Cinderella Castle

Cinderella Castle is an icon located in Orlando which is a staple to the Disney brand. The castle's imagery has become so recognizable that it, along with its predecessor the Sleeping Beauty Castle in California, is also used as a logo  for many departments within the Walt Disney Company, including Walt Disney Music Group, Walt Disney Television, and Walt Disney Pictures. 

Construction and Design: 

The castle, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, underwent 18 months of construction before being completed in July of 1971. Though there were plenty of muses behind the project, the direct inspiration for the design of this fantasy residence came from the animated Cinderella movie that was distributed by Walt Disney pictures in 1950, and on an even broader scale the inspiration behind that animation was the real life Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. The iconic blue tops of the castle's turrets are one of the features that most closely align with the Bavarian castle, which has seen an increase in tourist travel since the premiere of Disney's classic film; both castles are now popular wedding destinations!

Perception is everything when it comes to this structure, and forced perspective was used here to create the illusion of a towering building. Though the bottom layer is in fact built to scale, as you go up in floors the scaling becomes less realistic. The size is not the only deceptive feature though, many would believe that this castle was built with brick by looking at it, but truly it is steel structures covered with concrete and patterned/painted to appear brick-like. The roofs are also quite tricky, being made in actuality from plastic, much like what you would find from recycling computers or electronic devices and covering a steel frame much like the walls underneath. 

The castle was originally intended to be over 200 feet tall, but architects and imagineers (Disney parks engineers) learned from local government sources that any building 200 ft or higher must be equipped with airplane safety lighting at the top. to keep aircraft from flying too low as the castle's location is very close to the Orland International Airport (MCO). Imagineers did not to ruin the look of the castle by having these additional lights, so because of these regulations the building was scaled slightly down and now proudly stands 189 feet above visitors to the Magic Kingdom, a paragon of magic and fantasy. 

February 1971, Construction continues. 



Cinderella Castle has seen several looks over the years, including being transformed into a giant birthday cake for the park's 25th anniversary, being covered in toilet paper and graffiti to celebrate the opening of Stitch's Great Escape in Tomorrowland, and a gold overlay to mark the "Cinderellabration" where all of the Disney Parks castles joined in the fun to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original Disneyland Park in Anaheim, CA. Of course there are season looks to the castle as well, with festive decor to mark the fall and winter holidays, the castle puts an extra emphasis on Halloween and Christmas as there are special events, shows, and parades which happen during these time frames. Even just recently, in 2020, Cinderella Castle underwent a royal makeover and the world renowned blue and grey structure became a glistening rose gold with deep blue turrets that would make any princess swoon. Additionally, the castle is a centerpiece for the nightly pyrotechnic display of colorful fireworks, which also change for major holidays, including a projection show on the outer shell. During these nightly spectaculars guests can also see the iconic flight of Tinker Bell via a zipline wire which reaches from the Castle's highest turret to the roof of the Main Street bakery. 

1996,  Magic Kingdom celebrates 25 years

Alien Stitch takes over Cinderella Castle in 2004Cinderellabration in 2005


As wonderful to look at as Cinderella Castle is, it is also a functional building where inside the ornately decorated mosaic walls which depict the story of Cinderella (using over 300,000 pieces of glass!), one will find the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique which is a royal makeover salon for young princes and princesses, as well as Cinderella’s Royal Table where guests are provided with a full service gourmet character dining experience. Higher up in the castle is the Cinderella Castle Suite, accommodations in which are used as sweepstakes giveaways occasionally and the suite can only be viewed by guests if they win the chance or through certain VIP tours that the park's guest relations department offers.  Of course like any good castle should, Cinderella Castle features a moat surrounding the base of the structure which holds an estimate of 3.37 million gallons of water when it is filled, and though the moat changes the drawbridge over it stays down permanently, for the safety of all guests and cast members. 

Cinderella Castle as a statement piece:
The Orlando park was a dream of Walt Disney's, but he did not live to see the final product and in fact passed away 5 years prior to the finished castle's unveiling which was done by his brother, Roy Disney. Many believe that the beauty and majestic welcome that the castle provides was intended to stand as a symbol at its time of the average American woman and her role in society. A female was expected to be oriented to the family, a gracious presence of warmth ushering guests into the home, much as this glittering castle does for guests of the park.  It comes as no surprise that the architecture of the castle was meant to display romanticized ideals of a woman's role, as this castle was a dream of a man who chose not to see the progress of feminism or equal rights and lived as though he were still in the 1940s/1950s.

Much of Disney's work to this point depicted the classic damsel in distress and hero relationship, there was no real presence of strong female leads until well after Walt's death. The parks became successful at creating  a safe haven for the upper middle class white society of America who could afford a place to escape suburbia and be entranced in a story rather than facing the changing political climate of the late 60s/ early 70s. The castle also serves the gateway to the rest of the park's attractions, seeing as many were created with racial background stories or offensive undertones to non white groups, it is no wonder that Cinderella Castle is still associated today with negative imagery by some groups, no matter how many times it is repainted or the attractions around it redesigned to be more thoughtful. 

Photo Credits Due: (Cinderellabration) (Stitch & Birthday Cake) (Construction)