To celebrate its 100th anniversary, Disney has revealed a list of 30 locations across Europe, Middle East and Africa that have inspired its films and parks.
From Big Ben in London, to the colourful province of Cinque Terre in Italy, the list of landmarks covers 13 countries and showcases the locations that have inspired some of Disney’s most famous stories.
Liberty London, an iconic department store in the heart of London, was the original workplace of Cruella. In the 2021 film, Cruella is an aspiring fashion designer and gets a job at Liberty London where she showcases her talent. Her innovative designs catch the eye of the fashion world, resulting in this flagship store becoming a hugely influential location in the film.
Regents Park, one of the many parks around London, acts as the backdrop for the One Hundred and One Dalmatians Disney animation. The park is the location where main characters Pongo and Perdita (and owners Roger and Anita), meet for the first time. In the scene, the Dalmatians can be seen knocking Roger and Anita into the pond after their exciting encounter results in their leads getting tangled.
London's Big Ben has been featured as a backdrop and more prominently in several Disney films including Peter Pan and One Hundred and One Dalmatians. Most famously, Big Ben is a key landmark spotted in Peter Pan as Peter and the Darling children fly over London’s skyline on their way to Never Land. It is believed that the use of Big Ben is featured so often in Disney films to establish the setting as London, adding to the authenticity and recognition of the location as shown on screen.
From Mary Poppins flying over London's iconic skyline, to Mr. Banks taking the children to work and seeing the lady feeding the birds outside of St Paul's Cathedral, London plays a prominent role throughout Mary Poppins. The scene featuring the iconic "Feed the Birds" song unfolds as Mary Poppins shows Jane and Michael Banks a snow globe with a lady feeding the birds on the stairs outside of the cathedral. This poignant moment emphasizes the importance of compassion and charity, contrasting with the bustling city life surrounding the location.
Skellig Michael, located off the coast of Ireland, served as a filming location for this recent Star Wars blockbuster. The island's isolation from the rest of Ireland, its unique landscape from the steep cliffs and its ancient monastery, served as inspiration for Star Wars: The Force Awakens where Luke lives in exile. Skellig Michael served as a monastic settlement for nearly 600 years, with the monks living a secluded and ascetic life. This secluded lifestyle has parallels to the Jedi Order, which is similarly isolated and contemplative.
Located on the southern edge of Scotland on the Berwickshire coast, this picturesque fishing village inspired the fictional location where Thor and the remaining Asgardians reside after the war in Avengers: Endgame. The first time we see the village, Hulk and Rocket raccoon land over the town – aptly names ‘New Asgard’ – to meet Thor who went there after fighting in the war against Thanos. The village has since become a tourist hot spot, with Thor enthusiasts visiting St. Abbs to see the filming location first hand, take
photos, and immerse themselves in the world of Thor and the Asgardians. There are even regular cosplay gatherings, film screenings and fan meet ups.
Ashdown Forest in the UK is home to A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh and friends at Hundred Acre Woods, later animated by Disney. Walt Disney discovered Pooh's whimsical misadventures through his daughter, Diane Disney Miller, and sought the screen rights as early as 1937. Hundred Acre Wood plays an integral part to Pooh’s story, as he and his friends love to play in the woods. The forest's picturesque landscapes, including its open heathlands, ancient woodlands, and rolling hills, provided the inspiration for the idyllic and enchanting setting of this famous bear's home. Tens of
thousands of people from all over the world flock to Ashdown Forest every year to experience the 100 Acre Wood, play “Pooh Sticks” and visit Pooh Corner.
The team behind Disney and Pixar's Brave, said the Calanais Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, UK, were a key inspiration while developing the film as they spent time there as part of their research efforts. The striking appearance of the stones inspired those that appear in Brave, which plays a pivotal role and backdrop to many of the film's scenes, including the moment Merida discovers the stones. The Calanais Standing Stones are an extraordinary cross-shaped setting of stones erected 5000 years ago. They have served as an important place for ritual activity for at least the last 2000 years, and even in modern times remain a sacred and religious area. Historians don’t know why the standing stones at Calanais were erected, but it is suggested that it was likely a kind of astronomical observatory.
During a 1935 trip to the UK, Walt visited The Great Fosters, a Tudor era manor house believed to have been a Royal Hunting Lodge for both King Henry VIII and later his daughter, Queen Elizabeth I. Many years later, when working on Alice in Wonderland, it’s likely that Walt remembered the lovely topiary maze of the English manor, drawing inspiration from the experience he had there which may be reflected in the film as Alice gets lost in the maze..
In Disney's animated film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris plays a significant role. In the animated film, Notre Dame is captured with its Gothic architectural style and intricate details. The Cathedral is the heart of this film, with the main character Quasimodo living in the bell tower as his sanctuary and the only home he has ever known.
The creators of Ratatouille drew inspiration for Gusteau's restaurant from a number of restaurants in Paris, including Guy Savoy, Le Train Bleu, Taillevent and most famously, La Tour d’Argent. The history and style of these iconic French restaurants helped inspire the setting, ambiance, and cuisine of Ratatouille and added depth and authenticity to the film's depiction of the French culinary world. "We were inspired by several French restaurants — but Gusteau’s is the most ornate restaurant of all...It’s filled with huge, gilded arches, ceiling murals and thick red drapes, and it’s palatial in scale, making it the perfect backdrop for tiny little Remy to try to become a chef", said production designer Harley Jessup.
Mont Saint-Michel, a beautiful tidal island in Normandy, France, was one of the inspirations behind the kingdom in Walt Disney Animation Studios 50th feature film, Tangled, along with the historic tower which stands on the Island which is shown to be so tall and immense in size that it was also used as inspiration for the Kingdom of Corona’s castle in which Rapunzel is trapped. The tower on Mont Saint-Michel is built on a small island surrounded by water which can only be accessed by a long bridge. In the
film, Rapunzel can be seen escaping the tower with the assistance of her hair.
Château de Chambord is a renowned castle located in the Loire Valley of France. Known for its distinct Renaissance architecture, the grandeur and elegance of this landmark is one of the influencers of the overall aesthetic of the castle in Beauty and the Beast, following film makers' visit to the château.
Disney Legend Eyvind Earle was responsible for the overall production design, including styling, background, and colour in Sleeping Beauty. Earle drew on many sources of inspiration, including the illuminated manuscript Très Riches Heures de Jean, Duc de Berry. Within the manuscript, the Château of Saumur can be seen, further positioning the tome as a source of inspiration for King Stefan's castle (Princess Aurora’s father).
Alcázar de Segovia located in Segovia, Spain, is one of the most distinctive and well preserved medieval fortresses in Europe and is often cited as an inspiration for the castle in Disney's animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs(i). The Alcázar's distinctive shape, with its turrets and steep roofs, bears a resemblance to the castle depicted in the film.
(i)The Snow White castle owes its design to a number of castles across Europe. However, the most commonly cited source of inspiraton is Segovia Castle in central Spain (Source: ARL Princess Project)
The architecture and scenery of Dubrovnik is one of the two Croatian cities that were part of the design and aesthetic inspiration of Prince Eric's castle in the beloved animated film, The Little Mermaid(ii). Dubrovnik is known for its imposing medieval walls, red-roofed buildings, and seaside location, which inspired the castle's coastal setting and medieval architecture.
(ii) Dubrovnik was said to be an inspiration for Prince Eric's Palace and Kingdom. (Source: ARL Princess Project)
The film makers of the fictional location of Wakanda in the Marvel Cinematic Universe drew inspiration from various African cultures and landscapes to create the look and feel of the nation seen on the big screen. The film makers looked to South Africa for inspiration, particularly the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve and the Drakensberg Mountains with their sweeping vistas and natural beauty.
While the iconic Pride Rock in The Lion King is not based on a specific real-life location, it draws inspiration from various landscapes and geological formations found in Africa, including Masai Mara in Kenya. The film's creators have stated that they were inspired by the natural beauty of Masai Mara, part of the Serengeti National Park.
The Black Forest in Germany, with its dark, mystical woods, ancient trees, crystal clear streams and the occasional glimpse of wildlife, served as visual inspiration for the fairytale setting of Disney's animated film—Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
The quaint medieval Bavarian town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany is known for its beautiful architecture and well-preserved buildings. It is a popular tourist destination due to its historic significance and beautiful surroundings. The town's cobblestone streets, half-timbered houses, and fortified walls create a fairy tale-like ambiance which provided a source of inspiration for the village in the 1940 classic film, Pinocchio.
Neuschwanstein Castle, located in Bavaria, serves as one of the castles that inspired the iconic edifice found at Disneyland. The castle, with its fairy-tale like architecture and picturesque setting, has been a park landmark since it opened in 1955..
The iconic airport battle sequence in Captain America: Civil War took place on the tarmac at Leipzig, Germany. Production would travel to Leipzig and shoot at the airport during filming. “Shooting at a live, working airport on the scale that we needed to shoot is not an easy task,” explained Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios. “There are many restrictions, and you certainly can’t shoot explosions, car crashes and pyrotechnics. We knew we needed a really big open space that we could wrap in massive green screens. Being the great partner that they are, the team at Pinewood Atlanta Studios stepped up and laid a massive concrete slab on the backlot that we turned into the tarmac of Leipzig Airport in Germany."
Budapest is featured in the 2021 film, Black Widow. The events of the movie partially take place in Budapest, offering some insight into the past mission that Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton often refer to in the previous Marvel films. In this film, Natasha returns to Budapest, where she confronts her past and reunites with her estranged family. The production filmed for two weeks in Budapest—from the streets, to the top of the Exchange Palace, which once served as the Budapest Stock Exchange. Locations also included the Keleti (eastern) train station, the Nyugati (western) station underground and a gas station where Natasha and Yelena recover after the big chase. “We were able to use these iconic locations in a very practical way,” said Scarlet Johansson.
Reynissara Black Beach is a real-world location in Iceland known for its striking black sand and dramatic rock formations. Aerial shots of this beach were utilized along with the black beach at Hjörleifshöfði and can be found at the beginning of the film.
Forte di Bard, also known as Bard Fortress, is a historical fortress located in the Aosta Valley region of Italy. It is known for its strategic location and impressive architecture. In Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron, Forte di Bard was used as HYDRA's secret fortress as well as the hidden underground facility where HYDRA conducted various experiments. The Avengers team discovered the location of the fortress and launched a mission to infiltrate it. This led to a confrontation with the enhanced twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, also known as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, who were subjects of HYDRA's experimentation.
The Disney/Pixar film, Luca, takes place in a fictional seaside town called Portorosso on the Italian Riviera. The creators drew inspiration from various real-life coastal towns in Italy, including Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre, meaning "Five Lands" in Italian, refers to a collection of five colorful villages nestled along the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. These picturesque
villages, with their pastel-colored houses, terraced vineyards, and scenic hiking trails, are known for their beauty and charm which the film used to capture the essence of Italian coastal life with its vibrant and idyllic atmosphere.
In the 2023 film, Indiana Jones and The Dial of Destiny Ear of Dionysius was utilized as a filming location. The Ear of Dionysius, also known as ""Orecchio di Dionisio"" in Italian, is a famous limestone cave located in the Archaeological Park of Neapolis in Syracuse, Sicily, Italy. It is named after Dionysius I, an ancient Greek tyrant of Syracuse. The Ear of Dionysius is renowned for its remarkable acoustics. The cave has a unique shape,
resembling a human ear, with a narrow entrance that opens up into a large chamber.
In the 1997 Disney animated film Hercules, Mount Olympus is depicted as the majestic home of the Greek gods, including Hercules' father Zeus. Mount Olympus is shown as a collection of majestic palaces and structures set amidst the clouds, with vibrant colors and shining golden architecture. Throughout the movie, Hercules, the protagonist, aspires to join the gods on Mount Olympus and become a true hero. His journey involves interacting with various gods and goddesses, which provides opportunities for the film to showcase the splendor and majesty of Mount Olympus.
Akershus Fortress, which is located in Oslo, Norway, is a historic castle and fortress that was visited by the film’s crew and ultimately provided some of the inspiration for Anna and Elsa's castle in Frozen. The medieval castle has played a significant role in the history of Oslo as well as the entire country. It was built in the 13th century and has served different functions over the centuries, including a royal residence, a military stronghold, and a prison. Frozen took inspiration from Scandinavian culture, including Norwegian elements and Akershus Fortress evokes a sense of enchantment and fairy tale-like atmosphere, similar to the setting of the film.
Wadi Rum is a desert valley located in southern Jordan, known for its breath-taking red sand dunes, towering rock formations, and ancient rock carvings. It is a popular tourist destination and has been featured in several films. The fictional city of Agrabah, depicted in the 2019 live-action version of Aladdin, is set in a magical Arabian kingdom with surroundings reminiscent of Wadi Rum's desert landscapes.
As part of the celebrations, Disney has also recreated famous scenes from its 100-year history with exclusive photography.