When a Disney theme park renovates one of its iconic castles, every individual brick and windowpane is carefully considered. To celebrate the 15th anniversary of Hong Kong Disneyland, the company saw an opportunity to not only refurbish its existing castle, but to transform it into something emblematic of Disney’s future. It’s no secret that Disney has drifted away from the “damsel in distress looking to get married” archetype—we love The Little Mermaid, but who could forget that Ariel literally gives up her voice to pursue a prince?— and toward characters driven by courage, kindness, and self-determination. Which leads to the next question: How will these values be reflected in Disney parks’ architecture?
The redesign of Hong Kong Disneyland’s central castle is probably something of a litmus test for Disney’s other parks, so even if you don’t plan on visiting anytime soon, there are interesting takeaways for Disney fans. (The Hong Kong park recently closed to visitors again due to the ongoing pandemic.) Gone is Hong Kong Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, as the park’s workers put the final touches on the brand-new Castle of Magical Dreams—the first-ever reimagined castle in Disney history—just weeks ago. A few fairy godmothers from Walt Disney Imagineering (Kelly Willis, executive creative director, and Amanda Chiu, producer) gave us an exclusive sneak peek into some of the new castle’s finer points, and the results are nothing short of magical.
The new castle is way, way bigger than the original
It’s more than twice as tall, in fact—though Disney keeps the actual measurements close to its chest. Disney used a unique modular construction model so that chunks of the new castle could be completed off-site and then lowered onto the existing castle like a real-life game of building blocks. Fifteen enormous blocks were dropped piece-by-piece into place, with some of them weighing as much as 50 tons. The new castle includes a reception hall, jewelry store, exhibition space, as well as a guided audio tour where visitors can learn about the architecture of the castle inside and out.
It’s not just about Sleeping Beauty
Ever think it was a little unfair that a single princess hogged the spotlight with her own European-style castle at the heart of multiple Disney parks (Cinderella in Orlando and Tokyo, Sleeping Beauty in Paris and Hong Kong)? The new castle is an amalgamation of various design styles, with 13 spires, turrets, and towers, each representing different stories. Princess Aurora still gets the tallest and most prominent tower (as a tribute to the former Sleeping Beauty Castle), but other towers pay tribute to Moana, Mulan, The Little Mermaid’s Ariel, Pocahontas, Tiana of The Princess and the Frog, Snow White, Brave’s Merida, Cinderella, Belle, Rapunzel, and Jasmine. Frozen’s Anna and Elsa share a tower.