Disney’s version of the Sleeping Beauty tale is big news right now. Not only has its queen of evil Maleficent got her own film starring Angelina Jolie, the original cartoon is being re-released, while twenty four other DVDs return to shops boasting the films’ villains on the cover.
But before we go getting all caught up with the Disney bad guys, what magic lies behind Sleeping Beauty’s castle in the Disneyland Paris theme park? Disney Imagineer Laurent Cayuela takes a break from thinking up new ideas for the park to tell us…
1. The castle in all of the parks was originally meant to be Snow White’s castle. But the timing of the first Disneyland park in California in 1955 made it the perfect way to welcome the new Disney royalty, Sleeping Beauty’s Princess Aurora, when the film was released four years later.
2. There is a light on in the castle at night to symbolise that Princess Aurora is in residence.
3. Walt Disney didn’t want the castle in the middle of the Disneyland. He wanted it at the very end to draw people through the park like a magnet. For various reasons it was moved, but remains the symbol of the park, and features in the opening of every Disney film.
4. Designers of the Disneyland Paris castle used ‘false perspective’, a technique often used in films, so that it is difficult for visitors to the park to know the true size of the castle. For example, the trees to the side of the Paris castle are square, as drawn in the cartoon. Since square trees do not usually exist, your brain struggels to figure out the scale of the castle.
5. It’s no accident that the Paris castle is pink and blue. Not only does it symbolise the colours of Sleeping Beauty’s dress, the pink means the castle always looks nice in photos, even if the sky is grey. The pink also gets lighter towards the top of the castle, to make it look taller than it actually is – lighter to our brains means higher. This trick is also used on the Eiffel Tower.
6. The castle is positioned so that the sun never goes behind it, to ensure guests can always get a good shot.
7. The gold on the tower is real. It is touched up with a brush and gold leaf when needed.
8. Some parts of the castle are used as a fireworks reserve for the nightly Disney Dreams show, which features songs and images from popular films. Technology is used to control this – there is no-one in the castle to operate it.
9. Inside the castle there is a gift shop that is dedicated to Christmas all year round. It has nothing to do with Sleeping Beauty, Laurent tells us it is “just how it is”.
10. The stained glass windows with Sleeping Beauty-themed scenes were created by British expert Peter Chapman, who also worked on renovating the windows in Notre Dame and Westminster Abbey.
11. The tapestries, which show scenes from the movie, had to be created before the castle was even built because they took so long.
12. There is always an extra detail to the fittings and fixtures. For example, two guards snoring in the castle are recordings of two prominent Disney Imagineers, one being Tom Morris who oversaw the entire making of the Paris castle and Don Lewis who is in charge of sound effects around the park.
13. Somewhere in every castle you will find a Disney family crest. In Paris, it’s above the opening to the drawbridge.
14. There are around 5,000 character costumes in and around the park. The park itself is like a city, with garages, workshops, costume designers and more around the park, unseen by guests.
15. The Disney villains take over the park for Halloween, although sometimes Sleeping Beauty’s villainous fairy Maleficent turns up at events, in keeping with the film, asking why she wasn’t invited.
16. A line of villain-themed character costumes is in development and will soon be available to guests in the park. Although for those keen, with the release of Maleficent in cinemas this month, you can already buy Maleficent horns to wear.
Maleficent is in cinemas from Wednesday 28 May. Plus, look out for The Disney Villains Collection and the Sleeping Beauty Diamond Edition (available on Disney Blu-ray and DVD) from 2 June
Visit Paris with Radio Times Travel, see here for more details