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Six times Disney showed you the world

Six times Disney showed you the world

 Six times Disney ‘showed you the  world’, by Jen Pen, August 2015

Designer-cum-Disney geek Jenny Pen draws the lines between fantasy and reality, so we can all visit our favourite animated-film locations.

We’re all aware of the inside jokes, the inter-film references (Scar from The Lion King making a grisly appearance as Hercules’ lion skin wrap) and the rudey-dudey humour (although I am here to talk about priestly erections, I won’t be going into detail about the one in The Little Mermaid). But what I really want to talk about, is the abundant architectural references!! Hurrah!

Of course many of my favourites I can’t give any architectural credit to; The Little Mermaid, The Jungle Book, Finding Nemo, Tarzan and The Lion King all have Mother Nature to thank for their beautiful scenery, but here are a few architectural tit-bits to tickle your building pickle.

1. The Taj Mahal

Agrabah, the sultanate setting in Aladdin, took direction from Disney Animator Rasoul Azadani’s hometown of Isfahan in Iran. The city’s famous Iranian-Islamic Architecture is a perfect Persian backdrop for an Arabian tale, but the Palace itself takes inspiration from the Taj Mahal in India. Whilst on their Magic Carpet ride, Aladdin and Jasmine also travel some distance to fly by The Great Pyramids and The Great Sphynx in Egypt; and the Forbidden City in China. Some date.

2. The Greek temple of the Doric Order

And what would a Greek mythological tale be without reference to some magnificent ancient Greek architecture? Hercules visits his Father’s statue, the Statue of Zeus, located in the Temple of Zeus in Olympia. The temple is a Classic Greek Temple of the Doric order (a column style); whilst the Statue of Zeus itself was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

3. Route 66

Whilst technically U.S Route 66 is more of an engineering reference I still think it’s prominence in Cars is worth a mention. Once one of America’s most used roads, Route 66 was replaced by the Interstate Highway System in the 1980s. This little piece of American history went on to form the baseline of the film, with Radiator Springs paying homage to the numerous run-down towns along the route that were bi-passed. Cars also has more subtle architectural references including the ‘leaning tower of tyres’ aka ‘The Leaning Tower of Pisa’.

4. Paris

It’s a pretty hard to find a perfect a romantic setting, so it is no surprise that the scenery of Paris has featured in more than one Disney film. Most notable are the Notre Dame in (you guessed it) The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and The Eiffel Tower when the Aristocats are scampering the Parisian rooftops, and Remy from Ratatouille is pondering foody stuff.

5. The Great Wall of China

Mulan may not be the only Disney film to reference Chinese architecture, but it is the only film to be set in China, so it’s no surprise there a number of easily identifiable structures including the Forbidden City and The Great Wall of China.

5. Neuschwanstein Castle

And finally, the pièce de résistance – Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World. Anyone heard of Neuschwanstein Castle? The next time you’re in Bavaria check out this 19th century gem from which it is regarded our lovely Cinders’ humble home takes its reference.


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