Disneyland Paris is in France. Beauty and the Beast takes place in France. So why didn’t Disney use the castle from Beauty and the Beast in Disneyland Paris?
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So there’s a really quick and seemingly obvious answer here, and it’s timing. Beauty and the Beast came out in 1991, and while Disneyland Paris didn’t open until one year later in 1992, they began construction in 1988, three years before the movie would come out. So it would make sense that they couldn’t do it.
But it also took a few years to develop and produce Beauty and the Beast, so it’s actually not unreasonable to think that while designing the castle for Disneyland Paris, a design for the Beauty and the Beast castle existed as well. So maybe it could have been possible?
Now, the idea of building a park castle based on the castle from an unreleased animated film sounds bold, but there’s historical precedence for it. Disneyland opened in 1955 with Sleeping Beauty’s castle as a centerpiece, and the film itself wouldn’t premiere until 4 years later in 1959. So apparently the movie not being out didn’t stop Walt from building a real castle around it.
It’s important to keep in mind that while the live action branch of Disney was experiencing a turnaround thanks to things like the Singles and Doubles strategy. Walt Disney animation hadn’t yet. Sure, the Little Mermaid did really well just a couple of years earlier, but that was just one single movie. The Disney Renaissance still wasn’t a renaissance yet. So perhaps it was caution partially driving the decision, in the event that Beauty and the Beast didn’t perform as well as The Little Mermaid and failed to end up a classic.
The timing may have been a road bump more than a roadblock, and the consideration of Beauty and the Beast’s success might have been a factor, but above all the determining factor in Disneyland Paris’ castle was the competition.
Disneyland Paris was in France, and France, like many other European nations, has a number of real castles. Florida and California? Not so much. As imagineer Tony Baxter put it, “We can’t just do a kitschy rendition of French history right in their own backyard… Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland was inspired by the Neuschwanstein Castle in Southern Germany. This European influence was fine for building a castle in Anaheim, but the fact that castles exist just down the road from Disneyland Paris challenged us to think twice about our design.” Furthermore because the original Sleeping Beauty story didn’t go into great detail in regards to the castle, Disney had the freedom to interpret what it would look like for both the animated film as well as the subsequent park castles. As a result Disney intentionally went about designing the Disneyland Paris castle as a more fantasy inspired version of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, using pink stones, exaggerated spires, and elaborate windows.
So it would make sense that they’d avoid using the Beast’s castle, even if they did feel that the film would have the staying power to justify it and even if they did have the designs in time to start building it for the park’s opening. The Beast’s castle was loosely inspired by The Chateau de Chambord in the Loire Valley. Going back to Baxter’s argument, why build a castle that’s based on an actual castle that’s just 100 miles or so away?
But who knows that the future holds. The recent news of Hong Kong Disneyland getting a refurbished and redesigned castle shows us that Disney is willing to redesign the most iconic element of a park when the time is right. However with castles all over France to compete with, I have a feeling that, at least for now, The Beast’s Castle will just have to settle for being a scale model on top of a restaurant.