When you hear the words, “Disney Park,” what’s the first image that pops into your mind? There’s a pretty good chance that it’s a Disney castle. The Disney castles are iconic, and a visit to the “castle parks” aren’t complete without a photo in front of the royal structures. As much as I love them, the choices and designs of the castles through the years have often bewildered me.
As the story goes, when Disneyland was originally being developed, Walt Disney did refer to the castle as “Snow White Castle.” This, of course, made sense, considering Snow White was the first Disney princess and a big part of the reason why The Walt Disney Company had become so successful. But somewhere along the line, it was decided that Disneyland’s castle would become Sleeping Beauty Castle as a form of marketing for the upcoming animated film, still almost four years away by the time Disneyland opened.
This fact could possibly explain why Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland looks nothing like the castle we would eventually see in the movie. Regardless, this choice of making a castle the iconic centerpiece of Disneyland is a tradition that continues today with the opening of each Disney resort.
When it came time to open Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in 1971, since there were no upcoming princess movies to promote at the time, you might have thought that would’ve been the perfect time to honor Disney’s first princess. But Snow White was once again denied the royal honor and instead Disney’s second princess, Cinderella, was chosen. This time around, the artists and architects did have the animated movie available to them as reference, but they chose to go in a different direction.
Up to that point, we had two Disney parks with two princess castles. When Tokyo Disneyland opened in 1983, there was only one Disney princess left to honor at the time: you guessed it, Snow White, the princess that started it all. Of course, she would be honored with her very own castle this time around, right? Wrong! That honor went, once again, to Cinderella. For those of you keeping score, that’s two for Cinderella, one for Sleeping Beauty, and zero for Snow White.
Let’s fast forward to 1992, when Euro Disney (now named Disneyland Paris) originally opened. In 1991, Walt Disney Animation had a mega-hit release with “Beauty and the Beast.” Oh my gosh, this was perfect. They had a new hit princess movie that took place in France, where this park was located. They had to be putting Belle and Beast’s castle in this park, right? Wrong again. This time, they honored Aurora once again with another Sleeping Beauty Castle.
To be fair, I understand that decisions about that castle were made before they knew whether or not the movie would be a success, but they did know that “The Little Mermaid” was huge. Although King Triton’s castle above water might be strange. But how about a Snow White castle? Nope. Having said all of that, Disneyland Paris’ castle is my personal favorite due to its whimsy and utter beauty, but still, cut Snow White some slack!
When Hong Kong Disneyland opened in 2005, they decided to, once again, honor the same princess, and use the same design as Sleeping Beauty Castle from the original Disneyland park. This castle was recently updated, but I’ll get to that later.
Shanghai Disneyland was the game changer. When Shanghai Disneyland opened Enchanted Storybook Castle, it was decided that this castle would honor all of the Disney princesses (plus Anna and Elsa of “Frozen”) instead of one particular princess. In 2016, The Walt Disney Company had a lot of Disney princesses on their roster, making it more difficult to choose just one. I personally don’t love the decision to honor multiples in one castle, but at least Snow White finally got a bit of representation. In fact, this is currently the most representation she has, as there is a walk-through attraction inside the castle called “Once Upon a Time Adventure,” which tells her story.
Now let’s hop back to Hong Kong’s castle, which recently was reimagined from Sleeping Beauty Castle to the Castle of Magical Dreams. This update honors the same characters represented in Shanghai’s castle. It incorporates many different styles and designs, making it even more obvious than Shanghai’s that all princesses are represented.
Who knows what the future will bring for Disney Parks, but at this point, it looks as though the future is about representing all princesses instead of individuals. I personally would love to see each castle belonging to a different princess. Sure, some won’t work out as I can’t really imagine what a Pocahontas castle would look like, but that’s ok. There are currently six Disney castle parks, and there are enough Disney princesses whose castles would aesthetically make sense inside the parks. In some cases, their castles could be placed in their stories’ lands of origin, which would be a nice touch. But for gosh sakes, give Snow White her very own castle!
What do you think? Is there a Disney princess (or prince) who you would like to see get their very own Disney Parks centerpiece castle? Do you prefer the idea of having the castles represent multiple princesses? Let me know in the comments.
If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com.