A Castle Fit for a Princess

This week, we return to the Magic Kingdom for an exploration of Fantasyland. Our journey begins where it ought to... with Cinderella Castle. The design of the castle is a blend of many different European styles, from 13th-century French chateaux like those at Ussé and Chenonceau to medieval castle keeps and ornate late-Rennaisance palaces.

The lower walls of the castle are more like a fortress, designed to protect the village beyond. Note the moat surrounding the structure and the battlements and arrow slits for defense. The upper reaches of the castle are more refined and detailed, befitting the elegance of the Princess who lives here. The gargoyles on the towers may seem imposing, but are actually typical of French gothic architecture. They serve as water spouts, helping with drainage and protecting the castle from a buildup of rainwater.

Regal details abound on Cinderella Castle, from heraldic tapestries to finely carved stonework on the bridge.

The family crest cast in stone above each entrance to the castle is actually the Disney family coat of arms. Whether this is the crest historically associated with the Disney name or just one that Walt Disney picked out is a matter for debate. In any case, this bit of Hidden Disney is appropriate here, since lions as charges on coats of arms were common among ruling families of several European states.

The clock on the castle is an important symbol from the Cinderella story, but it's also full of details representative of the period. The Roman numeral for "4" is shown as IIII (the use of IV is more modern in nature), and the arms of the clock include astronomical symbols used to indicate such things as the relative position of the sun, moon and zodiacal constellations.

Of course, while there are elements here that come from the story of Cinderella, you might notice that this castle looks nothing like the one seen in Disney's 1950 animated classic Cinderella. That's because that was the King's castle. The castle in the Magic Kingdom is truly Cinderella's castle, the home built by the King as a wedding present for his son, Prince Charming, and his new daughter-in-law.

Inside the castle are carved columns, beautiful tapestries and other commissioned works of art that tell the story of Cinderella and how she and the Prince came to meet. Decorative tile story murals like those found in the castle breezeway were highly popular in ancient Rome and Egypt, but during the Middle Ages, they were created almost exclusively for the wealthiest landowners and members of the nobility.

The panel pictured above has some particularly fun details about it. Notice the stepsisters who are depicted as "red with rage" and "green with envy" over Cinderella's foot fitting the glass slipper. Also, the images of the Footman and Grand Duke bear the likenesses of Imagineering legends (and key designers of Cinderella Castle) Herb Ryman and John Hench.

Out back is the beautiful La Fontaine de Cendrillon, depicting our Lady's humble beginnings as a scullery maid in the Tremaine household. (Remember, her actual name is Ella Tremaine. "Cinder Ella" is a nickname given her by those wicked stepsisters.) View the fountain from the proper angle, though, and a golden crown rests down upon her head.

Stepping inside the castle walls, we're greeted with the most beautiful view yet of Cinderella Castle. This is the view enjoyed by the Princess's loyal subjects who live and play in this magical land of fantasy.


  1. The castle is beautiful! Thanks for sharing so many details. tj

  2. Fantastic post, Shawn! It is amazing that there is so much detail that people blow by on their way to an attraction.

  3. I find it amazing how much detail they put in to this faux castle. The "arrow slits", or arrow loops as they're called sometimes or even balistaria have always interested me since I first discovered they were there, which wasn't until about my 11th or 12th trip.

    In a traditional, real-world castle, these would've been used by archers in the castle when defending it against attacks. They would aim their bows or crossbows out these at their attackers. They were very effective as they were usually situated high above which gave the archer an extremely good vantage point. And, because of the size of the hole/slit, it gave them equally good protection from return fire. Of course, Disney could've left these out of the design, because, this is a castle that shouldn't ever need defending, and who would notice, right?

    The fact that they included this little detail in the design of this and other castles just adds to the realism. It's a very small detail, and one that goes un-noticed to a lot people, at least consciously. But, it's also the kind of small detail that subconsciously helps add to the fantasy and belief that it's a real castle.

  4. Shawn,

    I just recently found your Blog. It is fantastic! We enjoy the details and history surrounding the parks too, and your information will make it even more fun when we make our next visit to explore new details.

    Our son was 9 months old during his first visit to WDW. We chose Cinderella's Fountain as our "permanent" picture spot for each visit. He is 5 years old now and has several pictures at this spot. We are wondering if the location of the fountain will remain the same after the refurbishment of Fantasyland. Even if the location changes, we are assuming that the fountain will always be somewhere around the castle!

  5. Brant, your family photo spot is safe! The current plans for Fantasyland will impact the areas of Dumbo, Ariel's Grotto, Winnie the Pooh & Toontown Fair. There are currently no plans to make changes in the immediate area of the castle.

  6. Thank you for the information on the Clock. I was just working on photos I had taken of my most recent trip and when I zoomed in I noticed the symbols but could not find any information about what they were or represented. Since I know nothing is left to chance at Disney, it was driving me crazy not knowing. You have been the only place so far I found an answer. Thanks.

  7. Thank you for posting information about the sympbols of the clock. I just noticed them on the photos that I took on my recent trip. Knowing full well that Disney does nothing by chance and everything has a meaning..it was driving me crazy not being to find any answers. Your blog was the only place I found any informtation what so ever. So, Thank you.