Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom is arguably the most iconic attraction in Disney World. The castle is surrounded by a moat which contains over 3 million gallons of water and features a drawbridge to match the full effect intended for the regal Gothic-inspired look. The drawbridge, however, cannot move!
History and Construction of Disney’s Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom
Cinderella Castle stands at the center of Magic Kingdom Park at Disney World in Orlando, Florida and serves as an icon for the company. Construction on Cinderella Castle began in February of 1970 and was completed in 18 months in July of 1971, less than 3 months before the grand opening of Magic Kingdom on October 1st, 1971.
The castle stands at 189 feet tall, and despite its look, no bricks or stones were used! The castle features steel-braced concrete, plaster, and fiberglass which were designed to be strong enough to withstand any hurricane-force winds!
The height of the castle allows it to be seen from afar outside of the park and serve as a landmark inside of the park to guide guests back to the “hub” of the park. This helps with park navigation, as Walt Disney wanted each of his parks to have a recognizable icon.
Inspiration for the design of the castle was drawn from multiple French, German, and Scottish structures, most specifically from Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. The Neuschwanstein Castle is also featured in the Epcot attraction Soarin’!
What’s Inside Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom?
The castle interior features a very special room that few people ever have the chance to see – the Cinderella Castle suite. This room was originally planned to be an apartment-type room for Walt and other Disney executives, similar to Walt’s apartment atop the firehouse in Disneyland.
However, due to Walt’s death years before the park’s opening, the room remained unfinished for a long time and was used for various purposes, including as a dressing room. The room was later finished, however, and is now an ornately decorated hotel room featuring lavish styling and art inspired by Cinderella.
The room is not available to be booked, and is held only for special circumstances, including occasional raffling to Disney Cast Members. Most of the time, the space is unoccupied.
Dining at the Royal Table
Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom also features an area accessible to certain guests who secure a reservation to dine with Cinderella and her princess friends at Cinderella’s Royal Table. This character dining experience allows guests to enjoy a breakfast, lunch, or dinner while Cinderella, Ariel, Snow White, Jasmine, and Rapunzel visit guests at their tables.
Due to this dining option being the only way for guests to truly get inside of the castle, reservations for the experience can be difficult to come by.
Early morning reservations can get you into the park earlier than the rest of the crowds, allowing for less crowded castle photos too!
All guests are able to walk under the castle when fireworks or stage shows are not occurring. This way, they can see the beautiful mosaic created by Dorothea Redmond. The mosaic features over 300,000 pieces of glass, partially fused with real gold, to create iconic images from Cinderella.
The same artist also created the mosaic at the entrance of The Land pavilion in Epcot! Though many guests walk straight by it, it truly is an incredible work of art, so be sure to take a second to stop and appreciate it when you visit!
Access to the Cinderella Castle Suite, and other areas of the castle, occur via elevators. The castle has one elevator to take guests up one floor to the dining area, and two separate elevators for cast members.
One elevator moves from the utilidor (corridors under the Magic Kingdom which Cast Members use to get around!) to the kitchen area on the second floor, and the Cinderella Castle Suite on the third floor.
The other elevator will drop riders at a special 4th floor which requires special cast access. This 4th floor is where Tinkerbell prepares for her flight during the nightly fireworks show!
Though many people think that a cable attached from the top of the castle to Tomorrowland is a zipline which Tinkerbell follows, the cable is actually Prince Phillip’s cable hookup to ensure he has access to ESPN.
Shows at Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom
The skies over Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom have been brightened by multiple nighttime spectaculars throughout the history of the park. From opening in 1971 until 2003, the fireworks show Fantasy in the Sky was used, which was a true classic after having been originally created for Disneyland Park all the way back in 1956.
The original Magic Kingdom version of the show was 5 minutes long and featured songs like “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” and “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.” For Magic Kingdom’s 25th anniversary, the show briefly added additional songs, including “When You Wish Upon a Star.”
Wishes and Celebrate the Magic
Wishes, a new and improved nighttime spectacular, began its run in 2003, and featured narration from Jiminy Cricket and a special “wishing star” firework. This truly beloved show included a lot of nostalgic and heartfelt moments and was the first time Tinkerbell would consistently fly from the castle nightly.
Different versions of Wishes were created throughout its 15 year history, including fan favorites HalloWishes and Holiday Wishes, which entertained guests attending Magic Kingdom’s special ticketed Halloween and Christmas parties.
In addition to Wishes, Celebrate the Magic, a projection show on the castle, began in 2012 and ran until 2016. The show featured a contemporary music score and scenes from both classic and new Disney movies that were adjusted based on the season and new releases. It also included interesting projection effects, including Wreck-It-Ralph knocking over the castle.
Given the show ran before the Wishes fireworks spectacular for multiple years, effectively giving Magic Kingdom 2 nighttime shows, it is surprising it was taken away after just 4 years.
Happily Ever After and Enchantment
In 2017, Wishes had its final show to make way for Happily Ever After, a new spectacular focused on the excitement and adventure in various Disney films, encouraging guests to “reach out and find your happily ever after.” The show featured enhanced pyrotechnics and projection mapping on Cinderella Castle itself, making the show far more visually impressive.
In 2021, to celebrate Disney World’s 50th anniversary, Happily Ever After was replaced with Enchantment, much to the dismay of many Disney fans. Enchantment is considered a step back for many, featuring less exciting castle projections and a less emotional musical score. It follows mostly the same pattern as Happily Ever After, but lacks many of the music and narrative elements that really tie the show together.
Currently, Enchantment runs nightly, and other special firework and projection shows occur at certain times of the year, including during Halloween and Christmas Parties, New Years, and Independence Day. These special shows are truly excellent experiences, and I highly recommend checking them out if you have the opportunity – especially the Halloween party.
Fun Facts and Tips about Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom
There are 27 towers on the castle, which are actually numbered 1-29 because 2 ended up being removed from building plans.
Instead of “IV” as the numeral for 4, the clock on the castle uses “IIII.” This is to match accuracy with the time period of the castle to ensure it is historically correct. The same is true on other clocks around the park, including the American Adventure in Epcot.
The whole castle uses forced perspective to appear taller. This effect is done by making blocks and towers closer to the ground slightly bigger and reducing the size of windows and turrets to a smaller scale.
This trick is used across Disney property, as all of their buildings are kept below 200 feet. If they were at or above 200 feet, they would be legally required to have a blinking light atop them – and that would ruin the magic!
In 1996, the entire castle was transformed into a pink birthday cake to celebrate the park’s 25th anniversary. Disney fans still make fun of it more than two decades later, though I think it’s a unique part of Disney history.
In 2004, Stitch, in celebration of his new attraction “Stitch’s Great Escape,” trashed the castle, throwing toilet paper all over it and writing “Stitch is King.”
The Kiss Goodnight, a simple but beautiful message at the end of the night, often plays about 30 minutes after park close. It features a little bit of Roy Disney and “When You Wish Upon a Star,” and is actually manually started by entertainment leaders for Main Street to help prompt guests to leave.
Inside Cinderella’s Royal Table, there are 40 coats of arms – each of which honor those who played a big role in the history of the company.
The single least-traveled path in Magic Kingdom; there’s a short path to the right of the castle that goes from the Fantasyland Bridge to behind the castle. This path features Cinderella’s Wishing Well and is a great spot for pictures!
Fireworks shows are viewable from the resorts around Magic Kingdom, and Disney plays the soundtrack in specific areas of the resorts (the beach at the Polynesian Resort and the bridge connecting Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower). Though the music is not played during special fireworks shows, visiting a resort can still be a great way to see them if you can’t get into the park for that day!
During Christmas time, the castle is adorned with about 200,000 LED lights, and Elsa sometimes starts a nightly ceremony to brighten up the castle with “ice.”