The Walt Disney Company has been making magical memories for 100 years. As part of its year-long 100th anniversary celebration, Disney has just released a list of locations that it says inspired settings for some of the company’s most famous movies.
And the newly-revealed inspiration for “The Little Mermaid” might surprise you! Fans of the 1989 film may believe that the animated setting was inspired by a location in Denmark, as the movie is based on a fairy tale of the same name by Hans Christian Anderson.
Anderson was born in Odense, the unofficial capital of the island of Funen (Fyn). Odense is a harbor town that is around a 30-minute drive away from coastal villages like Assens and Faaborg. It’s easy to see how Andersons’ proximity to the North Atlantic Ocean could have inspired his seafaring tale of mermaids and shipwrecked sailors.
But, Disney didn’t pull from his hometown for inspiration for the animated setting of “The Little Mermaid.” Instead, its creators looked well over 1,000 miles south to Dubrovnik, Croatia. This quaint and romantic town, which was chosen for the movie’s backdrop, is called the “Pearl of the Adriatic” due to its untouchable beauty.
Yes, this means that the Adriatic Sea is the background for Disney’s version of “The Little Mermaid,” not the North Atlantic.
As you can see in photographs of the Croatian city, there is no denying that Disney’s animators truly brought Dubrovnik to life. Dream vacation spot unlocked! But that is just one location on the Disney list. There are 29 other spots that are going to give every Disney lover major wanderlust.
In addition to the inspiration for the setting of “The Little Mermaid,” Disney also revealed other cities that inspired some settings in major movies including “Star Wars” films, “Avengers” movies and animated hits like “Aladdin,” “Luca,” and “Sleeping Beauty.”
Some of the locations seem obvious — like Mt. Olympus in Greece inspiring the location of “Hercules” and the Calanais Standing Stones in Stornoway, Scotland for “Brave.” Masai Mara in Kenya inspired “The Lion King,” while the Notre-Dame De Paris Cathedral in France inspired “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
But others might surprise you. For instance, scenes in “Star Wars: Rogue One” were inspired by the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach in Iceland.
Also, you might think that many of Disney’s fairy tale stories could be set in a place like the Black Forest in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, which the brothers Grimm are widely believed to have used as a backdrop for their famous fairy tales (including “Rapunzel”). This forest was given its name because its tree canopies are so dense that the woods are dark … perfect for an atmospheric fairy tale setting!
So, it would make sense for “Tangled” (Disney’s 2010 revised take on the Rapunzel story) to have been inspired by the location of the Black Forest. Not so!
Instead, animators modeled the setting after the French island Mont Saint-Michel. Disney animators did, however, use the Black Forest as their inspiration for 1937’s “Snow White and The Seven Dwarves” (Jacob Ludwig Karl Grimm and Wilhelm Carl Grimm also penned a version of the Snow White story in 1812, so this is a fitting backdrop).
Here are those 30 locations that Disney says inspired the magic:
- “Aladdin” (2018): Wadi Rum, Jordan
- “Alice in Wonderland” (1951): Great Fosters, Surrey, England
- “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015): Forte di Bard, Bard, Italy
- “Avengers: Endgame” (2019): St. Abbs Village, Berwickshire, Scotland
- “Beauty and The Beast” (1991): Chateau De Chambord, Centre-Val de Loire, France
- “Black Panther” (2018): Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, Mpumalanga, South Africa
- “Black Widow” (2021): Budapest, Hungary
- “Brave” (2012): Calanais Standing Stones, Stornoway, Scotland
- “Captain America: Civil War” (2016): Leipzig/Halle Airport, Germany
- “Cruella” (2021): Liberty, London, England
- “Frozen” (2013): Akershus Fortress, Oslo, Norway
- “Hercule”s (1997): Mount Olympus, Greece
- “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” (2023): Ear of Dionysius, Sicily, Italy
- “Luca” (2021): Cinque Terre, Italy
- “Mary Poppins” (1964): St Paul’s Cathedral, London, England
- “One Hundred and One Dalmatians” (1961): Regent’s Park, London, England
- “Peter Pan” (1953): Big Ben, London, U.K.
- Pinocchio (1940): Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria, Germany
- “Ratatouille” (2007): Le Train Bleu, Paris, France
- “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016): Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, South Coast, Iceland
- Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland: Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
- “Sleeping Beauty” (1959): Chateau De Saumur, Saumur, France
- “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937): Alcazar de Segovia, Segovia, Spain
- “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937): The Black Forest, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
- “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015): Skellig Michael, Ireland
- “Tangled” (2010): Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
- “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996): Notre-Dame De Paris Cathedral, Paris, France
- “The Lion King” (1994): Masai Mara, Narok, Kenya
- “The Little Mermaid” (1989): Dubrovnik, Croatia
- “Winnie the Pooh” (2011): Ashdown Forest (Hundred Acre Wood), East Sussex, England
Any products or services mentioned above were selected independent of sales and advertising. However, Simplemost may receive a small commission from the purchase of any products or services through an affiliate link to the retailer's website.