One of my favourite places to visit is Le Chateau de la Belle Au Bois Dormant; more commonly known as Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
The castle in Paris is unique to Disneyland Paris; the design has not been copied from any of the other parks or replicated since its creation in 1992. Previously, European castles such as Neuschwanstein in Bavaria had been the inspiration for the Disney castles of the first three parks. However, as the first European Disney park, the design of the castle needed to be rethought and couldn’t be replicated directly from previous designs.
According to an executive designer from Walt Disney Imagineering, Tony Baxter, the ‘european influence was fine for building a castle in Anaheim, but the fact that castles exist just down the road from Disneyland Paris challenged us to think twice about our design.”
Inspiration was pulled from the Mont-Saint-Michel Monastery in Normandy, to the 1959 Sleeping Beauty Castle. It stands at 167ft tall and is the 3rd tallest castle. Over the years, the facade has been changed.
Overlays Over the Years
There have been many overlays of the castle since 1992. For its first anniversary, it was dressed up as cake. For it’s 5th anniversary, the castle was used to promote The Hunchback of Notre Dame by decorating with carnival masks, jester hats, frills and bells. The 10th anniversary of Disneyland Paris in 2002 featured a golden scroll with a large number 10 to be fitted to the front of the castle. The 15th anniversary was reminiscent of the 10th, with an illuminated gold plaque featuring a large ’15’ that was placed on the front of the castle. Once the 15th year was over, a theme year titled ‘Mickeys Magical Party’ saw a new overlay plaque with Mickey and Friends. I personally didn’t like this. It felt a bit cheap and ruined the overall facade of the castle. After the end of Mickeys Magical Party of March 7, the New Generation Festival came into play a few weeks later.
I always think the castle looks it’s best when large, tacky overlays are left to the drawing board. For the 20th anniversary, the castle was given a new colour-scheme and was fitted out for Disney Dreams nighttime spectacular show. If anyone visited during that time (I did) you will remember the horrendous green fencing blocking the front of the castle, the drained moat, and scaffolding partially blocking the castle. It wasn’t a pretty site; especially if this was your first experience to Disneyland Paris. However, the finished product was worth it. The castle looked spectacular for the 20th anniversary. In my opinion, the simpler the overlays the better. The castle doesn’t need dressing up – it is beautiful on its own!
Why I love the castle
On my most recent visit in June, I explored the the castle as I always do. On a quiet morning, it is one of my most favourite attractions to visit. The stain glass windows look beautiful; I just can’t resist taking photos of them.
The outside viewing balcony is a lovely spot to gaze across fantasyland.
However, it can get incredibly crowded during peak season and at peak times of the day. The spiral ‘stone’ staircase that leads you back to the bottom of the castle can move very slowly. If you suffer from claustrophobia or do not like tight spaces I would either recommend exiting before you go outside onto the balcony or visit early in the morning when there are less crowds.
I love the two shops within the castle. One is a Christmas shop called La Boutique du Chateau. The other is Merlin l’Enchanter. The shop contains lots of Disney inspired glass and crystal designs. I love going in there and just looking at all the intricately designed items. You can also watch them being made as they have a glass blower working in the shop. There is a little staircase that leads down to the dungeon which not everybody knows about!
Please leave comments or questions in the comments box below.
P.S. Don’t forget to visit maleficent in the dungeon under the castle – that is, if you aren’t scared of dragons!