Rising beyond Main Street, Sleeping Beauty Castle is the unmistakable beacon (along with the Matterhorn ride) at the heart of the theme park. With its turquoise tiled towers, golden turrets, and working drawbridge, it looks every inch the grand castle.
And yet, when you’re up close to the castle, you might think it’s smaller than it seemed from far away. That’s because mastermind Walt Disney knew something about illusions. With the castle, he used a technique called forced perspective, in which design details like bricks are created progressively smaller the higher up they go. This trick of the eye makes the building—just shy of eight stories tall—appear more imposing when viewed from a distance.
Even if it isn’t as big as you thought, Sleeping Beauty Castle is loaded with cool details. The design is based on a real life 19th century Bavarian castle in Neuschwanstein, Germany. The drawbridge has only been raised and lowered twice: first when the park opened in 1955, and again for the 1983 rededication of Fantasyland, entered by passing through the castle archway. And look closely above the drawbridge at the Disney crest, embellished with roaring lions. There’s also a plaque commemorating the spot where a time capsule was buried in 1995—on the park’s 40th birthday.
Step inside to experience the “Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough,” where 3D dioramas display luminous images in the style of Eyvind Earle, the artist who created the look for the 1959 animated classic.