Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park

Sleeping Beauty Castle is the iconic centerpiece of Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Opening along with the park on July 17, 1955, the castle serves as the gateway into Fantasyland. Despite its diminutive size compared to other Disney castles, Sleeping Beauty Castle has an outsized presence as the original Disney theme park castle.

Sleeping Beauty Castle

History of Sleeping Beauty Castle

The concept for having a central castle at Disneyland came directly from Walt Disney himself. Walt wanted a fairy tale castle to act as the heart of the park, reflecting both Disney’s animation legacy and Walt’s own lifelong love of fantasy stories. In developing the design for Sleeping Beauty Castle, Walt Disney Imagineers drew inspiration from several real European castles, especially Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. However, Walt intentionally wanted the Disneyland castle to feel friendly and inviting rather than cold and imposing.

As a result, Sleeping Beauty Castle was built on a smaller scale at just 77 feet tall. Originally simply called “Disneyland Castle,” the structure was renamed Sleeping Beauty Castle in 1955 to promote the upcoming Disney animated film. The movie Sleeping Beauty would not be released until 1959, but the Disneyland castle provided guests an early glimpse into that film’s world years before its premiere.


Design and Construction

The task of designing Sleeping Beauty Castle fell to artist Herb Ryman. Ryman had just two days to sketch out a concept model to present to financiers to secure funding for the park. His original drawing became the basis for the final castle design. Sleeping Beauty Castle’s architecture has elements of several real medieval castles, including Neuschwanstein, Mont Saint-Michel, and the Hunyad Castle in Transylvania. The final castle combines features of all its inspirations into an original fantasy creation.

Art director Marvin Davis then created a 3-dimensional model to fine-tune the proportions and details. The model went through several iterations before arriving at the final appearance. Several tricks enhance the illusion of the castle’s size. The architectural technique of forced perspective makes the higher sections appear progressively smaller, exaggerating the perceived height. Detailed faux finishes like bricks and roof tiles use this same scaling trick. The towers also narrow as they rise to enhance the stretching effect.


Features of the Castle

Sleeping Beauty Castle houses the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough attraction within its interior. Opened in 1957, this was one of the first attractions added after opening day. The walkthrough guides guests through dioramas telling the Sleeping Beauty story using dimensional displays, lighting, sound effects, and even smells. The iconic drawbridge is a working mechanism that has only been publicly lowered twice in history – on opening day in 1955 and again for the New Fantasyland reopening in 1983.

Other interactive features include a door visitors can pull open inside the walkthrough, playing an audio clip from the movie. The Castle also has water spouts along the foundation designed like squirrels and mice. At night, Sleeping Beauty Castle transforms through advanced projection mapping effects into the centerpiece for shows like Remember Dreams Come True. The castle acts as a giant movie screen showing custom animation matching the music and choreography of live performers.

Sleeping Beauty's Castle Behind Walt and Mickey Statue and Cherry Blossom Trees

Best Photo Spots

  • The circular hub in front of the Castle provides a classic straight-on view.
  • Across the moat from the front of Fantasy Faire gives a side angle with the Carrousel horse in the foreground.
  • Further back near the entrance to Frontierland captures the iconic forced perspective.
  • From in front of Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, you can get the Partners statue with the Castle.
  • Nighttime photos illuminated by the Remember Dreams Come True projections.
Inside the Disneyland Castle!

Walking Through Sleeping Beauty Castle

Guests enter the Castle Walkthrough by passing beneath the archway onto the drawbridge. Inside, the portcullis and heavy doors create an immersive transition into the Sleeping Beauty story. As you wind through narrow stone passageways, each scene builds upon the last to show the full fairy tale chronologically. Detailed dioramas spring to life with lighting and sound effects. Figurines, spinning wheels, bubbling cauldrons, and the splendor of King Stefan’s castle transport you into the film. The climax occurs when you reach Maleficent the dragon, who spits real fire at Prince Phillip, battling with the Sword of Truth. Exiting over the drawbridge completes the journey.

Castle and bridge in the daytime

Interesting Facts

  • At 77 feet tall, Sleeping Beauty Castle is the smallest Disney park castle.
  • The Disney family crest is mounted over the entrance with roaring lions.
  • Walt Disney accidentally called it “Snow White’s Castle” in early planning.
  • It took over 60 years before the drawbridge was lowered for a second time.
  • Swans swim in the moat due to being one of the only water birds that sleep with their heads tucked under like wings.

Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom Park

Other Disney Park Castles

Sleeping Beauty Castle began the tradition of iconic fairy tale centerpiece castles across Disney parks worldwide:

Cinderella Castle (Walt Disney World): Cinderella Castle is the largest at 189 feet tall. The bold blue rooftops are inspired by a Mad Ludwig castle in Germany.

Cinderella Castle (Tokyo Disneyland): Nearly identical to Magic Kingdom’s castle, except with gold-painted trim and surrounding waterway.

Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant (Disneyland Paris): Reimagined French Baroque design for Sleeping Beauty Castle, featuring pink and blue hues.

Enchanted Storybook Castle (Shanghai Disneyland): Colorful mosaic tiles form scenes from Disney movies like Mulan and Brave, with each castle tower themed to a different princess.

Castle of Magical Dreams (Hong Kong Disneyland): Transformed from a replica Sleeping Beauty Castle into a new castle celebrating multiple Disney heroines like Tiana and Moana.



As the original Disney theme park castle, Sleeping Beauty Castle established an iconography that has defined Disney parks worldwide. Its romantic fairy tale presence continues to inspire dreams and make fantasies real for new generations of guests, more than 60 years since Walt Disney first brought his magic kingdom to life.