The beautiful worlds in Disney movies may be imaginary, but they are often based on real-life locations. Everyone knows that The Hunchback of Notre Dame is set in Paris, or that Hercules is set in Ancient Greece, but what about all the other wonderful, fantastical places? Here are 11 other real-life locations that inspired Disney movies.

Read more: 22 Fictional Places You Can Actually Visit

Real-Life Locations That Inspired Disney Movies

1The Forbidden City, China – Mulan

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The ancient royal palaces building of the Forbidden City in Beijing, China

The Imperial City in Mulan, home to the Emperor of China, and site of the climactic final battle against the Huns was inspired by the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. Chinese emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties lived there from 1420 to 1912.

2Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany – Sleeping Beauty

The real-life

This iconic castle in Bavaria served as the inspiration for the Royal Castle in Sleeping Beauty. It is also the inspiration behind Cinderella’s Castle. Neuschwanstein Castle was built by Ludwig II of Bavaria in 1892 as a personal retreat and tribute to composer Richard Wagner.

3Alsace, France – Beauty and the Beast

Riquewihr, France

A region close to the border with Germany, the towns of Alsace inspired the small provincial village that was Belle’s home in Beauty and the Beast. The picturesque towns of Eguisheim, Riquewihr, and Ribeauvillé are just a few of the places that inspired the animators.

4Mont Saint-Michel, France – Tangled

Mont Saint-Michel

The Kingdon of Corona, which was the home of Rapunzel’s parents in Disney’s Tangled is based on the majestic Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy. Sitting on an island, it is cut off from the mainland when the tide is up, making it easy to defend.

5Angel Falls, Venezuela – Up

Angel Falls Venezuela

Carl and Ellie Frederickson’s dream destination, Paradise Falls from Pixar’s Up, was based on Angel Falls in Canaima National Park, Venezuela. At a height of 979 meters, it is the world’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall.

6Taj Mahal, India – Aladdin

Taj Mahal at dusk, Agra, India

The Sultan’s Palace in Aladdin was inspired by the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra, India. However, contrary to popular misconception, the Taj Mahal is NOT a palace. It’s a mausoleum built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the 1600s for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

7Château de Chillon, Switzerland – The Little Mermaid

Chillon Castle - Switzerland, Lake Geneva

Château de Chillon on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland was the inspiration behind Prince Eric’s castle in The Little Mermaid. Dating back to Roman times, the castle was last updated in 1248 and used to guard a road through the Alps.

8Grand Central Terminal, USA – Wreck-It Ralph

Locations That Inspired Disney Movies

New York City’s famous Grand Central Terminal inspired the creators of Wreck-It Ralph when designing Game Central Station. This is where all the video game characters meet. The terminal was rebuilt in its current style in 1913.

9Eilean Donan, Scotland – Brave

Eilean Donan castle side view

Merida’s home, the Royal Castle in Brave, was inspired by Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland. The castle has also been featured in many other films and TV series. It is a reconstruction that was completed in 1932.

10Angkor Wat, Cambodia – Atlantis: The Lost Empire

The sun sets on Angkor Wat, Cambodia
The sunsets on Angkor Wat in Cambodia

According to legend, Atlantis was a Greek island that sunk into the sea. But, Disney artists were visually inspired by Angkor Wat in Cambodia to create the city in Atlantis: The Lost Empire. The temple complex at Angkor Wat is one of the largest religious monuments in the world.

11Segovia Castle, Spain – Snow White

Segovia's Alcazar Castle Spain

One of Disney’s oldest films, Snow White, takes inspiration from the Alcazar of Segovia in central Spain for the Queen’s castle. Nearly 800 years old, the castle was used by Spanish monarchs until it was damaged by a fire in 1862.


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