This is the first post in a series celebrating the icons representing the four Disney Parks at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Just looking at a picture of them can evoke all sorts of emotions, immediately bringing to mind joys of vacations past or those to come, and sum up exactly what to expect inside the park’s turnstiles. And of course, we begin our series with the Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom.
I have been programmed from a very young age to associate a Disney castle with magic, wonder and family memories. My mother never had time to sit down and watch television, with one very important exception. Each Sunday night, we would gather as a family and suspend our everyday lives by watching The Wonderful World of Disney. My Dad would butter the popcorn as my sister and I found our spots under a blanket. Good times!
Walt Disney went out of his way to make Cinderella Castle larger than life. Literally. Imagineers (Disney’s incarnation of mere mortal engineers) used forced perspective while designing the castle. The windows and “bricks” gradually grow smaller from bottom to top, tricking our eye into seeing a much larger structure than it’s actual 183 feet. The castle first attracts our attention from the ferry, monorail or bus before we even enter the park. Then once we step onto Main Street, U.S.A, we’re pulled toward the center hub where the Castle rises in full fairytale glory.
Mickey Fact: By building Cinderella Castle less than 200 feet, Disney was able to avoid adding flashing red warning lights that would have been required by the Federal Aviation Administration if they hadn’t.
Cinderella Castle is more than a pretty face. Here’s what’s inside!
1. Cinderella’s Royal Table – Would you like to get up close and personal with the Castle? Just make reservations at Cinderella’s Royal Table restaurant for either breakfast, lunch or dinner! Regardless of age or gender, I truly believe every Dinsey fan should experience this at least once. Upon check-in for your meal, you’re ushered into a royal drawing room where you’ll have an audience with Princess Cinderella herself. Then climb a narrow stairway to the Royal Dining Room and it is just as regal as you would expect! While I certainly enjoyed meeting Cinderella’s Princess friends, the true highlight for me was gawking at all the royal detail.
2. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique – Little girls become princesses and little boys transform into knights at this fun makeover salon in the bottom floor of the Cinderella Castle. Fairy Godmothers-in-training make their dreams come true with her magic wand and a few hair and fashion tricks! Can you imagine how special these little ones feels when they exit their castle and parade through the kingdom? It’s a good thing the age limit is 12 or my husband and kids would completely disown me!
Mickey Fact: Don’t miss the five mosaic murals as you pass through Cinderella Castle. Made up of over one million pieces of glass, bits of gold and silver, and numerous “jewels, these 15-feet high and ten-feet wide murals tell an abbreviated version of the classic Cinderealla story.
3. Cinderella Castle Suite – Originally intended to be an apartment for Walt Disney when visiting the park, the Cinderella Castle Suite is the stuff dreams are made of. If I had one last dying wish, spending the night in this suite would be a strong contender. This space isn’t very big– probably the size of many master bedrooms. But I can assure you what it lacks in size is made up in ornate detail! A beautifully appointed private elevator opens to reveal a salon, bedchamber, and opulently appointed bathroom. From outside the castle, if you stand on the Liberty Square bridge and look about two-thirds of the way up the castle, you’ll see a series of three stained-glass windows. If the lights are on at night, there just may be a special celebrity guest enjoying their stay!
4. Specialized Magic – As the centerpiece of the Magic Kingdom, Cinderella Castle provides an irresistible backdrop for Disney’s particular brand of magic. Here’s the lineup.
Located immediately in front of the Castle, the Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage is an open-air venue where Disney presents high-energy musical shows several times a day. Of course, no Disney show would be complete without its cast of characters! Currently, Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire is preparing to debut in June 2016.
The Wishes Nighttime Spectacular is an unparalleled fireworks extravaganza. The show takes place every night– except when it’s temporarily replaced with specialty firework shows like Celebrate America – A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky, Hallowishes, Christmas Holiday Wishes and New Years Eve Fantasy in the Sky. As you might imagine, The Walt Disney Company is the largest consumer of fireworks in the United States. Rumor has it that Wishes Nighttime Spectacular costs approximately $50,000 per night!
Celebrate the Magic transforms the Castle into a “living piece of art”, honoring time-honored Disney storytelling. Tinker Bell taps her wand to sprinkle pixie dust and the show begins! The show usually takes place about 15 minutes before the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular begins, but times and frequency vary depending on the season.
The Christmas holidays are a very special season at the Walt Disney World Resort where they pull out all the stops. The Cinderella Castle dresses up in her finest! A Frozen Holiday Wish and the Castle Dream Lights wow every guest during the November/December holiday season. The castle is adorned with 200,000 LED lights and it takes six weeks to perform the Castle’s transformation. Each evening Princess Anna, Kristoff and friends (yes, even Olaf), convince Elsa to gift the Magic Kingdom by turning the Castle into a sparkly ice palace! It’s a fantastic sight to behold!
4. Deep Inside the Magic – Cinderella Castle also serves a practical purpose. Over the years, Disney has used the space as a call center, storage area, dressing rooms and various other less-than-magical functions. While I have never personally been on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Castle (there’s that dying wish again), here’s what I understand to be currently inside.
First, there’s an access ladder to the perch from which Tinker Bell takes flight each evening the Wishes Fireworks Spectacular takes place. She flies from high atop a castle turret down to the Tomorrowland Terrace, weather permitting. Can you even imagine??
Here’s the one I find most fascinating. Disney’s Operational Command Center is beneath the Castle. Its sole purpose is to improve the guest experience by reducing our waiting in lines. Disney has long been sensitive to the fact folks don’t want to spend their vacation waiting in a one-hour line for a five-minute ride, and has worked toward improving that experience by installing interactive queues where the line itself becomes a mini-attraction. But they’re also attacking the problem by using state-of-the-art technology. This underground nerve center uses video cameras, computer programs, digital park maps and other magical tools to spot gridlock before it happens and then dispatch a solution. For example, they can contact the attraction and have them put more boats in use at Pirates of the Caribbean, or even send a character or two to entertain you while you wait. Their mission? To get you to the fun faster!
Thank you so much for hanging in with me to the very end! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed sharing my love for the Cinderella Castle with you. What do you think? Let me know if you learned anything new about this park icon!