Sleeping Beauty Castle is a fairy tale castle at the center of Disneyland and formerly at Hong Kong Disneyland. It is based on the late-19th century Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany. It was featured in Walt Disney Pictures logo before the film, and along with Cinderella Castle, this castle is iconic symbol of The Walt Disney Company. It is also the only Disney castle that was overseen by Walt Disney.
Opened July 17, 1955, the castle is the oldest of all Disney castles. Its primary inspiration was the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. Though it reaches a height of 77 feet (23 m), it was designed by Roland E. Hill to appear taller through a process known as forced perspective; design elements are larger at the foundation and smaller at the turrets. 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, 1957, visitors were able to walk through the castle and view several dioramas depicting the story of Sleeping Beauty. The voice of Jiminy Cricket from Walt Disney's Pinocchio (1940) singing "When You Wish Upon a Star" is piped into the castle. 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 on October 7, 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 Sleeping Beauty Castle 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 p.m., drawing long lines going as far back as the Hub at the center of the park. 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 Disney family coat of arms hangs above the archway to the castle. It is composed of three lions passant in pale. It is known that the coat of arms was not originally on the castle, but was placed there sometime between June 1965  and July 1965.
At the rear of the castle, shaded by the archways and driven into the ground is a gold spike that is widely, but wrongly, believed to mark the geographical center of Disneyland as of the addition of Mickey's Toontown in 1993. In reality, the spike is a surveyor's mark that was used to ensure that the castle bridge and entrance lined up with Main Street USA when the park was first constructed. The original geographical center of the Magic Kingdom was in the middle of the round park, where the "Partners" statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse stands. The addition of Toontown moved the actual center of the park a few yards northward, but still on the hub side of the castle drawbridge.
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:
For Disneyland's 60th Anniversary, World of Color changed to the World of Color: Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney. Disneyland Park 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. Carthay Circle Restaurant at Disney California Adventure was also decorated for the Diamond Celebration. Although some of the decorations on the castle for the celebration have been removed, the decorative faux roofs remain. (As of June 2017)
Hong Kong's Sleeping Beauty Castle is a nearly identical copy of the original in California. However, the two castles can be differentiated through very subtle details. Hong Kong Disneyland uses a different color scheme compared to that of Disneyland, with more natural white and pink colours for the accents and cornice. It also has fewer trees surrounding its castle, allowing a more open view to accompany the nightly fireworks show.
The park's current castle will be completely redesigned and reconstructed in 2020, as part of its 15th anniversary celebration. The castle will be redesigned to pay tribute to all Disney princesses. The castle closed on January 1, 2018.
In celebration of Hong Kong Disneyland's fifth anniversary, Celebration in the Air, the castle was transformed into Tinker Bell’s Pixie Dusted Castle. The castle was decorated with golden pixie dust, which sparkled and shimmered in the sun and was illuminated by night.
Although no significant decorations were added to Hong Kong Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle for the park's 10th anniversary, the nightly "Disney In The Stars" fireworks show was 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.
As Sleeping Beauty Castle is a Disney icon, it and Magic Kingdom's Cinderella Castle have become the basis for the logo of Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Television, Disney Music Group and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It was also heavily featured in advertisements for the Wonderful World of Disney, formerly shown on the Disney Channel.
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