Disney makes some of the most creative movies of our times. Be it the contagious catchphrase from Frozen or a near-to-perfect portrayal of human emotions in Inside Out, it has definitely changed the genre. Gone are the days when animated characters appealed only to kids. The audience base has expanded today, with people of all ages eagerly anticipating Disney’s next big project.
Disney movies stand out for their beautiful characters, awesome storylines, award-winning songs and (this is our favourite bit), mesmerizing locations and scenes! What most of you may not know is that the magical and fantastic settings for some of these Disney movies were inspired by places that actually exist!
Real-life locations that inspired major Disney movies
1. Movie: Up | Actual location: Angel Falls, Venezuela
In a quest to fulfill his promise, when Carl, with his floating house and his uninvited guest Russel, first embark on the Paradise Falls, remnants of all the moments he shared with his best friend come dancing before his eyes. The scene makes up one of the best portrayals of a character’s in-depth emotions and one of the best scenic wonders of the movie Up.
However, only a few would recognize the struggle the designers and artists of Disney underwent in bringing the tepuis of Canaima National Park, Venezuela, to life.
The tepuis are 1,000-3,000 meter high, table-top mountains believed to be completely submerged in the ocean some 1800 million years ago which emerged at the formation of the Atlantic Ocean. They have their own set of flora and fauna, completely different from the Amazonian rain-forests.
For their inspiration, the Disney team visited three of the most famous tepuis: Mount Roraima, Kukenan, and Auyantepui. The Auyantepui is home to Angel Falls which the ‘Paradise falls’ in the movie draws its parallels from.
Angel Falls is the tallest waterfall on earth, with a drop of around 900m. Condensation of the clouds at the surface area of the mountain trickles through its stones and cascade off the cliff, forming the spectacular Angel Falls.
2. Movie: Moana | Actual location: Samoa and other islands
Moana pits the titular character with a responsibility of a lifetime when the young and bold teenager of South Pacific sails on an action-packed mission to save her people. A lavish and grandeur scenery of animation wraps around this courageous tale, providing it the necessary charisma. The emphasis on islands and sceneries is not misplaced as the creators were heavily inspired by some real-life locations including the islands of Tetiaroa, Fiji, Bora bora and Samoa, whose cultural influences are also shown.
One of the major inspirations for the animated feature film, the Tetiaroa island is a Bird Eden and was used as a key reference point for the fictional island of Motunui. It is mentioned many times in the movie how the Motunui island provides for the people and Tetiaroa’s enclosed lagoon is a great example for this type of closed ecosystem.
Similar are the islands of Samoa and Tahiti with lavish resorts and rich cultural heritage. Most of the inhabitants of Tahiti reside on the shores leaving the interiors untouched.
3. Movie: Beauty and the Beast | Actual location: Château de Chambord, Loir-Et-Cher, France
The Beast’s castle in the 1991 classic Beauty and the Beast and its 2017 live-action namesake was rumored to be inspired from the magnificent Château de Chambord of France.
Standing tall in the Loire Valley of France, the Château attests the creativity of French Renaissance architecture with medieval vestiges. Walking by the stairs, you are sure to be filled with the urge to sway to the movie’s classic song, “Tale as old as time” with your partner or even notice Cogsworth, the fictional character, if you look closely enough.
Fans of the movie can go and recreate some of the magic themselves. Children can visit the castle free of cost. However, an adult needs to pay €13. This place altogether makes for a great tour destination as well as a solitary visit. You will be enjoying this, nevertheless.
Another real visualization of the movie was the village where Belle lives. Inspired by Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé, two real, neighbouring villages in the Alsace region of France, Belle’s hometown is practically a real-life destination where , characters conveniently burst into a song every time there’s a need for conversation.
4. Movie: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs | Actual location: Alcázar de Segovia, Spain
Disney did say that castles all over Europe were an inspiration for Cinderella’s castle, but never explicitly mentioned the Alcazar de Segovia in Spain as the key inspiration for the Queen’s castle in Snow White. Located in Segovia, near the capital Madrid, this castle has seen it all. It was an Arab fort, a palace, a prison and even a military academy before becoming an open museum for the public to enjoy. It is one of the most visited artistic symbols of Spain.
Translating roughly to ‘The Castle’, the Alcazar of Segovia was built of a headland shaped like the bow of a ship. The convergence of the two rivers, Rio Ciguinuela and Rio Eresma in Segovia also make it a nice tourist place. At present, visitors can explore twelve of the castle rooms which open into the two main courtyards and each of the rooms show patronage of Gothic, Romanesque and Moorish Culture.
5. Movie: Brave | Actual location: Scotland
Disney’s Brave feels like a well-knit story covering shades of Scotland Tourism. For most parts of the movie, the protagonist, Merida, goes around on a misadventure on her horse, in a locus of different parts of Scotland, inspired majorly by Glen Affric. This results in one of the most lavish depictions of Scotland ever seen on film.
The details captured in the movie are amazing, be it the landscapes or the freckles on the red-haired heroine. The animators have put a lot of effort in creating an environment that depicts the country at its best. The local culture has been very well depicted including the iconic Highland games of Braemar Gathering and the iconic street, the Royal Mile.
Merida’s family castle, the DunBroch was supposedly inspired from Eilean Donan and the Dunottar castle, both iconic images of Scotland. The Calanais Standing stones on the Isle of Lewis also influenced Pixar to place a major event of the movie.
VisitScotland, the national tourist agency of Scotland reportedly spent £7m on a joint marketing campaign for the movie in 2012 which Norway would follow again in 2014 with the same franchise’s Frozen.
6. Movie: Tangled | Actual location: Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
One of the first designs to be studies by the animators of Disney, Mont Saint Michael in France looks nothing short of a fairy tale castle. A heavy source of inspiration for creation of the kingdom of Corona, the castle rests on the island of Mount-Saint-Michel out of Mount-Saint-Michel Bay between Brittany and Normandy.
You may walk towards the island, or book horse-driven carriages, absorbing the grace and magnificence as you approach. The result is one of the most breathtaking views you can hope to witness, with the island towering above you with all its might.
Almost circular, Mont-Saint-Michel and its bays have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979 and are a great tourist destination.