Are you a self-proclaimed wanderlusting traveler? Do you more often than not daydream about magical places to visit, perhaps of the Disney kind? Have you been dying to get out of Malaysia to go to places you never knew existed? We’ve got just the thing for you!
You see, believe it or not, some of your favourite locations from Disney films were inspired by actual locations. We’re talking about castles, geological formations, buildings, and even entire towns. After all, filmmakers and animators have to get their inspiration from somewhere, right? 😉
You might want to book the next flight(s) out after poring over this magical list:
1. The Lion King
The Disney place: The Pride Lands
The real place: The Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
The Serengeti ecosystem is a geographical region in Africa. It is located in north Tanzania and extends to south-western Kenya. The Kenyan part of the Serengeti is known as Maasai Mara, and much of the Serengeti was known to outsiders as Maasailand. It hosts the largest terrestrial mammal migration in the world, which helps secure it as one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of Africa” and one of the 10 natural travel wonders of the world. The Serengeti was used as inspiration for the animated Disney feature film “The Lion King” and subsequent theatrical production. (Source)
The Disney place: Paradise Falls
The real place: Angel Falls, Venezuela
In one of the special features for Disney’s “Up” (on Blue Ray), it was mentioned that the crew of animators went to a real location where the action in the movie is supposed to take place. Specifically, where the house is supposed to land. It sonds like a easy fest but director Pete Docter and nine of his Pixar cohorts trekked through the South American jungle. Among the inspiring landscape was Angel Falls in Canaima National Park, Venezuela aka the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall, which became Paradise Falls for the movie.
The Disney place: Arendelle
The real place: Norway
The highest grossing animated film of all time, “Frozen“, was set in a snow-covered land called Arendelle. This land, stuck in an eternal winter because Queen Elsa couldn’t control her propensity to turn things to ice, was actually based on the region of Trøndelag in central Norway. In 2012, a team from Disney visited Norway and drew inspiration from this region when designing the fictional land of Arendelle. Trøndelag is known for its unique people and way of life, quaint villages set amongst sleepy mountains and of course reindeer (which are also featured in the movie). Many other Norwegian references are also in “Frozen”, including fjords, architectural features of the churches and even a merchant selling a traditional lutefisk. (Source)
4. The Emperor’s New Groove
The Disney place: Kuzco’s Empire
The real place: Machu Picchu, Peru
Disney animators drew their inspiration for Kuzco’s empire in “The Emperor’s New Groove” from the real life ruins of Machu Picchu, built by the Incans around 1450. The Machu Picchu ruins straddle a mountain ridge in the Andes roughly 8,000 feet above sea level. Known around the globe as the mysterious lost city of the Incas, Machu Picchu ranks as Peru’s most popular tourist attraction and one of the most prominent attractions in South America. Oh, one more thing – the ruins are located in the region of Cusco, Peru. Kuzco, Cusco. Get it, get it?
The Disney place: Proscenium
The real place: Ruins of Ancient Greek Proscenium
This 1997 American animated musical fantasy film was loosely based on the legendary Greek mythology hero Heracles (known in the film by his Roman name, Hercules), the son of Zeus, in Greek mythology. So it’s only natural for them to seek inspiration from ancient Greek ruins, particularly ancient Greek theatres. The theatres were circular spaces for performances such as plays and orchestras during theatrical culture that flourished in ancient Greece 700 BC. (Source)
The Disney place: The royal palace
The real place: Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France
The palace where Rapunzel was stolen from her parents was inspired by the styles of many castles, but one thing was certain from the very beginning: It had to be situated on an island like Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France. According to Disney’s art designer, “The idea was… to have a renaissance castle on an island, reminiscent of Mont St Michel in Normandie, France. Emulating the style of the “peinture galante” (by Fragonard) was the art direction. That was my brief and from there, I designed the castle and its surroundings. Scene per scene, it was like exploring a new world.” (Source)
The Disney place: Virginia
The real place: Jamestown settlement
More than an inspiration to Disney’s transposition, Pocahontas is a real historical Native American woman character and by now, everyone should know that already. Born Matoaka and later known as Rebecca Rolfe, she was a Virginia Indian associated with the colonial settlement of Jamestown, Virginia, which we see recreated in the cartoon. Yup, Disney replicated the colonial settlement in their animated version.
The Disney place: Aladdin’s palace
The real place: Taj Mahal
One of the most recognisable buildings in the world, the Mughal-style Taj Mahal in Agra, India, was built in the 17th century by an emperor who was grieving the loss of his third wife, a Persian princess who died in childbirth. The emperor created it as a place of asylum, a retreat from the world, with a principal mausoleum for his wife and many surrounding buildings and gardens. The white stone of the building was as stunning back then as it is now. Disney took inspiration it when designing a palace for Aladdin. It has the same white walls of the real Taj Mahal and many of the same architectural features.
9. Lilo and Stitch
The Disney place: Hawaii
The real place: Kauai Island
Disney based the settings in “Lilo and Stitch” on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. This movie was actually one of only a few Disney animated films that take place in present day. Current features of small towns in Kauai were incorporated into the movie, including the serene beauty of the location but also the more solemn details in the towns that indicate that the region was going through a rough economic patch at the time the film was made (in the early 2000s). Although details that are common throughout Hawaii are featured in the movie, Disney animators seem to have taken particular inspiration from the town of Hanapepe.