March 30, 2010

Wonderful World of Weenies: Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant


When planning Disneyland Paris in the late 1980s/early 1990s Walt Disney Imagineers had a tough question on their hands, “How do you design and build a fantasy castle on a continent that, for centuries, has boasted the most fantasy-like castles in the world?”

Imagineer Tom Morris was given the responsibility of designing a new Sleeping Beauty Castle for the European park, just before that he had came back from a trip through Europe taking pictures of various castles throughout the continent.

The team, consisting of Tony Baxter, Tom Morris, and Brian Jowers, set out to find a unique design, they began by pasting several images of castles they found in books and magazines—both Disney and non-Disney—on a storyboard. They even used sketches and original watercolor studies of the fantasy castles designed by Gustaf Tenggren for the film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and those based on early Renaissance paintings by Eyvind Earle for the film Sleeping Beauty. Their research revealed that real castles were horizontally oriented for protection against the enemy, but castles in literature and film tended to have a vertical, inspirational orientation.


The Fantasyland team wanted the castle to present a certain element of Frenchness to pay tribute to its new home. After researching castles of every kind, the inspiration of the castle was not a castle at all, but a 12th Century monastery situated on the shore of Normandy in Northern France, Mont Saint-Michel. The staircases like delicate lace spiraling up, embraced the sense of power and fantasy—how the Fantasyland team wanted the guests to feel about Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant. Using that as inspiration, Tom Morris did several pencil sketches, and they finally had their weenie.  IMAG0128

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Lets take a look at the building of Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant in Disneyland Paris through this YouTube Video found on the internet. 

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Opening on April 12, 1992, with Disneyland Paris, at the time Euro Disneyland, it is home to a an Audio-Animatronic dragon, which at 27 metres from head to tail was the largest Animatronic figure ever built when the park opened. The building also contains la Galerie de la Belle au Bois Dormant, a gallery of displays which illustrate the story of Sleeping Beauty in tapestries, stained glass windows and figures, la Boutique du Château, a shop selling Christmas ornaments year-round and Merlin l'Enchanteur, a shop specialising in handmade glass figures.

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The castle has received several overlays throughout the years. Firstly was the 1st Anniversary in 1993. During this celebration, the castle was dressed up as a cake complete with strawberries, icing and candles. This overlay was removed after the celebration ended. In 1997 was the 5th Anniversary of Disneyland Paris. During this celebration, Sleeping Beauty's castle was dressed up in carnival masks, jester hats, frills and bells to promote the animated film The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This overlay lasted until the beginning of 1998.

In 2002 was the 10th Anniversary of Disneyland Paris. For this celebration, the overlay was quite basic compared to the previous ones. The front of the castle was fitted with a golden scroll displaying a large 10. Also, the celebration saw the opening of Walt Disney Studios next door. The scroll, and other Anniversary material in the park was removed in 2003.2_image_13



In 2007, the castle received another overlay, celebrating the 15th Anniversary which started in 2007. It featured golden Disney characters displayed on the turrets and spires, each holding a candle, and Tinkerbell on the highest spire—the candles were 'lit' each night during a special 'Candlebration' ceremony which took place on a raised temporary stage at Central Plaza, in front of the Castle. A huge illuminated gold plaque featuring a large '15' was hung on the front of the Castle. This echoed the overlay that was featured for the 10th Anniversary in 2002. The 15th Anniversary and the 'Candlebration' ceremony finally ended after an extended stay on 7 March 2009.


The 15th overlay was to be shortly followed on 4 April 2009 by Mickeys Magical Party, a "theme year" celebration held at the park. The castle was once again overlaid with a Mickey and Friends plaque over the main window, and the spire heads were changed from being characters to being 3 circles "of ribbon" representing Mickey, continuing the recent usage of "theme years" that the resort has begun to favour. 


The past couple of years Disneyland Paris has had its own “Lights of Winter” down Main Street leading up to the castle. With the help of lights, the castle is seemingly covered in ice for the winter months at night. Similar to Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom, it was one of the first two castles to be covered in the light/ice effect. Following were the Sleeping Beauty Castles in Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland.


Onto the pins. Unlike Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland, the many pics of Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant are pretty similar, and really only change over time because of the “technology”. Note, the earlier pins featuring the weenie have a lighter pink, while some of the newer ones feature a darker pink, and more vibrant, less muted.

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Be sure to vote in our GDP Blog Poll, What’s your favorite Sleeping Beauty Castle?? Personally, this is my fave, and I haven’t even been out of Florida.

Pictures and Information from, All Ears Net, DLRP Magic and PinPics.

EDITED: Added acknowledgement to I totally forgot, and would like to publically apologize.

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