The castle that inspired the Sleeping Beauty castle just turned 150 years old

Historic castle that inspired Walt Disney turns 150

By Angela Garrity, Guest blogger

Today marks the 150th birthday of a cornerstone that was laid to fund the most expensive landmark project of its time — and you might recognize it from the opening credits of almost every single Disney movie.

A side by side photo of Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany and Sleeping Beauty's Castle in Disneyland

Hiding slightly above a brick engraved and dated 1869 in the south wall, you’ll find the building block of one of the biggest tourist attractions in Europe.

Inspiration can come from the most unusual places and such is the lore of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, nestled softly in Disneyland, California. The iconic logo is easily recognizable today worldwide, however this fanciful tale is rooted in its own strange, historic legacy.

Neuschwanstein Castle was commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, as an architectural billet doux to German composer, Richard Wagner, and paid for out of the king’s personal fortune and extensive borrowing.  Ludwig preferred the eccentric and reclusive, fantasy world he created for himself, filled with knight’s fables, magical swans and opera to ruling his kingdom as a just monarch.

At the king’s death at age 40, the castle was not complete and remained unfinished until 1892. He slept merely 11 nights inside the castle that he began constructing years prior to his untimely removal from the throne and mysterious death the day after his dethroning. 

Intended as a private retreat for a reclusive king, the dream castle created a financial disaster during that time. Today, the palace is open to the public and remains a driver of key income for the local economy. Neuschwanstein Castle has drawn more than 61 million visitors to date.

Where one dream ends, another one begins — and the tale of the castle who continued to bewitch with its charms continues.

Before he built Disneyland, Walt Disney vacationed to Europe and included a visit to Neuschwanstein Castle. The 19th-century fairy tale Romanesque Revival style architecture and surrounding landscape that flourished in Bavaria, Germany captured the imagination and spirit of the visionary.

Disney was so moved by the German castle’s charm, that he modeled Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle after it. Disney created his castle with the West walkthrough entrance inside Fantasyland. It remains the oldest of all Disney castles to date and the only castle whose construction was overseen by Walt Disney, before his death in 1966.

Imagination is just the beginning. Dreams really do come true, after all.

Related: Goofy, Pluto, and more: The many voices of Bill Farmer

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