Iconic Disney film locations
Iconic Disney film locations
For many decades, Disney have been the masterminds behind creative animations that have inspired us to travel the world. Traveling across remote areas in Asia, Africa, Europe and South America, Disney set out to research cultural references, awe-inspiring locations, and historical landmarks to include in its films. In turn, these Disney classics have put destinations high on people’s bucket lists. Whether you want to retrace the steps of Mulan, surf on the same waters at Lilo & Stitch, or discover the inspiration behind the animated castles, we can help organize your luxury trip.
Lion King - Kenya
For those who have never been on safari before, there is already a preconception of how it will be, and what you will see from Disney’s The Lion King. While each safari destination offers the beautiful sunsets and game-filled grasslands featured, the 1994 film was actually set in Kenya. A team of animators from Disney visited Kenya’s Great Rift Valley and the Masai Mara National Park in search of inspiration – for both the landscape backdrops and the wildlife characters.
Head to Hell’s Gate National Park in the Rift Valley and you’ll see a magnificent rock on a grassy savannah. As a result of geothermal activity, this is believed to be the rock that gave the animators the inspiration for Pride Rock. That said, there are impressive kopjes in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania that are also in the battle of being the Pride Rock.
Research was done exceptionally well by Disney and the film has often been praised by its integration of the Swahili language. Many of the characters are named after Swahili words. For example, Simba means lion, Sarabi means mirage, Rafijki means friend and zazu means movement. Of course, the most popular phrase of the whole film, and one that to this day is used in the safari industry by guides themselves is ‘hakuna matata’ which translates to ‘no worries’.
The Emperor’s New Groove – Peru
The Emperor’s New Groove is a comedy Disney film that highlights some iconic destinations in South America. Released in 2000, the film follows the life of the Emperor of Cusco (a selfish and egotistical leader) who gets poisoned and turned into a llama. Of course, although the plot is fictional, the animals chosen are endemic to Peru, and the landscapes features are iconic in the country.
The Incan empire played a huge part in the history and culture of Peru. Dating back to around the 12th century, the Inca people were a pastoral tribe who rules across the Cusco area (southern Peru). While some of the archaeological remains can be seen today, travelers head to this area of Peru famously for Machu Picchu.
Llamas, jaguars, bats, and scorpions feature in the film – animals all endemic to Peru. Llamas have become synonymous with Peruvian culture, and a trip to Machu Picchu would not be right without the classic photograph of a llama on top of the awe-inspiring escarpments.
Ratatouille - France
Released in 2007, Ratatouille is a Disney film following the life of a street rat with an exceptional sense of smell and taste. The rat (Remy) ends up cooking in a gourmet restaurant, showing the world what he is capable of. Of course, cooking and fine dining is something that France is known for and thousands of people travel to the country every year to taste some of its most unique delicacies.
Although most of the animations are set in the kitchen, there are scenes which show the skyline of Paris beautifully. Iconic landmarks like the rooftops of Paris, the banks of the Seine River, and the Pont d’Arcole bridge are all shown. On the other side of glamour, metro stations and sewage systems are shown but is you head to Paris, you will only see the luxurious side, we can assure you!
Finding Nemo - Australia
Following the life of a young clownfish named Nemo, Finding Nemo is one of the most popular Disney Pixar films to date. The film was released in 2003 and is set underwater in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The film has a collection of loveable characters which are all species of fish, including Nemo, Dory, Gill and all of the Tank Gang.
The film shows the immense diversity of aquatic species and coral life in the Great Barrier Reef. Rated as one of the top ten destinations to snorkel and dive in the world, the Great Barrier Reef was an obvious choice for the research and animation team at Pixar. While the story follows Nemo and Dory, it is the ocean itself that plays a monumental part in the film.
In many ways, the film gives an educational insight into the ocean. The real-life East Australian Current (EAC) was featured heavily in the scene with the migratory fish and sea turtles. The EAC continues for hundreds of miles before reaching Sydney Harbor – Nemo’s final destination.
Mulan - China
Although the popular Disney film Mulan (1998) absorbs some Japanese cultures, the film was set in the Northern Wei dynasty of China. A team of researchers and animators were sent to China in 1994 in search of cultural inspiration. The actual storyline itself (where Hua Mulan disguises herself as a man to fight in the army instead of her father), is loosely traced back to the legend of Mulan. Many of the characters’ names have meanings in Chinese. For example, Ping (one of the soldiers) means flowerpot, and Chi-Fu literally translates to ‘bully’ in Chinese.
The latest remake of Disney’s Mulan (2020) was set in and around the Xiangyang Province in eastern China. Researchers and filmmakers traveled around this area in search of iconic landmarks and sets, such as the Imperial Palace in Zhejiang Province, as well as historic-looking backdrops in the Hubei Province.
Although there are undeniable Americanized cultures and influences, Disney’s Mulan does show a good amount of Chinese culture and heritage. These include references to a matchmaker, the dragon, inclusions of the phoenix, and of course, the real war and conflict that the country occurred for a long time (between nomadic groups in central and northern China).
Robin Hood - England
As one of the oldest Disney films, Robin Hood is a classic, putting England on the map. Although the film is set in Sherwood Forest in England, Disney’s animators had fun adding in fictional characters that were not endemic to the country – like lions (Prince John), snakes (Sir Hiss), and even wolves (the Sheriff of Nottingham). That said, Robin Hood himself is a fox which are commonly seen in England. Today there are over 350,000 foxes in the country.
The 1973 film was set in Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire (northern England). The 420-hectare forest is home to some of the most vibrant woodlands, ancient oak trees and a wealth of bird and nature diversity. Thousands of people head to Sherwood Forest every year to embrace the English countryside – locals and tourists alike.
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