Now that Cinderella Castle in Disney World is receiving its “royal makeover” to get it ready for Disney World’s big 50th anniversary next year, we thought it would be fun to look back on all the different overlays each castle has received throughout the years!
You wouldn’t believe how much (or how little!) they’ve changed over time! Let’s take a peek at some castle designs from years gone by!
Disney World’s Cinderella Castle
Cinderella Castle has been standing tall at Magic Kingdom since its opening day on October 1st, 1971. Standing 189 feet high, the iconic structure was fashioned to resemble a French palace with a muted gray and blue color scheme highlighted by gold accents.
Much of the inspiration for the castle was taken from real French palaces and, most notably, Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria.
The base of the castle took its inspiration from medieval architecture, while the turrets and graceful spires on the upper level represented a more Gothic influence. Cinderella Castle remained remarkably unchanged for a long period of time before 1995 when the spires were painted a deeper shade of blue!
But in 1996, a BIG change happened! Cinderella Castle was magically transformed into an enormous pink birthday cake for Disney World’s 25th Anniversary and the “Time to Remember the Magic” celebration!
It took over 100,000 tablespoons (400+ gallons) of three different shades of pink paint, 50 gumballs, 30 lollipops, 4 stacks of Life Savers, 16 gummy bears, 12 gumdrops, 16 red candy hearts, 16 green candy stars, and 26 birthday candles, and over 1,000 feet of inflatable “icing” (plus sugar, spice, and everything nice!) to bake up this mega-sized dessert. In fact, so much work went into this overlay that it remained in place until 1998!
Then in 2004 when Stitch’s Great Escape debuted, the castle got one of its more…unique makeovers! That little rascal Stitch TP-ed the castle! He even graffitied it with “Stitch is King!” Wanted posters were even displayed in the windows of the shops on Main Street, U.S.A. trying to help capture “Experiment 626.” This definitely made for some memorable photos for the ONE DAY it was up!
Cinderella Castle was done up once again in 2005 as part of a worldwide celebration when Disneyland turned 50! Every Disney theme park across the world took part in the festivities.
As you can see in the photo below, Cinderella Castle was outfitted with a mega-sized magic mirror that displayed pictures of other castles! The spires were decorated with gold spirals and figurines of Disney characters.
2007 was the first year Disney World began decorating the castle with icicle-inspired Christmas lights! Known as the Castle Dream Lights, these were originally lit up each evening during the holiday season with the help of Fairy Godmother, but in 2014 it got a Frozen update! It has since become a holiday tradition for Elsa to“freeze” the castle every night with A Frozen Holiday Wish!
In 2011, Cinderella Castle celebrated 40 Years of Walt Disney World Magic by unleashing some new cutting edge technology!
2011 is the first year Disney World began projecting images onto the castle with the help of 3D scanning and projection mapping!
The Magic, The Memories, and You! was a nighttime spectacular which ran from 2011 to 2012 and displayed guests’ photos on the castle over the course of the show. Just over a week later on January 27th, 2011, Disneyland received its own version of the show, projecting it on it’s a small world instead of Sleeping Beauty Castle (due to the significantly smaller size of Disneyland’s castle!).
A few variations of this castle projection show have been incorporated since then, including Celebrate the Magic, which ran from 2012-2016, and Once Upon a Time in late 2016.
In 2017, the Happily Ever After fireworks show incorporated the same projection technology on the castle throughout the show and remains the current nighttime spectacular at Magic Kingdom. It replaced longtime fan-favorite, Wishes: A Magical Gathering of Disney Dreams.
That brings us up to our present-day Cinderella Castle! In preparations for Disney World’s 50th anniversary, Cinderella Castle is transforming yet again! This time, she’s receiving a rosy pinkish hue with a sparkly gold overlay and more vibrant blue turrets! We can’t wait to see it once it’s finished!
In fact, work started on Cinderella Castle prior to the parks closing and although work on the project had stopped, the paint job was going up very quickly and without covering up the gorgeous castle — much to our (and many readers!) RELIEF!
Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle
And now it’s time to step even further back in time and see how Sleeping Beauty Castle has changed over the years! The original Disneyland landmark was designed in part by Disney Legend and Imagineering Artist Herb Ryman as well as art director Roland Hill!
Sleeping Beauty Castle has been at Disneyland since the park first opened in 1955. Inspired by Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria as well as some French palaces (just like Cinderella Castle!), guests could not actually walk through the castle’s interior until 1957.
Interestingly enough, Sleeping Beauty Castle’s working drawbridge has only been lowered twice—once at the opening of the park in 1955 and again in 1983 at the rededication of Fantasyland! The original color scheme for Sleeping Beauty Castle was pale muted grays and blues with only a few traces of pink!
And it wasn’t until the classic Disney film Sleeping Beauty celebrated its 40th anniversary in 1995 when the castle started to look more pinkish! This paint job resulted in a softer, more fairytale-like appearance for the beloved castle!
The Disneyland 50th anniversary celebration, known as the “Happiest Homecoming on Earth” at Disneyland, was the first time the castle was ever decorated.
Sleeping Beauty Castle was decked out with “precious gemstones,” and trimmed with gold! Five of the castle’s turrets were decorated with crowns each representing a specific decade of Disneyland’s history.
Sleeping Beauty Castle also undergoes an annual Christmas transformation in the wintertime with twinkling lights and piles of billowy snow along its rooftops!
More recently, special Christmas effects include sparkly strobe lights intertwined within holiday garlands and glowing “icicles.” These lights create a dazzling impact!
Disney says it takes their team of over two dozen cast members six weeks to transform Sleeping Beauty Castle into a sweet holiday abode. In fact, over 126,000 twinkling LED lights make up the truly magical display.
For Disneyland’s 60th anniversary in 2015, Sleeping Beauty Castle was once again bejeweled, but this time, it was adorned with diamonds, royal blue banners, and bunting for its big Diamond celebration!
The castle was studded with glistening crystal accents along its roof tiles all the way to the turrets.
In 2019, Sleeping Beauty Castle once again received a new paint job as part of Project Stardust — a Disneyland restoration and beautification effort. But unlike Cinderella, the castle was covered while the work was being done!
It was all worth it though when the newly redone Sleeping Beauty Castle made its big reveal when the castle finally emerged from behind the construction walls!
All of our patience was rewarded with a much more vibrant pinkish hued castle with bright blue turrets. Golden accents and “pixie dust” enhanced the entrance while colorful banners, pennants, and improved landscaping features were added.
Kim Irvine, an Art Director at Walt Disney Imagineering, stated an ages-old painting technique called “atmospheric perspective” was deployed to visually add height to the castle. This same technique is being utilized on the newer paint job for Cinderella Castle!
Don’t worry — Sleeping Beauty Castle still only stands 77 feet tall, but the rooftops of the lower towers are a darker blue which gradually lightens towards the top making the castle appear taller than it actually is!
Other additions have been added over the years such as squirrel drain spouts which are not only stylish but also help channel rainwater away from the building — now that’s form AND function!
Who knows what the next 50 years hold in store for Cinderella Castle and Sleeping Beauty Castle, but you better believe us when we say we’ll be at Disney World and Disneyland to FIND OUT!
Which Castle transformation is your favorite? Let us know in the comments.