DISNEY IS FAMOUS for creating fantastic, otherworldly, fairy tale settings for its movies. But the artists who create these other worlds draw heavily on real-world locations for their designs. Whether it’s in the mountains of Germany or France, in the plains of sub-Saharan Africa, or in the swamps of Louisiana, the world is covered in places that have been adapted into Disney settings.
So if you’re a traveler — and a Disney fan — and you’re looking for a fairy tale place to go on your next vacation, try visiting some of these real world locations that you can also find in Disney movies.
Okay, so the setting of The Princess and the Frog isn’t based on New Orleans: it is New Orleans. From the French Quarter to the Bayou, all of New Orleans and the Mississippi River Delta is recognizable in this movie.
Both in design and plot,Cars is heavily influenced by the classic Americana of the mother road, Route 66. A set of mountains visible in the background of one shot heavily resemble the famous Route 66 landmark, Cadillac Ranch.
Mulan is set during China’s Han Dynasty (from around 200 BC to 200 AD). Though the Forbidden City wouldn’t be built until about 1200 years later, the design of the Emperor’s home is very clearly based on Beijing’s Forbidden City.
The gorgeous Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany, served as inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castle, which would later become adapted into the famous Disney castle at the beginning of each Disney movie.
Obviously, the centerpiece of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is the gorgeous gothic cathedral Notre Dame de Paris, located on the Seine in the heart of the city. The movie capitalized on the building’s gothic architecture to the point of including its famous gargoyles as actual characters in the film.
In Aladdin, the Sultan’s palace is based in look on the famous Taj Mahal. The movie itself is based in the Middle East — likely Jordan — which is a solid 2,600 miles away, but who could pass up a hat tip to the Taj?
Ratatouille is set in Paris, but the kitchen is based off of that of the French Laundry, Thomas Keller’s Napa Valley restaurant that is consistently ranked among the best in the world. It should be noted that there isn’t any record of their ever being rats in the French Laundry.