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Walt Disney World vs. Disneyland: The Castles

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are comparing Walt Disney World and Disneyland.


Walt Disney World vs. Disneyland: The Castles

Photo credit: Omnitographer / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: sanctumsolitude / Foter / CC BY-NC

Both Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland and Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World are a magical sight to see. For many park guests, this sight alone lets them know they have finally returned “home” to the Magic Kingdom. For children and adults alike, the Disney castles are a symbol of wishes, magic, imagination, dreams come true, and so much more. Let’ take a look at the unique traits which have made Sleeping Beauty Castle and Cinderella Castle such iconic centerpieces for two of the world’s most wonderful theme parks.

History

When Walt Disney was planning Disneyland, he envisioned Fantasyland as a place where childhood fairy tales would come to life. Guests of all ages would be able to enter the fantastic stories they had grown up with; And what better way to enter these magical worlds than through a castle! In an effort to promote his upcoming film, Walt decided the castle for his new park would be Sleeping Beauty Castle. The park, along with Sleeping Beauty Castle, opened four years prior to the release of the animated film.

Scale

Though the Sleeping Beauty Castle was modeled after several large medieval castles, Walt wanted his castle to be friendly and welcoming rather than large and intimidating. So Disneyland’s castle was built on a much smaller scale than the European castles. The 77-foot tall castle is the smallest of all the Disney castles around the world. Through the use of forced perspective, the imagineers were able to make Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle appear larger than it is in reality.

Walt learned a lot from the construction of his first theme park. When he purchased land for his Florida project, he made sure to purchase enough land to allow a much larger scale project. It seems this idea found its way to the castle, as well. Cinderella Castle stands 189-feet tall and is the tallest Disney castle in the world. Like Sleeping Beauty Castle, forced perspective is also utilized on this castle. Cinderella Castle was completed in July 1971, after 18 months of construction – six months longer than it took to build all of Disneyland. Unlike Sleeping Beauty Castle, Cinderella Castle opened to the public 31 years after the release of its corresponding animated film.

Walt Disney World vs. Disneyland: The Castles

Photo credit: auntie rain / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Inside The Castles

On April 29, 1957 the Sleeping Beauty Walkthrough opened inside of Disneyland’s iconic castle. Two years before the animated film’s release, guests were able to get a glimpse of the characters and story from the upcoming film. Guests would climb the castle’s stairs to view dioramas showcasing the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty. In 1977, these dioramas were redesigned to resemble the store window displays on Main Street, U.S.A. The Sleeping Beauty Walkthrough continued to delight guests until its closure in 2001. Seven years later, in 2008, the walkthrough was reopened, allowing park guests to once again enjoy the classic story in its regal setting.

Moving across the country, the walkway through Walt Disney World’s Cinderella Castle features a stunning mosaic depicting the story of Cinderella. In Florida, not only can guests walk through the castle, but they can also dine with the princesses inside the castle! Cinderella’s Royal Table is a highlight for many young princesses; after all, it’s not every day you get to dine with royalty in a real castle!

Similar to his Main Street, U.S.A apartment at Disneyland, Walt had plans to construct a private apartment inside Cinderella Castle. Because the castle was not constructed until after his death, the apartment was not built within the castle. In 2007, the Disney imagineers made Walt’s dream a reality when the Cinderella Castle Dream Suite was opened. During the Year Of A Million Dreams celebration, a stay in this exclusive suite was awarded to numerous lucky families.

Castle Trivia

  • Sleeping Beauty Castle features a working drawbridge which has been lowered only twice – once on opening day of Disneyland in 1955 and again for the unveiling of the new Fantasyland in 1983.
  • The Disney family crest can be found above the drawbridge on Sleeping Beauty Castle.
  • While Roy Disney was out of town, Walt went against the wishes of his brother and had many of the Sleeping Beauty Castle spires coated in 22 karat gold. Supposedly he left one without gold to symbolize Disneyland would never be completed.
  • Though Cinderella Castle appears to be made with stones, not a single one was used in its construction. The outside of the castle is actually made of fiberglass.
  • More than 40 coats of arms can be seen inside Cinderella’s Royal Table. Each of these coats of arms belongs to someone who played a vital role in the Walt Disney Company.
  • The beautiful mosaic mural inside Cinderella Castle was completed by six individuals over the course of more than two years.

Do you have a favorite Disney castle? Let us know if you prefer the Disneyland or Walt Disney World castle in the comments below!

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Kimberly's love of Disney began at an early age and grew even more when her family won a Walt Disney World vacation from a local radio station. She grew up visiting the parks every one to two years and is fascinated by Disney history and trivia. Whether at the parks or at home, Kimberly is constantly looking for hidden Mickeys. She enjoys sharing tips and helping others plan their Disney vacations. In addition to Frontierland Station, her writing can also be found at The Magical Blogorail, Sand 'n Sea Adventures, and Blogsprout.


  • Kimberly Kahl

    Having only been to Walt Disney World, I was quite surprised at how small the Disneyland castle was in comparison. Over time, I’ve come to love them both for different reasons. Regardless, you’re right. There’s nothing like seeing the castle to make me feel like I’ve come “home.”

    • One of my friends visited Disneyland years ago and came back telling me how small the castle is. She said it’s closer to the size of a house. I couldn’t believe it was so much smaller than Cinderella Castle. I had always though they were about the same size. Even knowing that, I was still quite surprised to find out Sleeping Beauty Castle is only 77-feet tall.

  • Kimberly, I’m torn between the two castles as to which is my favorite. I love the height of Cinderella Castle – when I saw Sleeping Beauty Castle I was astonished at the size difference despite knowing this was the case. However, I love the walkthrough and am glad that I got to experience it.

    Great post, thanks!

    • Thanks! Can’t wait to hear more about your trip to Disneyland!

  • I think each castle has something special and it is something you can’t really pick one or another. They are both gorgeous

  • DIStherapy

    So many magical tidbits! (And I love your castle blend.) Looks like another tie to me: I adore Sleeping Beauty Walkthrough, but couldn’t do without a meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table. Both castles are beautiful in their own right and are detailed with symbolism that every Disney fan loves!

    • Thanks! My husband did a great job blending the two photos together! Both castles are so beautiful!

  • There is nothing that compares to a walk down Main Street toward Cinderella Castle. However, I’ve never been to Disneyland, so I can’t really choose a favorite. I’m thinking that it would be equally as thrilling to see the original at Disneyland, even though it is quite a bit smaller.

    • My thoughts exactly! I think if I had to choose, I’d pick Cinderella Castle just because WDW is home for me. I guess Disneyland would be my home away from home. Although, I’m sure I’ll probably love seeing Sleeping Beauty Castle just as much as seeing Cinderella Castle when I do get to visit Disneyland.

  • Such fun castle trivia! The WDW castle takes my breath away but I like the smaller scale of the Disneyland version too. The castle that totally threw me was the one in Hong Kong Disneyland – it is SO tiny!

    • I didn’t realize the one in Hong Kong Disneyland was so small!

  • Lee Beatens

    I wish the castles had more attractions in them. Off-shore parks are adding ore inside. But both castles are awesome!

    • That would definitely be cool! I’d also love it if they would allow public tours of the dream suite!

  • I love, love this article! Great comparison. I love the Cinderella castle more. We finally saw the one in Disneyland and it just doesn’t compare. I didn’t know all of the history and info you wrote about. I wish I could see the real-life inspiration for the castles! I think one is in Bavaria?

    • Yes, the Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria was actually part of the inspiration for both Disney castles. I have heard many people say this castle was solely the inspiration for Cinderella Castle; however, both Disney castles also took some inspiration from quite a few other European castles.

  • My favorite was the Sleeping Beauty walk through. Not that is was the most thrilling thing but that is was such a piece of nostalgia.

    • I’m sure it’s something special to see!

  • Debbie

    I was wondering who did the photo of the castles. Very creative! My favorite is the Cinderella castle, of course. I’ve been there many more times. It was cool to eat in Cinderella’s Royal Table. So elegant! I was at Disneyland when I was a child. I can’t remember the castle size enough to compare, because as a child, everything looks bigger!

    • Jonathan edited the two photos together. I guess that means we need to visit both parks now, so we can compare the castles, right? 😉

  • Rosanne Mottola

    As a WDW girl I always liked Cinderella Castle better…but during our last trip to DL we found the walk through in Sleeping Beauty’s castle and we fell in love with that too! Very cool!

    • I’ve heard so many great things about the Sleeping Beauty castle walkthrough! Can’t wait to visit it someday!