Welcome to a new column for Attractions Magazine called “DePaoli on DeParks.” My name is Jeff DePaoli and for the past 6+ years, I’ve been the host and producer of the “Dizney Coast to Coast” podcast where I share my thoughts, along with my friends, about all things Disney in addition to interviewing Disney Legends and talent. In this new column, I’ll be sharing with you my thoughts and opinions on various theme park topics.
For this first installment, I would like to share my opinions about whether or not Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland park should be “plussed” or changed after so many years of remaining pretty much the same. This feels like a controversial way to begin this column, but I figured I might as well start with a bang.
In general, I’m a fairly black-or-white person. But when it comes to changing Walt Disney’s original theme park castle, I do recognize and sympathize with both sides of the coin. I can understand why some people would think it should never change, and also why others would like to see it change. It’s a tough conversation to have for Walt and theme park fans like myself, but I ultimately think that I would like to see the castle changed.
It’s undeniable that hearing “Wow! It’s so small,” is a fairly common sentiment to be heard when walking down Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A. Heck! I remember saying (or at least thinking) it myself the first time I visited Disneyland, and I knew what to expect. I grew up on the east coast and visited Walt Disney World many times before ever vacationing at Disneyland. I believe that even if you’ve never visited a Disney Park, the first image that pops in most folk’s minds when thinking of one is Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom. If that’s what you’re anticipating, it’s not to be unexpected that Sleeping Beauty Castle could be a disappointment.
Yes, it’s Walt’s castle. Yes, that is extremely important. But don’t you think that Walt would have improved the castle himself by now if he were still around? I think he would have. Walt once proclaimed “The park means a lot to me, in that it’s something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing, keep plussing and adding to — it’s alive. It will be a live, breathing thing that will need changes.”
I believe that after building an epic castle like he was set to do in Florida, or even after seeing the beauty of what the finished Sleeping Beauty castle ended up looking like in the animated masterpiece (which was released almost four years after Disneyland’s opening), I think there’s a good chance that Walt would have eventually wanted to update his castle to be more grandiose, or look more like the castle we came to know in the film.
When I suggest the idea of changing the castle, by no means do I mean bulldoze what Walt built. It is a major and important part of theme park history that I treasure. But I wouldn’t be against what they’re currently doing in Hong Kong by building an extension on top of the already-existing castle, just as long as it remained Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland and wasn’t renamed. In my opinion, a change like this is no different than the semi-regular color and décor changes the castle has seen throughout the years.
A big reason why I would like to see the castle plussed wasn’t a concern in 1955. Several years later in 1959, the Matterhorn Bobsleds opened in Disneyland Park. With the giant Matterhorn mountain now being the first sign of Disneyland from the freeway, I would love to replace that first impression with an epic castle. That chill-inducing moment you get when approaching Magic Kingdom and seeing the reveal of Cinderella Castle is something you never get at Disneyland. Honestly, it’s even difficult to make out Sleeping Beauty Castle in a photo when taken from certain parts of Main Street, U.S.A.
I don’t really foresee The Walt Disney Company ever making a major change to Sleeping Beauty Castle, but if they did, I think the reasoning would be due to nighttime spectaculars. It’s no secret that projection mapping is slowly enhancing and sometimes replacing Disney fireworks shows, especially in Disneyland Park. This past year, we began to see in the Disneyland app showtimes for “Mickey’s Mix Magic” and “Mickey’s Mix Magic with fireworks.” For various reasons, it seems as though fireworks are, unfortunately, becoming less common.
If this is the direction nighttime spectaculars are heading at Disneyland park, I think everyone would agree that a projection mapping nighttime spectacular is more…. well, spectacular, on a surface like Cinderella Castle versus Main Street, U.S.A., “it’s a small world” or Rivers of America. As it currently stands, a very small portion of Disneyland park guests get to see projection mapping on Sleeping Beauty Castle due to its size.
Overall, I would like to see the castle changed in a tasteful and respectful manner. I think Walt would approve if it was done well, but of course there’s no way of really knowing.
What do you think? Is Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland park untouchable or would you like to see some plussing?
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 gift of “America’s Hidden Mickeys: Lesser Known Disney Destinations Around the U.S.A.” at DizneyCoastToCoast.com.