Disneyland Paris holds many references to classic Disney films, and in some areas, was directly inspired by them! Here’s a look at how “The Sword in the Stone” left its mark on the Disney Park.
Did you know that the land where Disneyland Paris sits was once the site of high society during medieval times? The field of La Marne, located close to Lagny, hosted the largest jousting tournament in Europe in November 1179 to celebrate the coronation of King Philip Augustus. The event hosted more than 3,000 guests, including Richard, Duke of Aquitaine (the future King Richard “The Lionheart”), who is featured in the 1973 animated film, “Robin Hood.”
This history can be found in Fantasyland’s Castle Courtyard, where Le Carrousel de Lancelot is located. Inspired by the character Chrétien de Troyes imagined in the 12th century, this attraction has 86 horses with 16 on the outer row wearing their caparison — a cloth covering laid over a horse for protection and decoration during tournaments.
The attraction is covered by a canopy similar to the knights’ tents, and supported by lances like those used during jousting. The theming continues in the store La Ménagerie du Royaume with a cartoon image of Goofy. Under the canopy, nine paintings depict moments in Lancelot’s life, including his knighting by King Arthur, who gave him the honor with his sword, Excalibur.
This sword of legend, stuck in an anvil, can be found in miniature form at Le Pays des Contes de Fées and in actual size in the Castle Courtyard. Since Disneyland Paris opened in 1992, many guests have tried to pull the sword from the stone, especially during “The Sword in the Stone” show in 1994.
These two references to the sword directly point to Disney’s classic animated feature, “The Sword in the Stone” from 1963, which was based on the novel of the same name written by T.H. White and published in 1938. Walt Disney acquired the film rights to the novel the following year, as he immediately saw the potential in this story filled with adventure, humor and magic, which depicts the apprenticeship of young Arthur (then referred to as Wart) and his tutor. A few years after the film was released, Disney animator Bill Peet admitted using Walt’s face — especially his nose and eyebrows — as inspiration for the character of Merlin.
Another location that references Merlin at Disneyland Paris is inside Sleeping Beauty Castle, where a store called “Merlin L’enchanteur” bears his name and includes many references to the film. The tree supporting one of the arches is similar to Merlin’s house in the forest, and the stones and beams, intricately arranged, conjure up the fragile north tower of Sir Ector’s castle.
It’s a fact that the film’s set designers had fun putting together lists of furniture, models and other accessories to decorate the magician’s interior. This store is packed with strange objects, inventions, and magic items. Meanwhile, a sign, trinket, and owl-shaped mantlepiece invoke Archimedes, Merlin’s winged companion.
That’s not all, however! The door at the back of the workshop opens to a mysterious staircase that leads down to the bowels of Sleeping Beauty Castle. There you’ll find a giant, nearly 10-foot-tall and 80-foot-long Dragon — the largest Audio-Animatronic at Disneyland Paris. When asleep, the dragon will snore, grunt, and sigh. From time to time, it even gets the hiccups.
Who knows what relationship the magician and this fearsome creature have? Have they always known each other, or has the magician tamed it at one time or other? What is certain is that the dragon is no longer hostile; if it was once in chains, this is no longer the case. But be warned should you step too close — it doesn’t like to be woken up!
To learn more about Disneyland Paris, visit DisneylandParis.com.