|The Disneyland "castle" is really a gatehouse with a jumble of sets on the roof|
|The castle from Cinderella (1950)|
When Walt Disney imagined a Mickey Mouse Park across the street from his studio, there was no castle. A “real” defensible castle would not be suited for a place like Disneyland. Early site plans drawn in June 1953 featured a section with more fanciful, exotic architecture and a square building with round turrets at the corners. This “castle” was to be viewed across the main lagoon (the reflection would be dramatic), but it was never clear how to use its interior. Perhaps, like the Sydney Opera House, form would precede function.
Later plans for Disneyland, developed after art director Bill Martin joined the team, put the kiddieland area in a walled city with cobblestone streets and Old World architecture. Geppetto’s toy shop on Pinocchio Square, Hook’s ship, the Jolly Roger, tied up at the quay at the end of a winding alley. A crenelated wall would be visible beyond the dark ride buildings and jumble of roofs, creating a magic kingdom. Undefined on these early sketches, a castle keep with towers and spires would be built toward the back. As with the first plan, it was not clear what would go into the keep--it would be like the Eiffel Tower at Epcot’s France pavilion, a visual point in the distance.
The entrance into the walled city would be a drawbridge across a moat. The problem was that the wall would restrict the view of the wonders inside, and the solution was the spires of the distant keep. The vertical towers, visible from outside the walled village, would be the visual wienie. When Herb Ryman sketched the park on the famous lost weekend, he imagined the keep as a fairy castle in the far corner, something like Mad King Ludwig’s Bavarian schloss. Reportedly, Walt urged Ryman to draw it taller, higher, grander.
|Herb Ryman's first sketch was too Neuschwanstein-y. |
Note the tournament tents outside the city wall.
Then Bill Martin was told that his Old World architecture was too expensive.
The genius solution to the budgetary problem was to fill the walls of the city with brightly colored tournament tents. Canvas (later sheet metal) tents were much cheaper to build. Also for budget reasons, the designers decided that they didn’t need to enclose the entire area with a wall. The drawbridge would lead to a small gatehouse and the courtyard inside would contain a carrousel and boxy dark rides behind bright tournament tents. Done.
|The dormers of Chambord|
|Early architectural drawings with relative heights (Drawings © Disney, courtesy of James D. Keeline)|
|The castle has been the logo since the beginning.|
The random variety of the rooftop set is deliberately unbalanced, popular in the Queen Anne architecture style, which was the fashion when Neuschwanstein was built. A real castle is symmetrical to defend all sides equally.
|The gatehouse became Sleeping Beauty Castle in 1957|
Bud Washo created the castle in the field, using skills to make cement plaster seem like stone and to cast the turret roofs and other pieces in fiberglass. More about this in a future post.
|The Saint-Chapelle-inspired church with it's golden spire. (Photo by Alastair Dallas, Inventing Disneyland)|
|Diane Arbus' 1962 portrait of the castle.|