Cinderella Castle is the icon of Magic Kingdom that pulls guests from the park’s Main Street, U.S.A. and other six lands toward its central hub. Construction for the castle was completed in July 1971, several months before the Oct. 1 opening of Walt Disney World Resort.
Located at the entrance to Fantasyland, the castle is the most popular photo opportunity for guests who want to capture memories of a Disney vacation. At nearly 190 feet, Cinderella Castle dominates the landscape of Magic Kingdom and can be seen from two miles away. It serves as a visual draw for guests – what Walt Disney referred to as a “weenie.”
When it comes to thinking about Walt Disney World, Cinderella Castle also dominates guests’ imagination. Indeed, the castle’s presence and image are closely associated with the rest of Walt Disney World Resort and The Walt Disney Company.
History and design of Cinderella Castle
In addition to being a weenie and a prime locale for the iconic souvenir photo, Cinderella Castle rewards guests who enjoy Disney’s attention to detail and Disney history.
Disney Legend Herb Ryman, who was responsible for Sleeping Beauty Castle and the original layout of Disneyland Park, served as the castle’s chief designer. Imagineer John Hench selected castle colors to complement central Florida’s vivid blue skies.
The castle’s pastiche ofEuropean styles was inspired by a mix of designs, from medieval architecture to 13th century French fortresses to late Renaissance palaces. In particular, Disney Imagineers drew from Charles Perrault’s France, particularly Fontainebleau and Versailles castles and Loire Valley châteaus. The castle also draws on the animated film “Cinderella” (1950) and Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Cinderella Castle uses forced perspective to create the illusion of an even more impressive height. Its mix of medieval and gothic architecture reflects Disney’s interest in using fantastical theming for effect. The castle’s base represents a medieval fortress while the castle’s upper portion, with its turrets and spires, is more Gothic palace.
In building the castle, Disney Imagineers used steel, cement, gypsum plaster and fiberglass rather than stonework. Cinderella Castle features 18 blue-and-gold towers and spires topped with gold-painted finials, some of which reach 90 feet in height. The castle is also the home to 13 gargoyles while the surrounding moat, which holds more than 3.37 million gallons of water, is a favorite spot for local water fowl.
The Castle Breezeway houses a Cinderella mosaic mural, designed by Dorothea Redmond, that re-presents the Cinderella story. It took two years for a team of six artists from mosiacist Hanns-Joachim Scharff to create the design. The main hall features five 15’ tall by 10’ wide vignettes, framed by Gothic arches, that use more than 300,000 pieces of colored Italian glass rendered in more than 500 colors, including tiles which use sterling silver and 14K gold.
The castle doesn’t have a dungeon, per se, as service tunnels are located underground. A penthouse planned for use by Walt Disney and his family was left unfinished after Walt died in 1966; the space has instead been used by Disney Cast Members for various purposes, including Tinker Bell’s flight, and is inaccessible to guests.
Touring Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom
While simply visiting Cinderella Castle is a “must-do,” the landmark structure of Magic Kingdom offers several related attractions.
Cinderella’s Royal Table, located inside the castle on the second floor, is one of Disney’s most popular character dining experiences. Cinderella’s Royal Table is a particularly memorable spot for special celebrations: birthdays, first visits and anniversaries, and is popular as a romantic setting for marriage proposals.
Inside Cinderella’s Royal Table are more than 40 coats of arms on display; the family arms represent people who played important roles in Disney history, including Roger Broggie, Sr.; Marc Davis; John Hench; Roy O. Disney; Diane D. Miller; Dick Nunis; Marty Sklar; and Card Walker. The Disney family’s coat of arms appears over the castle’s front and rear entrances.
The restaurant was confusingly named King’s Stefan’s Banquet Hall, after Sleeping Beauty’s father, when the restaurant opened Oct. 1, 1961. The restaurant was renamed in 1997.
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, on the ground floor of the Castle Breezeway, is home to several fairy godmothers-in-training who perform magical makeovers. Guests ages 3 and older, especially kids, can be transformed into a “Fairytale Princess,” “Disney Diva,” “Pop Princess” or a “Knight.”
The Castle Forecourt Stage, just above the hub when facing Cinderella Castle from Main Street, U.S.A., is the site for shows featuring Disney characters. These shows take place several times a day.
Magic Kingdom’s Fairytale Garden, a quiet spot to the right of Cinderella Castle when looking at the castle from Main Street, offers meet-and-greet character interactions several times a day. The location was most recently used for “Storytime with Belle,” the heroine of “Beauty and the Beas.” It now features characters from “Tangled.”
Photo opportunities at Cinderella Castle
- Cinderella Castle has become the most photographed structure in the world, not just in Walt Disney World. Like Sleeping Beauty Castle, Cinderella Castle faces south to provide the best possible light conditions for photographs. Beyond the full-on view of castle, though, there are many photo opportunities.
- Although “Wishes” fireworks, the Magic Kingdom’s nighttime spectacular, can be seen at various areas around the park, it’s most picturesque when set against a view of Cinderella Castle at the hub. From this vantage point is also the best view for seeing Tinker Bell, as she “flies” from a tower during “Wishes.”
- On the Fantasyland side, near Castle Couture shop, is the Cinderella Fountain and its bronze statue of our heroine.
- Cinderella Wishing Well, a quiet retreat for an escape from crowds and making a wish, can be found on the walkway between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland
Moments in Cinderella Castle history
- Cinderella Castle at Tokyo Disneyland, which opened with the resort in 1983, replicates the exterior of the castle at Walt Disney World Resort.
- In celebration of Walt Disney World’s 25th anniversary, for fifteen months in 1996 – 1997, Cinderella Castle was transformed into an 18-story pink “birthday cake.” The design featured large decorations, including 26 glowing candles, and used more than 400 gallons of pink paint.
- To observe Disneyland’s 50th anniversary and the “Happiest Celebration on Earth,” Cinderella Castle’s exterior was redecorated in 2005 – 2006. The décor featured gold trim and accents, banners and tapestries, all complemented by golden statues of Disney animated characters. A mirror modeled the magic mirror of “Snow White” showed images of castles from various Disney parks.
- A “Cinderella Castle Suite” was constructed for “The Year of a Million Dreams Celebration” that ran from Oct. 1, 2006 through 2008. Imagineers built the fourth-floor, two-bedroom castle suite to house one family a night in the Magic Kingdom throughout the promotion.
- Starting in 2007, Disney began decorating Cinderella Cast with 200,000 LED lights as part of the Magic Kingdom’s night shows that take place during Walt Disney World Resort’s holiday season.
This article is one of the “Memories of the Magic Kingdom” series that looks at Walt Disney World Resort as part of my year-long observation of the Magic Kingdom’s upcoming 40th anniversary. The series focuses on the Disney attractions, people and moments – past, present, and future – that have shaped the park many guests believe “helps make dreams come true.” For many who visit, Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom both live up to the tagline, “the most Magical place on Earth.”
Throughout this series I invite all my readers to share their memories of the Magic Kingdom, and of Walt Disney World Resort, with each other in the comments section.
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