Walt Disney had the dream of featuring a fairytale castle as the center of Disneyland. Since opening day on July 17, 1955, Sleeping Beauty Castle has majestically stood as the symbol of all dreams and magic for Disneyland guests. During the holiday season, the castle is transformed into Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle, adorned with twinkling lights and special effects. Let’s take a closer look and see what magic awaits us.
Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle is one of our most recognizable transformations during the holiday season, which celebrates wintertime enchantment through dazzling décor. The castle glistens during the day and is illuminated each night with more than 126,000 twinkling LED lights, sparkling “icicles” and shimmering snow-capped turrets.
Specialized sparkle strobe lights are intertwined within the holiday garlands and icicles that decorate the castle. These lights create the magic of “enchanted” snow atop the castle. It takes a talented and dedicated team of over two dozen cast members six weeks to transform Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle. This year, new paint was added to the castle to enhance the new color styling that was unveiled earlier this year.
The castle was inspired by several different European castles, most notably the famed Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, with elements from famous French chateaus, such as the Château d’Ussé, Château de Pierrefonds, Château de Chaumont and the Château de Chenonceau, among others. The façade of the castle contains many interesting elements that add to the magic and heritage of this Disneyland icon. Though the castle is only about five stories tall, designers used the illusion of “forced perspective” to make the edifice appear taller. This is done by placing large stones and other full-scale elements at ground level and reducing the size of each element as they reach the top. The stone walls of the castle extend into the surrounding land, providing a protected realm for Disney’s classic childhood stories in Fantasyland.
The drawbridge of the castle that connects guests from Main Street, U.S.A. to Fantasyland is fully functional, but has only been lowered twice. On Opening Day in 1955, a medieval knight on horseback ordered the bridge to be lowered and a group of waiting children traveled across the bridge for their first look at Fantasyland. The bridge was lowered once again on May 25, 1983, as part of the grand opening of the “new” Fantasyland. The moat underneath the drawbridge is known as Lake of the Swans.
The Disney family crest can be found above the entrance to the castle. The gold crest, which originated in France, features lions and flowers.
Sleeping Beauty Castle opened to the world four years before Sleeping Beauty herself appeared in the title role of the animated film. The walk-through attraction inside the castle debuted in 1957, two years before the classic film hit theaters. In 2008, the Sleeping Beauty Castle walk-through attraction was reimagined by Walt Disney Imagineers in honor of the 50th anniversary re-release of Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty.” The walk-through features enhanced special effects, show elements and hand-painted illustrated books which portray the story of “Sleeping Beauty.”
As you walk through the castle, you will find many fun surprises. In the “Corridor of Goons” inside the walk-through attraction, try to pull the wooden door that is slightly ajar and adorned with chains and padlocks. The door will magically slam itself shut and you will hear all of the locks locking themselves. In the nursery scene, you will see a royal blue background decorated with gold hand-painted fleur-de-lis. This design is inspired by some of the ornate gothic ceilings in France such as the one at Sainte-Chappelle in Paris which dates back to the 13th century. Keep an eye out for more hidden magic and intricate decor as you make your way through the majestic castle.
Light up your holidays with the magical enchantment of Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle at the Disneyland Resort.