The 9 Very Real Places Behind Disney Movies You Can Actually Visit
Not-so-obvious and very real – these nine are truly magical locations, worth every Disney movie.
Disney is a master of creating captivating fairytale worlds. Although most of their stories are not original and are based on famous works of literature or folklore, the products are still adored by generations of viewers worldwide. In fact, the company draws much more inspiration from the real world than it may seem. As such, some Disney movies feature very real locations.
If you're an avid Disney fan and would love to feel like you're in a fairy tale, here are nine places featured in popular Disney movies to one degree or another.
Mont-Saint-Michel, France (Tangled)
While Tangled didn't develop into a successful movie franchise, this Disney picture did spawn a three-season TV series. Set in the fictional kingdom of Corona, Tangled features a picturesque city island where the king and queen's castle is located.
It seems that the medieval monastery commune on the island of Mont-Saint-Michel largely inspired the place. It is cut off from the mainland during high tide, and it certainly has a fairytale look.
Hanapepe, Hawaii (Lilo & Stitch)
Set in a world largely resembling ours, Lilo & Stitch takes place on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The beloved franchise has many Hawaiian features and aims to accurately depict the local culture. It's rumored that Hanapepe inspired the small town where Lilo and Nani reside on the same Kauai island.
Louisiana Bayou, Louisiana (The Princess and the Frog)
This often overlooked Disney picture is about the place it was filmed in: the movie is set in New Orleans, Louisiana, with its voodoo beliefs. However, you may still be surprised to learn that the marshes The Princess and the Frog hang out in actually exist in reality.
The Louisiana Bayou is located just outside New Orleans, where the Mississippi flows into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Cocora Valley, Colombia (Encanto)
The beautiful and extremely relatable Disney musical follows the Madrigal family, whose grandfather fled the carnage of revolution in Colombia and sacrificed himself to let his wife, children, and friends escape. Eventually, the escapees found a peaceful valley between mountains where they settled.
The place is said to have been inspired by the scenery of the Cocora Valley in Colombia. It is part of the Los Nevados National Park and is now closed due to volcanic activity.
Machu Picchu, Peru (The Emperor's New Groove)
Following an eccentric Incan emperor named Kuzco, this movie evolved into a wildly popular film and television franchise, encompassing several big and small-screen installments. It features the historic location of Machu Picchu, whose remnants can still be found in the Andes. However, the real mountains are much steeper than the round and seemingly friendly hills depicted in the cartoon franchise.
Taj Mahal, India (Aladdin)
Thanks to its Oriental flair, Aladdin has always been one of the most fascinating Disney products. Based on Middle-Eastern folklore, the movie and subsequent TV series follow the titular thief as he finds a magical lamp containing a genie and falls in love with the princess of Agrabah.
The iconic white-towered palace featured in the franchise is, in fact, inspired by one of the world's seven wonders, the Taj Mahal, located in Agra, India. Its ivory and white marble exterior closely resembles the cartoon palace.
Notre Dame de Paris, France (The Hunchback Of Notre Dame)
Although this story isn't based on a fairytale, but on a Victor Hugo novel of the same name, it remains one of the most beloved children's cartoons. As the title suggests, the movie follows the titular hunchback who resides at the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral, safe from the public's hatred.
The cathedral is currently not in service as it's undergoing renovations following the notorious 2019 fire that destroyed its roof.
The Forbidden City, China (Mulan)
Set in medieval China, Mulan features many picturesque locations. The most iconic of these is the Forbidden City, located in modern-day Beijing. It was the emperor's residence and is depicted as such in the Disney movie.
Built under the Ming dynasty, the Forbidden City has been around since the fifteenth century. At present, it's a museum open to visitors.
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, Iceland (Frozen)
When Frozen premiered in 2013, few people could have imagined it would become Disney's highest-grossing franchise, earning some $3 billion at the box office. Unlike the company's other products, it's completely original and isn't based on a classic fairytale.
Set in the fictional Norwegian-styled kingdom of Arendelle, Frozen follows Elsa and Anna as they navigate the hardships of ruling the realm after their parents' deaths while the former is also learning to control her magic. In the second installment, Elsa travels to a mysterious, gloomy island with soot-black beaches and rocks. The real-life inspiration behind the place was the unearthly Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach in Iceland.