s on is ancient and is believed to have been the site of a monastery in the 6th or 7th centuries and the site of a castle that protected the Mackenzie clan.

Cars – U-Drop Inn, Shamrock, Texas

Ramone’s House of Body Art in Cars was inspired by U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas, along the historic Route 66. Inspired by the image of a nail stuck in soil, the building is an unusual example of art deco architecture applied to a gas station and restaurant. After closing and falling into disrepair in the 1990s, it’s since been repaired and maintained and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Emperor’s New Groove – Machu Picchu, Cusco, Peru

Pacha’s village In The Emperor’s New Groove was inspired by Machu Picchu in Cusco, Peru (Cusco, of course, is the name of the llama in the film). This mysterious Incan site sits 2,430m (7,970ft) high in the mountains and some think it may have been the residence of Incan emperor Pachacuti. After the Spanish Conquest, the site was forgotten to the outside world until it was rediscovered in 1911.

Frozen, St. Olaf’s Church, Balestrand, Norway

The Chapel in Frozen was inspired by St. Olaf’s Church in Balestrand, Norway. Built to imitate a stave church, it’s an Anglican church in the country of Sogn og Flordane. Completed 1897, it was built by Knut Kvikne as a legacy to is English wife, Margaret Sophia Green, who died of tuberculosis in 1894.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame – Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France

The cathedral in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame was the actual the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The iconic and imposing cathedral is one of the most well-known examples of Gothic architecture in the world. It took almost 200 years to complete and was one of the first buildings to use flying buttresses in Europe (architects had to add the imposing supports on the sides when the upper walls of the building were buckling under the building’s weight).

The Little Mermaid – Chateau De Chillon, Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Prince Eric’s castle in The Little Mermaid was inspired by Chateau De Chillon on Lake Geneva in Switzerland. The chateau dates back to the Roman empire, at which time it was used to guard a road through the Alps. Chillon is one of the most visited castles in Switzerland and Europe.

Mulan – Forbidden City, Beijing, China

Forbidden City Floor Plan Luxury The Imperial City in Mulan serves as home to the Emperor of China

The Emperor’s home in Mulan was inspired by the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. It’s now open to tourists, but used to be home to the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The huge palace was considered “forbidden” because it was the residence of the emperor, and no one was allowed to enter or leave without his permission.

The Princess And The Frog – Louisiana bayou, USA

The bayou of New Orleans from Princess And The Frog was inspired by the real-life swampy lakes, marshes and slow-moving rivers that can be found all over the state of Louisiana. The bayous are home to swamp creatures like alligators (i.e. Louis in the film), catfish and turtles.

Sleeping Beauty – Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany

King Stefan’s and Queen Leah’s castle in Sleeping Beauty was inspired by Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany. This castle was built by Ludwig II of Bavaria in the 1980s as a personal retreat and a tribute to Richard Wagner, his favorite composer. Ludwig paid for the palace privately, rather than via Bavarian public funds.

Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs – Segovia Castle, Spain

The Queen’s castle in Snow White was inspired by the Alcazar of Segovia, a medieval castle that can be found in central Spain. Named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, it was originally built as a fortress but has served as a royal palace, a state prison, a Royal Artillery College and a military academy. It’s currently used as a museum and a military archives building.

Tangled – Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France

The Kingdom of Corona in Tangled was inspired by Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France. This mainland commune (population: 50 in 2015) is periodically cut off from the mainland by tidal waters. Nowadays it’s a popular attraction for tourists and can be seen in Impressions de France, in the France pavilion at Epcot.

Up – Angel Falls, Venezuela

Paradise Falls in Up was inspired by Angel Falls in Venezuela. It has an uninterrupted fall of 3,211ft (979m), making it is the world’s highest waterfall. It falls from a mountain called Auyantepui, which is one of several table-topped “tepui” mountains in Venezuela. The falls are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Wreck-It Ralph – Grand Central Terminal, New York City, USA

Game Central Station in Wreck-It Ralph was inspired by Grand Central Terminal in New York City. The terminal was torn down and rebuilt in its current style in 1913. The terminal serves commuters to and from counties in New York and Connecticut, as well as the New York Subway and has U.S. National Historic Landmark.

Always looking for synergy, there are several Adventures by Disney trips that stop at some of these sites (started in 2005, Adventures by Disney are a collection of guided tours run by Disney), but if you’re more of a DIY person, you could easily visit most of these places on your own. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that seeing them is a great way to broaden your horizons yet still have some of that Disney magic in your trip ;-).

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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