The Real Places That Inspired All Your Fave Disney Movies

Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.
This post was originally published on July 8, 2015.

Do you want to build a snowman? Or, do you want to build a snowman in the place that inspired Elsa's ice palace in Frozen? Do you want to see Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland, or do you want to see the actual Sleeping Beauty castle? These aren't trick questions.

If you're still stumped about where to take your next vacation, look to your favorite Disney films for inspiration. The stories may come from fairytales, but in many cases the locations seen on screen are very, very real — meaning you could pack your bags now and be chilling at Simba or Dory's stomping grounds by next weekend.

Ahead, discover 11 real-life places that inspired all your favorite Disney movies, from Aladdin to Ratatouille. They may not sell Mickey Mouse ears, but honestly, that's probably for the best. (Daily Mail)


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Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.
Aladdin
Take a Middle Eastern folk tale, throw in a song about Arabian nights, and model the sultan's home after a majestic palace, right? Wrong.
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Photo: Robert Harding World Imagery / Alamy.
The sultan's palace in Aladdin was actually loosely based on the Taj Mahal. Not only is the famous structure Indian, not Arabian, it's also a mausoleum, not a palace.
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Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.
Beauty and the Beast
The Beast's fancy abode boasted multiple turrets and talking housewares.
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Photo: allOver images / Alamy.
For the real deal, head to France's Loire Valley, where you'll find the Château de Chambord, which inspired The Beast's lair. One of the world's most stunning examples of French Renaissance style, the marvelous estate features a double-helix staircase and a chapel.
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Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.
The Lion King
Exotic wildlife, heart-achingly beautiful sunsets, incredible expanses of grassland ... where might one find such a place?
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Photo: Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy.
Duh, it's Africa. Specifically, the Serengeti, which sprawls across northern Tanzania and southwestern Kenya. Take it from us: A safari there is life-changing.
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Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.
Frozen
Elsa's ice palace was chilly, forbidding, and not exactly receptive to open flames.
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Photo: WENN Ltd / Alamy.
When making Frozen, filmmakers sought design inspiration from the Hôtel de Glace in Quebec City. Open in winter (for obvious reasons), the frigid fortress has 44 rooms, ice sculptures galore, and impressive snow vaults. Bring a blanket.
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Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.
Brave
This animated tale is basically a tourist advertisement for Merida's native Scotland. Highlands, here we come.
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Photo: Robert Harding World Imagery / Alamy.
Perched on a small island where three sea lochs meet, the Eilean Donan Castle in the Scottish Highlands is everything your Brave-loving heart desires. The property dates back to the mid-13th century.
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Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.
The Emperor's New Groove
Llamas, rocky terrain, and the emperor of the Incan empire. It could only be...
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Photo: Hendrox / Stockimo / Alamy.
... Machu Picchu! Originally conceived as The Kingdom of the Sun, this 2000 Disney film took inspiration from research trips to the ancient Peruvian site.
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Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.
Finding Nemo
Nevermind Nemo — where might you find Marlin and Dory?
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Photo: redbrickstock.com / Alamy.
They may not have anything remotely resembling Aussie accents, but Marlin and Dory call Australia's Great Barrier Reef, in the Coral Sea, home. Located off the coast of Queensland, the reef is one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
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Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.
Ratatouille
Hopefully you won't find rats in the kitchen, but if it's fine French cuisine you're after, head to Paris. However, the real restaurant that inspired Remy's kitchen isn't where you'd expect ...
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Photo: Nik Wheeler / Alamy.
Ratatouille writer and director Brad Bird interned at Thomas Keller's Napa Valley restaurant, The French Laundry, for gourmet inspiration. One of Keller's signature dishes even made it into the film.
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Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.
Sleeping Beauty
Real talk: Has there ever been a castle dreamier than the one from Sleeping Beauty?
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Photo: imageBROKER / Alamy.
Aspiring Auroras can head to a Disney theme park for an accurate replica, or you could go one step further and make the trip to Bavaria. King Ludwig II's breathtaking retreat, Neuschwanstein Castle, played muse to the Disney version.
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Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.
Up
Good news: You don't need an airborne house to visit the fictional Paradise Falls.
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Photo: Robert Harding World Imagery / Alamy.
Paradise Falls was modeled after Angel Falls in Venezuela's Canaima National Park. The world's highest uninterrupted waterfall, its name translates to "waterfall of the deepest place."
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Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.
Tangled
This updated take on Rapunzel's story had her parents living in a castle perched on a tiny island.
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Photo: Robert Harding Picture Library Ltd / Alamy.
Turns out, Rapunzel's home was inspired by Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France — a fortified island commune with a population of 44 people. It remains unclear as to whether or not any of them have exceptionally long hair.
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