Inside the Disney vaults: Disney reveals list of real-world locations that have inspired its most loved films over the last 100 years

To celebrate its 100th anniversary, The Walt Disney Company has opened its vaults to reveal a list of 30 locations across Europe, the Middle East and Africa that have inspired its movies, parks and fan’s hearts over the last century. From Big Ben in London to the colourful province of Cinque Terre in Italy, the list of landmarks covers 13 countries and showcases the spots that have inspired some of Disney’s most famous stories.  

As part of the celebrations, Disney has also recreated famous scenes from its 100-year history with exclusive photography, including locations such as Great Fosters, England where its topiary maze was said to have inspired a memorable scene in Alice in Wonderland.

Exclusive research, commissioned by The Walt Disney Company, found that when the nation was asked which locations in the UK they would like to see featured in future Disney films, the Lake District topped the list (14%), followed by Loch Ness (10%) and Edinburgh Castle (10%) in Scotland. The research also found that almost half of Brits would love to use a Disney location for a once-in-a-lifetime moment, with four in ten (41%) 16 – 44-year-olds saying they would select their dream wedding destination based on castles and locations that inspired Disney’s stories.  

The research also found that two in five (42%) Brits are actually completely unaware that many Disney films and park attractions are based on real world locations. Indeed, three-quarters (75%) of Brits were unaware that the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, with its fairy-tale architecture and picturesque setting, influenced the design of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland in California, USA. Elsewhere, less than 10% of Brits were aware that St Abbs Village in Berwickshire, Scotland, was the location for the home of Thor in Marvel’s smash hit 2019 movie, Avengers: Endgame.

Additionally, the research showed the nation’s top three most memorable Disney film scenes include the iconic Lady and the Tramp moment where a plate of spaghetti is shared in a demure restaurant (16%), the magical scene in Mary Poppins as she flies out of London with her umbrella (14%), and the musical march of ‘Heigh Ho’ from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (14%).

The list of 30 locations that have inspired Disney storytelling over the last 100 years, from the scorching deserts in Africa to the frozen lands of Iceland, includes eight from UK shores including:

  1. Liberty London: The iconic department store in the heart of London, the original workplace of Cruella 
  2. Regents Park, London: One of the many parks around London which acts as the backdrop for the One Hundred and One Dalmatians animation. 
  3. Calanais Standing Stones, Scotland: The team behind Disney and Pixar’s Brave said the stones on the Isle of Lewis were a key inspiration for the movie. 
  4. Big Ben, London: Most famously, Big Ben is a key landmark spotted in Peter Pan as Wendy and the Darling children fly over London’s skyline on their way to Neverland. 
  5. St Paul’s Cathedral, London: From Mary Poppins flying over London’s iconic skyline, to Mr. Banks taking the children to work and seeing the lady feeding the birds outside of St Paul’s, London’s iconic cathedral plays a prominent role throughout Mary Poppins.  
  6. St Abbs Village, Scotland: Located on the southern coast of Scotland on the Berwickshire coast, this picturesque fishing village inspired the fictional location where Thor and the remaining Asgardians resided after the war in Avengers: Endgame.  
  7. Ashdown Forest (Hundred Acre Wood), England: The home for A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh and friends at Hundred Acre Woods, later animated by Disney. This location plays an integral part to the story, as Pooh and friends love to play in the woods, even playing Pooh Sticks at Pooh bridge.  
  8. Great Fosters, England: During a 1935 trip to the UK, Walt Disney visited The Great Fosters, a Tudor era manor house. Many years later, when working on Alice in Wonderland, it’s likely that Walt fondly remembered the topiary maze of the English manor, drawing inspiration for the film as Alice gets lost in the maze. 

Rebecca Cline, Director of the Walt Disney Archives, said: “Towards the end of his life, Walt Disney was honoured as the “Showman of the World”.  It was a very apt honour, as he was fascinated and inspired by everything he experienced and saw, no matter where it was.  As he once said himself, “Always, as you travel, assimilate the sounds and sights of the world.”  And we have all benefited from his love of cultures the world over.”

Joining the Alice in Wonderland celebratory images are pictures shot at St Paul’s Cathedral, an iconic building featuring several times in Mary Poppins, the Calanais Standing Stones, Scotland, which inspired Pixar’s Brave movie, and a One Hundred and One Dalmatians animation inspired image.

Photographed by Linda Blacker

Encouraging fans to join in its celebration, Disney is offering one lucky winner a once-in-a-lifetime photoshoot with photographer, Linda Blacker, who will transform them to look like one of their favourite Disney characters. Fans gain a chance to win by recreating their own favourite Disney scene or moment in the most creative way possible and uploading the photo with the hashtag #Disney100TheLandmarks to Instagram, or through Disney UK’s Facebook page.  

See full T&C’s on Disney UK’s Instagram @DisneyUK or Facebook page.