The creators of Disney movies inspired by real life places


The landscapes we see in each of Disney’s infamous animations could only be described as stunning, but you may be surprised to know that in fact, many have been inspired by real life places. From the Swiss Alps, to the Scottish Highlands, to the desert of Texas, these 25 real life places have inspired some of Disney’s breathtaking landscapes and buildings.

1 U-Drop Inn (United States)

This real-life historic hotel on Route 66 was the inspiration behind Ramone’s House of Body Art in Cars. Today it’s a museum, visitors’ centre, gift shop and Shamrock’s City of Commerce.

U-Drop Inn (United States)

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2 Chateau de Chillon (Switzerland)

You may not recognize this place, but perched on the shores of Lake Geneva, this quaint little fortress which is on its own island, is believed to be the inspiration behind Prince Eric’s castle from The Little Mermaid.

Chateau de Chillon (Switzerland)

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3 The Forbidden City (China)

Although it was built well after the time frame for the movie, it’s believed the Forbidden City was the inspiration behind the emperor’s home in Mulan. The movie was set during the Han Dynasty, while the Forbidden City was built some 1000 years later during the Ming Dynasty.

The Forbidden City (China)

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4 Eilean Donan (Scotland)

Located in the Scottish Highlands, this castle in particular was inspiration for the Pixar movie Brave, which is set in Scotland. Eilean Donan is situated on a small tidal island where three lochs meet and is connected to the mainland by a footbridge.

Eilean Donan (Scotland)

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5 Hotel de Glace (Canada)

Can you guess this one? Elsa’s Palace from Frozen was inspired by this ice hotel near Quebec. It has to be freshly constructed each year, as the ice only provides the hotel with a three-month life span.

Hotel de Glace (Canada)

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6 Alsace (France)

The quaint little villages throughout this region, which is the smallest of the 27 regions of France, were the inspiration behind Little Town – Belle’s home in Beauty and the Beast.

Alsace (France)

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7 Chateau de Chambord (France)

The castle for the Beast in Beauty and the Beast had inspiration from this real life French castle, which is so large it was never actually completed.

Chateau de Chambord (France)

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8 Route 66

The wild scenery found along the classic American road was a large piece of inspiration for the movie, Cars. In its heyday, Route 66 (also known as the Will Rogers Highway) was a major path between the west and east coasts of America.

Route 66

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9 The French Laundry (California)

Consistently rated amongst the best in the world, this Californian restaurant was the inspiration behind Paris based Ratatouille. The building dates from 1900 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The French Laundry (California)

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10 The Serengeti (Tanzania)

The Lion King took its inspiration from the wild plains and large animal migrations of the Serengeti, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa.

The Serengeti (Tanzania)

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11 Yi Peng Festival (Thailand)

Any thoughts on this one? The releasing of the lanterns for their daughter in Tangled was inspired by the real life festival of Yi Peng.

Yi Peng Festival (Thailand)

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12 The Great Barrier Reef (Australia)

Finding Nemo starts off and finishes in the Great Barrier Reef off the North West Coast of Australia and can be seen from outer space.

The Great Barrier Reef (Australia)

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13 Akershus Fortress (Norway)

This castle and fortress in Norway provided the inspiration for Anna and Elsa’s Frozen home. The medieval castle was originally built to protect Oslo, the capital of Norway.

Akershus Fortress (Norway)

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14 Alcazar de Segovia (Spain)

This very famous Spanish castle is the real life version of the Queen’s castle in Snow White. Originally built as a fortress, it has also served as a Royal Palace, a state prison, a Royal Artillery College, and a military academy.

Alcazar de Segovia (Spain)

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15 The Taj Mahal (India)

This infamous Indian landmark was the inspiration behind the Sultan’s Palace in Aladdin. This palace was originally commissioned in 1632 to house a tomb.

The Taj Mahal (India)

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16 Mont Saint-Michel (France)

This French island commune located in Normandy is what Rapunzel’s parents home was based on in Tangled.

Mont Saint-Michel (France)

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17 New Orleans (United States)

New Orleans isn’t just the inspiration for the setting of The Princess and the Frog; it was actually set there.

New Orleans (United States)

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18 Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)

The Lion King featured several cameo appearances of this mountain, the tallest in Africa, and has three volcanic cones.

Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)

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19 Neuschwanstein Castle (Germany)

Does this castle look a little familiar? It should! It appears before the start of every Disney movie.

Neuschwanstein Castle (Germany)

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20 Angel Falls (Venezuela)

These falls were the inspiration for Paradise Falls in the movie Up. The falls are on the Gauja River.

Angel Falls (Venezuela)

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21 New Forest (England)

Sleeping Beauty’s setting was provided by this southern English forest.

New Forest (England)

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22 Notre Dame (France)

It’s fairly obvious that this cathedral in the heart of Paris was used as the Hunchback of Notre Dame’s backdrop; they even used the gargoyles.

Notre Dame (France)

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23 Kauai (Hawaii)

I’m sure you already knew that Lilo and Stitch was set in Hawaii, but did you know that it was in this island specifically?

Kauai (Hawaii)

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24 Ashdown Forest (England)

This Five Hundred Acres of Wood was the inspiration behind Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood.

Ashdown Forest (England)

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25 Machu Picchu (Peru)

The Emperor’s New Groove is set on a very similar mountainside to this Pacha village.

Machu Picchu (Peru)

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