Sleeping Beauty Castle is the fairy tale structure castle at the center of Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland. It is based on Neuschwanstein Castle with some French inspirations (Notre Dame de Paris and the Hospices de Beaune especially).
Opened July 17, 1955, the castle is the oldest of all Disney castles. Though it reaches a height of only 77 feet, it was designed to appear taller through a process known as forced perspective; design elements are larger at the foundation and smaller at the turrets. Sometimes swans will swim in the moat, so the WDI workers lined the moat with junipers. Swans won't eat junipers. The castle initially featured an empty upper level that was never intended to house an attraction, but Walt Disney was not satisfied with what he viewed as wasted space, and challenged his Imagineers to find some use for the space.
Beginning April 29, 1959, visitors were able to walk through the castle and view several dioramas depicting the story of Sleeping Beauty. The original dioramas were designed in the style of Eyvind Earle, production designer for Disney's 1959 film Sleeping Beauty, and were then redone in 1977 to resemble the window displays on Main Street, U.S.A.. The walkthrough was closed for unspecified reasons in October 2001; popular belief claims the September 11th attacks and the potential danger that ensued played a major factor in the closing.
On July 17, 2008, Disney announced that the walkthrough would reopen in the style of the original Earle dioramas, enhanced with new technology not available in 1957. The walkthrough reopened on November 27, 2008 at 5:00 PM, drawing long lines going as far back as the Hub. Unlike previous incarnations, visitors who are unable to climb stairs or navigate the passageways of the castle can still experience the walkthrough "virtually" in a special room on the castle's ground floor. This room is lavishly themed, and presents the closed-captioned CGI walkthrough recreation on a high-definition TV. This same virtual recreation is included on the Sleeping Beauty 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition DVD. The dioramas resemble animation cels.
It is a common myth that the Disney family coat of arms hangs above the archway to the castle. The Disney family coat of arms is composed of three fleur de lis whereas the coat of arms on the castle is three lions passant in pale. The origins and meaning of the coat of arms on it is unknown at this time. It is known that the coat of arms was not originally there but was placed there sometime in June 1965.
During the 50th anniversary
In celebration of Disneyland's 50th anniversary, the castle was repainted and five turrets were decorated with stylized crowns, each representing a decade in the park's history.
The creation of Disneyland is represented by a pair of famous "Ears" peeking up over the horizon to see the wonders to come.
"A World on the Move", otherwise known as the "New Tomorrowland" of 1967, is represented by rocket ships and accented by opalescent planets.
The 50th anniversary is represented by fireworks and Tinker Bell.
During the 60th anniversary
For Disneyland's 60th Anniversary, World of Color changed to the World of Color: Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney. Disneyland introduced Paint the Night and a new fireworks show, "Disneyland Forever". A 24-hour kickoff event occurred May 22, 2015.
As part of the celebration, the castle was covered with diamonds and glitter, with a large 60th logo in the center.
Hong Kong Disneyland version
Hong Kong Disneyland's castle is a nearly identical copy of the original in California. However, they can be differentiated through very subtle details. If one were to look closely enough, Hong Kong Disneyland's is built with much more precision compared to Disneyland's This can be observed through straighter and sharper edges on towers and walls as well as more ornate turret toppings. Hong Kong Disneyland also uses a different color scheme compared to that of Disneyland, with natural white and pink for the accents and cornice, giving the castle a more medieval look while the original uses slightly more saturated colors for its cornice and decorations, giving it a more fairy tale look. Disneyland frames its castle with lush trees and gardening to compliment its fairy tale aesthetic. Hong Kong Disneyland has less trees surrounding its castle, allowing a more open view to accompany the nightly fireworks show. While Disneyland did not begin its nightly fireworks tradition until one year after the park opened, Hong Kong Disneyland's was built with the firework performances in mind. This resulted in the fortress-themed buildings to the sides of the castle, which house the Fantasyland dark rides, being much more extended to both sides compared to Anaheim's, allowing a much more panoramic view to the pyrotechnic display.
During the 5th Anniversary
In celebration of Hong Kong Disneyland's 5th Anniversary, Celebration in the Air, unlike Disneyland, the castle has been transformed into Tinker Bell’s Pixie Dusted Castle. The castle is decorated by golden pixie dust, which sparkles and shimmers in the sun, and illuminates by night.
During the 10th Anniversary
Although no significant decorations is added to the castle for the park's 10th anniversary, the nightly "Disney in the Stars" fireworks show is added with elaborate projection mapping with visuals to compliment the display. This, however, resulted in the elimination of a few pyrotechnic elements launched from the front of the castle during the show.