When Walt built Disneyland, his imagineers used an optical illusion called “forced perspective” in order to make Sleeping Beauty’s castle appear much larger than it actually is. All this means is that the foundation is larger than the turrets, and as you walk down Main Street USA toward the castle, the buildings get smaller which in turn makes the castle appear larger from a distance. From the entrance gate it looks like a huge castle, but once you are standing next to it, it’s really not much taller than a large house. Disney liked this optical illusion so much that it was used in every park that followed, including its other castles! Next time you are in Walt Disney World, note the windows on Cinderella Castle-they are actually incrementally smaller the higher up in the tower you go. This tricks our eyes and makes us think the building is much larger than it is. You can also see it put to good use in the recently erected Beast Castle in Fantasyland.
Some parks force this perspective a bit more than others, and the result is, at times, comical. I think it is fair to say that a good number of these quirky castles are more the result of limited space and resources than an attempt to create a dazzling special effect.
Standing in a fountain (but we like to think of it as a moat) at the Great Escape in New England is the heart of what was formerly Storytown USA . This tiny castle is not much larger than a very elaborate doll house, but its charming pastel palette is very well maintained. This structure is a 2010 rebuild of the of the original Storytown castle, and we think its a very important gesture that the park re installed it after purchasing the land in 2006.
Atop a stone hill sits a comparatively drab castle at the Magic Forest. This one does have an impressive amount of turrets and flags, so as tiny castles go, it’s not too shabby! There is something oddly majestic about this pint-sized kingdom!
Storybook Land’s small castle is the epitome of 1960s kiddie park roadside kitsch. The exaggerated angles, the primary colors, and the overall strangeness of this castle makes it a favorite of mine. Goosey Gander’s Castle is put to good use as a home and pond for several geese to swim…and apparently poop.
While we’re on the subject of 60s style, check out Sir Goony’s Castle at Sir Goony Golf in Lake George. A fair maiden looks out hoping you’ll make the shot as the drawbridge opens and closes on the green!
She’s thinking “You’re totally not going to make this shot, and I’m going to die in this tower.”
Wrapping up our architectural study of zany mid-century angles, we’ll make a visit to Cinderella’s Castle at Storyland. I’ve saved the best for last. Not only can you look upon this castle in all its 1960s glory, but you can also see a bit of forced perspective in action! You can see this castle from just about every point in the park, and it looks magnificent perched atop a winding hillside. You might be asking yourself, “How do I get to a castle high on a hillside?” Why, in your PUMPKIN COACH, silly!
That’s right-you can ride an electromechanical horse drawn carriage up the hill to the castle in a faraway land. Once you arrive, you might even be lucky enough to find a princess, and her famous glass slipper inside!
Even if you don’t have a thing to wear to the ball, We highly recommend hopping into this pumpkin coach, as it’s going to offer you a breathtaking view of the rest of the park! Some might even say it is a view fit for a king, a tiny king, but a king nonetheless!