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Rebecca Dolan


Disney Travel: Real-Life Disney Movie Locales

Posted: 11/15/2011 8:09 am

Sure Agrabah is a city of fantasy and Sleeping Beauty's castle only exists at Disneyland, but not everything from Disney movies sprung from the minds of animators. Many of the company's greatest hits were based on classic literature, beloved fairy tales or folkloric legends.

The inspiration for many of these, and subsequently some box office blockbusters, can be found in real-world places. The rooftop refuge of Aladdin? That looks a lot like the cities of North Africa, from where an evil wizard came to find a magic lamp. How about the wooded hideout of swashbuckling Robin Hood? Yes, Sherwood Forest is indeed a real place.

Here, find some of those places that exist both in the real world, and the world of Disney fantasy.

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  • Sleeping Beauty

    The Neuschwanstein Castle in southern Germany is a 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace perched on a hill above the village of Hohenschwangau near Fuessen. The palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria. While the castle wasn't actually in the movie, it served as inspiration for one of the most recognizable Disney icons: Sleeping Beauty Castle at <a href="" target="_hplink">Disneyland</a>. (CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • The Little Mermaid

    Like many Disney films, <em>The Little Mermaid</em> was based on a well-known fairy tale. Ariel and company were inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen tale of the same name. This statue of her sits in the harbor in Copenhagen. Photo via <a href="" target="_hplink">rduta</a>/Flickr

  • Robin Hood

    Before he was portrayed as a sly fox, Robin Hood and his band of merry men were characters of English folklore. All were said to have lived in Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, England. Photo via <a href="" target="_hplink">left-hand</a>/Flickr

  • The Jungle Book

    <em>The Jungle Book</em> began as a collection of stories by Rudyard Kipling -- Mowgli is one of its main characters. The central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh is said to have inspired Kipling's work. Photo via <a href="" target="_hplink">Ashish Gautamm</a>/Flickr

  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame

    Notre Dame de Paris (or Our Lady of Paris) is a Catholic, gothic-style cathedral built beginning in 1163. It's the literary home of Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame from Victor Hugo's 1831 novel <em>Notre-Dame de Paris</em>, and Disney's <em>The Hunchback of Notre Dame</em>. Disney loves Paris -- <em>The Aristocats</em> and <em>Ratatouille</em> were also set in the City of Lights.

  • Aladdin

    Disney's <em>Aladdin</em> is based on a character from Middle Eastern folklore, whose tale, "Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp", was part of <em>One Thousand and One Nights</em>. Agrabah might be fictional, but the North African Maghreb region is not. It's from there that the evil sorcerer who tricked Aladdin came. (LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Pocahontas

    Yes, there was a Pocahontas and a John Smith. And, yes there was a Jamestown. But, from there, the similarities with the real tale of Pocahontas (aka Matoaka) are slim. Visit the real Jamestown in southern Virginia to get the real story. (MANNIE GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Hercules

    In Disney's <em>Hercules</em>, young Herc pays a visit to the Temple of Zeus in an effort to find where he is from. The real Temple of Zeus can be visited in Olympia — birthplace of that little event called the Olympics. Photo via <a href="" target="_hplink">isawnyu</a>/Flickr

  • The Emperor's New Groove

    In <em>The Emperor's New Groove</em>, Kuzco is the temperamental emperor of the Inca empire. The real Inca empire was prominent from the early 15th century, until the early 16th century when it was conquered by the Spanish. The Inca capital was in Cuzco, Peru. See what they did there? Photo via <a href="" target="_hplink">guillenperez</a>/Flickr

  • Lilo and Stitch

    In <em>Lilo and Stitch</em>, Experiment 626, aka Stitch, is supposed to be exiled on a deserted asteroid. Instead, he escapes and lands on the Hawaiian island of Kauai where he's adopted by Lilo. Photo via <a href="" target="_hplink">Chuck 55</a>/Flickr

  • Finding Nemo

    Australia's Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest reef system and was home to everyone's favorite clownfish. The famous "P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney" address is not, however, a real address. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Peter Pan

    In <em>Peter Pan</em>, London was home to the Darling family, whose children soared past Big Ben, past the second star to the right, and straight on 'til morning to find Neverland. Other London-set movies include "One Hundred and One Dalmations," "The Sword In The Stone" and "The Great Mouse Detective." (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  • Oliver & Company

    The slightly less famous sibling to <em>The Aristocrats</em>, <em>Oliver & Company</em> is an equally adorable film about a kitten who joins a gang of dogs that roam the streets of New York City. The animated film depicts many recognizable cityscapes, including the subway, Times Square and the Empire State Building.

  • Beauty and the Beast

    How many children have learned their first French words from <em>Beauty and the Beast</em>? The classic fairytale originated in France in the mid-18th century. When Disney decided to turn it into an animated film, they kept the quaint setting and injected plenty of "bon jours" into the dialogue. While the exact location is never named, the village is referred to as a "poor provincial town" and was modeled after quiet rural villages that were scattered throughout the French countryside.

  • Mulan

    The film <em>Mulan</em> isn't very specific about setting -- neither time nor place are ever fully disclosed and there are plenty of anachronistic moments (but it's a Disney movie... what do you expect?) Like most Disney films, <em>Mulan</em> is based off a traditional story. In this case, that story is "<a href="" target="_blank">Hua Mulan</a>," a traditional Chinese legend that is actually grounded in reality. The real-life Mulan lived in a small rural village in northern China. <a href="" target="_blank">Some sources believe </a>she lived in Yucheng County, Shangqiu Prefecture, in eastern Henan Province.

  • The Princess and the Frog

    Disney animators paid <a href="" target="_blank">extra-close attention</a> to detail while creating their most recent princess movie, <em>The Princess and the Frog</em>. Set in New Orleans, the film depicts many real world locations, including the St. Louis Cathedral.