Designing a Disneyland Icon

Disney Legend Herb Ryman’s concept drawing of Sleeping Beauty Castle from 1953 is one of the earliest sketches of what would become the most iconic Disneyland landmark. From its earliest conception, Walt Disney’s plans for Disneyland had a medieval castle in the center of the park, and he asked Ryman to draw up a design. 

Herb Ryman concept drawing of the Disneyland castle

Walt particularly liked the blue turrets in Ryman’s drawing as he believed they would look good against the natural blue sky and make the castle look taller. Similar blue turrets have been on every Disney park castle ever since. 

Not long before Walt approached Ryman, he and Lillian Disney had taken a trip to Europe, where couple visited the Neuschwanstein castle in Germany. At Walt’s direction, the German castle would serve as the inspiration for the Disneyland castle and Ryman’s drawing. 

Neuschwanstein castle

Of course, what’s missing from the story is the castle’s namesake – Sleeping Beauty. The initial design and plans for the castle did not include any reference to the movie, which was set to be released by the studio in 1959 – four years after the park’s opening. In various pre-opening documents and plans the castle goes from being called ‘the Medieval Castle’ to ‘Fantasyland Castle’ to ‘Robin Hood Castle’ before Walt and the Imagineers settled on Sleeping Beauty Castle.


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