You cannot create something new without drawing a little bit of inspiration from somewhere or something real, and the same goes for filming locations. Animated movies show enchanting forests and fantastical castles that are often set in faraway fictional lands. But there are some animated movie locations that have been inspired by real-life places across the world and offer the most stunning visuals.
Behind every island, castle, village, and cityscape, there are real locations that served as inspiration for the creative teams working on animated films for many years. If you are a fan of travel and animated movies, pack your bags and check out these real-life locations that inspired animated movie sets.
Barichara – Encanto
Disney’s most recent movie Encanto is winning hearts all over the world and its catchy soundtrack tune “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” has surpassed Frozen’s “Let It Go,” becoming the highest-charting song from a Disney animated movie in 26 years. If you have already watched Encanto, chances are you loved its soundtrack, its heartwarming story, and magical topography. The stunning village where the Madrigal family lives is inspired by the picturesque Columbian hilltown, Barichara. The town features cobbled streets and colonial dwellings with red-tiled roofs and wooden doors. Simply magical and worth a trip.
Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland – Brave
The Pixar creative team went ‘method’ to get the full Scottish experience by exploring the highlands to create the animated world of Brave. The team carefully observed Scottish topography for their tale of rebellious red-headed princess Merida, who lives in the rugged DunBroch Castle, which is inspired by the 13th century Eilean Donan Castle in the Scottish Highlands. Scotland has plenty of old castles like Eilean Donan Castel, mystical forests, and beautiful landscapes that just look like a movie set and attract thousands of visitors.
Angel Falls, Venezuela – Up
Pixar’s 2009 adventure tale of a widower who goes in search of Paradise Falls, his late wife’s dream destination, is still as refreshing and heartwarming as ever. The movie’s Paradise Falls draws inspiration from Angel Falls in Venezuela, which is the world’s tallest waterfall with water cascading down a rocky mountain. Reportedly, the creative team routinely visited and photographed the location of the waterfall in the Canaima National Park at Bolivar State. This location is perfect for nature and adventure lovers.
Mont Saint-Michel, France – Tangled
The fictional island castle of Corona in 2010’s Tangled was inspired by Mont Saint-Michel in France’s seaside town of Normandy. The abbey with its Gothic and Roman-style architecture and towering vistas particularly inspired the Disney princess’ castle. Mont Saint-Michel is located less than a thousand feet from land. It used to be only accessible during low tide, but recently a bridge has been constructed to allow visitors to reach the castle easily. The island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and only about 30 people inhabit it.
Grand Central Station – Wreck-It Ralph & Madagascar
Located at 42nd Street and Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, Grand Central Terminal has served as a setting for many animated movies. The Game Central Station in Wreck-It Ralph is modeled after New York’s Grand Central Station, which is one of the most iconic train stations in America. Another animated film that features this station is Madagascar and can be seen when Alex, Matry, Melman and Gloria escape from the Central Park Zoo and get caught. The terminal is a cultural hub of the city and many visit it to admire its architecture, dine, shop and well, commute
Samoa – Moana
The fictional Polynesian island of Motunui in Disney’s Moana closely resembles the South Pacific islands of Fiji and Tonga. It is believed that Samoa served as the main source of inspiration for the creative team. The settlements in the movie also mirror Samoan architecture. The island country is known for its tropical and sheltered beaches, gorgeous waterfalls, and pristine forests. It attracts many visitors every year for its rich cultural and natural heritage.
Tanzania & Kenya – Lion King
The live-action version of The Lion King was much loved just like its 1994 animated predecessor. The various settings for both the movies were inspired by many African locales including the Ndoto Mountains, just west of Northern Kenya’s Losai National Reserve, and the rock formations of the Chyulu Hills in the south, both of which served as an inspiration for the Pride Rock. Serengeti National park in Tanzania also inspired a few settings of the movie. You can take safaris in these popular tourists hotspot if you want to explore the African wilderness and see animals in their natural habitats.