Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Walk in the Park: Disneyland Edition - Sleeping Beauty Castle

By Daisy Sparks

Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, California is perhaps one of the most famous and most photographed castles in the world. It was one of the first structures to be completed at Disneyland. While the park was being built, Walt Disney wanted the Castle to motivate and inspire those working on making Disneyland come to life. Join us as we take a look at this beautiful icon in this week's Walk in the Park article...

It has been well documented that the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany inspired Herb Ryman’s drawings of a Disneyland castle. It is also a well-known story of how Ryman was responsible for turning the castle model around so that the front of the model now became the back of the castle. Walt approved of this change and so that is how Sleeping Beauty Castle was built.  Here is a photo of Sleeping Beauty Castle a couple weeks ago when it was covered due to some maintenance work in preparation for its 60th anniversary. The scrim was created with the original Herb Ryman drawing.

This next photo is what the actual back of Sleeping Beauty Castle looks like today.

Sleeping Beauty Castle only stands at 77 feet high above the moat. Leave it to Walt and his Imagineers to use some motion-picture technique to trick your eye. With the use of forced-perspective, from Main Street, the Castle looks large from that distance. The bricks are graduated in size so that they are larger on the bottom and smaller on the top.

When Disneyland opened in 1955, Sleeping Beauty Castle immediately became a star. At this time, the Sleeping Beauty movie was in development. Walt was always thinking about how to tie in some of the current productions to Disneyland. It was not until 1957 when Guests were invited to enter the castle. The Sleeping Beauty movie would not come out until 1959. Walt was a pioneer in marketing opportunities when it came to Disneyland and all the work in development at the Walt Disney Studios. 

Walt had asked artist Eyvind Earle, who was responsible for most of the style and background in Sleeping Beauty, to create the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough. When it opened in 1957, the walkthrough was comprised of scenes from the Sleeping Beauty story in the form of dioramas. Actress Shirley Temple was invited with the grand opening.

In 1977, the Eyvind Earle dioramas received an update. The scenes were made up of dolls that had some movement to give it a more updated feel. Guests could freely walk through the Castle until September 11, 2001. It remained closed after that date for security concerns. 

In 2008, the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough reopened. Under the direction of Disney Legend Tony Baxter, Imagineers updated the Sleeping Beauty scenes with new technology. Gone are the dioramas but much of Eyvind Earle’s backgrounds and style remain as part of the experience. 

Here’s my photo journal of the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough. There is a small entrance that is unattended. It is a self-paced attraction.

There are these ornate storybook pages throughout the walkthrough so you can follow the story. Then you view some interactive scenes that are projected in designated areas.


There are stairs to climb and they are very narrow. It is for this reason that there is actually another location where one can experience a virtual Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough. It is located around the corner from the exit of this attraction.

There are this fancy seating area. You can view the same Sleeping Beauty scenes that are in the walkthrough with this high def screen.

There are some fun items located in these cases.

 There are so many things in this room that if you don’t look up, you’ll miss some of these details.

Sleeping Beauty Castle is turning 60 in June. It may be small in size but what a mighty legacy it has spawned. It is the only Disney castle that Walt had a hand in building and also the only one that he physically walked through. If the castle could talk……
Daisy Sparks grew up in Southern California and Disneyland was a regular part of her life. While in college, she started working at Disneyland as a Main Street Merchandise Host. Her "college job" led to 12 adventurous years working with Mickey Mouse. She was a trained Magic Demonstrator, Hat Writer and was even signed off as a Disneyland Monorail Ride Operator. Daisy loved every minute of it while she held various management positions in Merchandise, Business Operations and Attractions. 

Daisy is married to her college sweetheart, David (a former Jungle Cruise Skipper). David solicited Daisy's Duck's help in memorable engagement proposal that took place at Disneyland's Club 33. Daisy left Disneyland in May 2001 to raise her two daughters. She continues to visit the Disneyland Resort multiple times a week as a Guest. Daisy particularly loves the Disneyland heritage because of all of the little details and stories that make it "the happiest place on earth."

You can read more about Daisy's Disneyland adventures over on her personal blog at DisneyDaze .

1 comment:

  1. thank you so much for the walk . I love Disneyland and been going since 64, just had my 50th bday there in dec keep it up and love the music. Michael vellone