Without a doubt, animated films created by Pixar and Disney completely changed how cartoon movies are regarded in the world. Creating human-like characters out of animals, toys, monsters, and other things to tell a story used to be enjoyed by young children alone. But now, even parents and other adults like us are lining up in theaters every time Pixar and Disney release their animated movies.
If we think about what makes Pixar and Disney animated movies very different from the rest, we can all agree that every one of their films affects us on a much deeper level. All their movies tackle areas of our lives that mean most to us using endearing characters that we cannot forget.
Apart from stories and memorable characters, Pixar and Disney movies completely enchant us because of their attention to detail. Their illustrators and digital engineers create beautiful worlds that look very real. While we may be inclined to think that they were mostly products of their imagination, the animators themselves revealed that many of the settings in their movies were not completely made up but inspired by real-life locations and structures.
We made a list of real-life places and structures that were digitally and wonderfully captured in some of Pixar’s and Disney’s iconic animated movies. Read on and be fascinated.
25 25. Disney’s Princess and the Frog: Louisiana Bayous
The bayou scenes in the movie the Princess and the Frog were inspired by Louisiana’s bayous. These shallow bodies of water or swamps were formed over thousands of years.
Louisiana’s bayous cover nearly three million acres and its warm ecosystems provided a home for Cyprus trees, wiregrass, bottomland hardwoods, mosses, water celery, and tons of other vegetation. Louisiana’s bayous attract numerous visitors particularly those interested in fishing, hunting, photography, and nature, in general.
24 24. Pixar’s Up: Angel Falls
Do you remember the dream destination of Carl and Ellie in the movie Up? Yes, it is Paradise Falls. To create Paradise Falls that makers of the film traveled all the way to Venezuela to seek inspiration and they found one -- the Angel Falls in Bolivar State.
This astounding natural wonder is regarded as the highest uninterrupted waterfall in the world as it spills from a cleft near the summit of Auyan-tepu mountain to the Devil’s Canyon over 3,000 feet below.
23 23. Disney’s Frozen: Hotel De Glace
Are you one of the many who couldn’t stop singing “Let It Go” after watching the movie Frozen? It is one of the most memorable scenes in the movie and if you think that Elsa’s ice palace is fictional, you will be surprised to know that it was inspired by Hotel de Glace in Quebec City, Canada.
The hotel is entirely made of snow and ice and you can actually rent a room, stay overnight, or even hold a private function like weddings!
22 22. Pixar’s UP: Fentons Creamery
At the end of the movie Up, Carl and Russel can be seen sitting on the sidewalk, and enjoying an ice cream cone in front of Fenton’s Creamery.
While it is easy to assume that the creator merely drew an imaginary ice cream shop, Fenton’s in Up came from a real place -- Fenton’s ice cream shop at Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. Fenton’s opened in 1894 and boasts of inventing the Rocky Road ice cream flavor.
21 21. Disney’s Frozen: St. Olaf’s Church
Elsa was crowned queen in a quaint chapel and the Frozen team found their inspiration for the chapel in Norway – the St. Olaf’s Church. The church was built by Knut Kvikne for the love of his life, Margaret Sophia Green.
After the two got married, Green wanted to continue practicing her faith, so Knut promised to build a church. Sadly, Green died early but Knut still built the St. Olaf Church as a token of his love and to keep his promise.
20 20. Pixar’s Up: Lake Theater
Did you enjoy the many “updates” of what happened to Carl and Russel in the credit sequence? If you recall the photo where Carl and Russel went to the movies to watch Star Wars, the theater you see in the backdrop was actually patterned after the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland. This historical movie palace opened in 1926 and is also famous for its roof sign as it is the largest rotary contact sign west of the Mississippi River.
19 19. Disney’s Sleeping Beauty: Neuschwanstein Castle
The creators of the movie Sleeping Beauty got their inspiration for the stunning Royal Castle from Neuschwanstein Castle (The New Swanstone Castle) in Bavaria, Germany. The castle was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as a tribute to composer Richard Wagner.
King Ludwig used his own personal fortune to pay for the construction of the palace instead of public funds. After the King’s death in 1886, the castle has been opened to the public and since then received over 60 million visitors.
18 18. Pixar’s Monsters, Inc.: Hidden City Café
The Hidden City Café in Point Richmond, California was captured by the creators and shown briefly in Monsters, Inc. All of us Pixar-movie lovers should be grateful of this quaint café as this is where the ideas from “A Bugs’ Life,” Monster’s Inc.,” “Finding Nemo,” and “Wall-E” were born.
Pixar employees used to meet in this place to brainstorm for projects before the Pixar studios moved to Emeryville. Unfortunately, the real-life Hidden City Café is now closed.
17 17. Disney’s Little Mermaid: Chateau De Chillon
In the film Little Mermaid, Prince Eric’s castle near the sea was inspired by Chateau De Chillon or the Chillon Castle located on the banks of Lake Geneva, Switzerland.
The palace was home and profitable toll station of the Counts of Savoy for almost 400 years from the 12th to the 16th century. Thereafter, it was conquered by the inhabitants of Bern and then Vaud. The water castle is now the most visited historic building in Switzerland.
16 16. Pixar’s Brave: Callanish Stones
We all fell in love with Princess Merida in the movie Brave. The setting of the movie was in Medieval Scotland which is why there are several scenes in the movie that set in and around the famous Callanish Stones.
These standing stones placed in cruciform pattern with a central stone circle were erected in the late Neolithic era and can be found near the village of Callanish on the west coasts of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland.
15 15. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: Chateau De Chambord
The overall look of the Beast’s palace before it was cursed was inspired by Chateau De Chambord in Loir, France. It is the largest and most majestic castle of the Loire and a symbol of the French Renaissance. The palace was commissioned by King Francis I and is composed of 426 rooms and 83 staircases.
According to CNN, after the French Revolution the castle was owned privately and then returned to the state in 1930. It is famous for housing valuable national treasures and art, including the Mona Lisa at one point.
14 14. Pixar’s Cars: Cadillac Ranch
The Ornament Valley in the movie Cars was inspired by Cadillac Ranch, a famous art installation in Amarillo, Texas. The Cadillac Ranch is a creation of a group of artists known as the Ant Farm in San Francisco and was financed by Stanley Marsh 3, a Texan millionaire.
The artwork is composed of a group of 10 Cadillac cars of different models (from 1948 to 1963) half-buried on the ground so that people can focus on their tailfins.
13 13. Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Notre Dame Cathedral
If you are familiar with the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, and you have watched the animated film The Hunchback of Notre Dame, you undoubtedly knew right away that the cathedral in the movie was patterned after the Notre Dame Cathedral.
This cathedral exemplifies the best of French Gothic architecture. Notre Dame is the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Paris and is regarded as one of the best-known church buildings in the Catholic Church in the world.
12 12. Pixar’s Cars: Route 66
Did you know that the working title for the movie Cars was Route 66? That’s right! And although it changed, Route 66 still figured prominently in the film as Radiator Springs.
Route 66, also known as Will Rogers Highway or the Mother Road, used to be one of the most famous roads in the U.S., hence, people doing business along the route became prosperous. Everything changed after the introduction of the Interstate Highway System, much liked what happened to Radiator Springs.
11 11. Disney’s Mulan: The Forbidden City
Considering that the plot of the movie Mulan revolves around Chinese culture, the filmmakers obtained their inspiration for the Emperor’s home from the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. The Forbidden City used to be the home of the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties but is now open to the public. The enormous palace was “forbidden” because it was the home of the emperor, thus, nobody can enter and leave the premises without permission.
10 10. Pixar’s Inside Out: Golden Gate Bridge
In the movie Inside Out, the world-renowned Golden Gate Bridge can be seen as 11-year-old Riley moved from Minnesota to San Francisco. This American landmark is a suspension bridge that has been recognized as one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
When it opened in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge was both the longest (at 4,200 feet) and the tallest (with a total height of 746 feet) suspension bridge in the world.
9 9. Disney’s Peter Pan: Big Ben
When Peter took the three siblings, the group rested for a moment on the hand of a large clock, which is undoubtedly inspired by Big Ben in London. Big Ben is actually a nickname for the Great Bell and is considered the most popular tourist attraction in the United Kingdom.
Big Ben chimes every fifteen minutes and the sound can be heard from as far away as five miles.
8 8. Pixar’s Finding Dory: Monterey Bay Aquarium
If you find yourself wanting to visit the “Marine Life Institute” after watching Finding Dory, you can! Apparently, the creators of the film patterned the facility from the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey Bay, California.
Apart from the overall look of the setting, the aquarium in the facility also features a giant Pacific octopus exhibit, just like in the movie. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is so popular that it receives around two million people every year.
7 7. Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Alcazar of Segovia
While there are many castles in the world, the animators of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs found their inspiration in the Alcazar of Segovia or “Segovia Fortress” in Spain. The castle is one of the most distinctive castle-palaces in Spain because it is shaped like a bow of a ship.
The Alcazar of Segovia was initially built as a fortress but later served as a palace, a state prison, a Royal Artillery College, and a military academy.
6 6. Pixar’s Monsters, Inc.: John W. Weeks Footbridge
The Troll Bridge located in the beautiful campus of Monsters University is not exactly a figment of the imagination. The filmmakers shared how they visited top notch universities to get inspiration and it seems that Harvard University’s Weeks Footbridge made an impression since the Troll Bridge was patterned after it.
This pedestrian bridge, named after prominent American politician John W. Weeks, connects Cambridge, Massachusetts with the Allston neighbourhood of Boston.