Sleeping Beauty Castle Diorama

BACKSTORY (April 29, 1957–Present): Shirley Temple Black served as the hostess for the 1957 unveiling. Disney historian Jim Korkis shared this information with me about the unveiling of this attraction:

The official dedication of the new walk-through took place on Sunday, April 29, 1957 at 3 p.m. with the Disneyland Band playing “When You Wish Upon a Star” in the courtyard.

Walt, of course, was there to give the dedication speech. Jack Lindquist, who would later become the president of the park but at the time was involved in marketing, wrote Walt’s speech and remembered it was one of the highpoints of his amazing career.

The other person dedicating the new attraction was actress Shirley Temple, dressed as a princess wearing a gold crown and a red velvet cloak and accompanied by her three children: oldest daughter Linda, son Charles Jr., and youngest daughter Lori. They stayed at the Disneyland Hotel and apparently enjoyed some time at the park that day before the dedication ceremony.

After Walt spoke to the crowd briefly, he introduced Shirley Temple Black who told the story of Sleeping Beauty. Then, with Walt, she cut the ribbon to open the attraction and went inside. Later, she waved to photographers and guests from the upper balcony.

Bill Duncan of the Long Beach Independent wrote this:

Charles Black, Jr., son of former child movie star Shirley Temple, celebrated his fifth birthday at Disneyland Sunday, but his three-year-old sister, Lori, stole the snow — even from mom, who had been billed as the main attraction.

Lori, who looks like her mother did as a child star, was tugging at her mother's red velvet robe, the garb used when she officially opened Disneyland's latest attraction Sleeping Beauty's Castle.

Mrs. Black was reading the story of Sleeping Beauty to the opening day crowd inside the castle courtyard.

Lori played peep-a-boo with her daddy, Charles Black, from behind the flowing velvet robe. She would turn to the crowd and wave, just like she was the star of the show — and that she proved to be.

Shirley's other two childre, Charles Jr. and Susan, 9, hugged close to their famou mother as she climbed the stairs inside the castle. Lori rode piggy-back with her daddy.

When Mrs. Black came out on the castle balcony to wave at the crowd and pose for thousands of amateur phototgraphers, little Lori sat on daddy's head and hammed it for the audience.

Mrs. George Temple, Shirley's mother, commented: "That is Shirley all over again. When Shirley was Lori's age, she would hang out the car window and wave at everybody when we drove down the street in our old, battered Graham.”

That was the birth of a star. Lori's performance indicated she may be the Shirley Temple of tomorrow.

Both the entrance and exit areas of the Diorama at the back of the Castle had fanciful canopies that matched the Medieval Faire look of the original Fantasyland. Eyvind Earle, the man responsible for the look of “Sleeping Beauty” was also the inspiration for this attraction. Ken Anderson was in charge of designing the Dioramas to be located inside of the Castle. Using concept art by Earle, Ken and his team completed 11 dioramas based on the film that had been completed up to that point. For 20¢, guests walked through the interior of the castle and were amazed by each detailed scene, including The Good Fairies’ Blessing, The Burning Spinning Wheels, Maleficent’s Curse Fulfilled, and True Love Conquers All. A commemorative souvenir booklet was given to each person who toured through the scenes of the Diorama.

In 1977, the walk-through Diorama was drastically changed and unofficially dubbed the “Barbie & Ken” version, as it used dolls similar to what could be seen in the Main Street window displays. By 2001, the attraction was run down and dated and guest counts had droppped, thereby causing it to be closed until something could be done with it.

Inspired by the release of “Sleeping Beauty” on Blu-ray, a virtual recreation of the 1957 diorama was created by the Imagineers (spearheaded by Tony Baxter and Chris Merritt) to add to the disc as one of the extras. In the park’s architectural archive, the original Ken Anderson drawings were found as used as inspiration. The results were so fantastic that an official restoration was green-lit and completed by November 2008, with an official re-opening date of December 5, 2008. For the True Love Conquers All finale, Tony Baxter felt that the flat painted roses would not work well with the side mirror reflections of this particular diorama; a craft supply house supplied white roses that Tony’s team labored at the 11th hour to paint red in time for the opening. Now guests can tour the inside of the castle again and see some of Eyvind Earle’s original concepts.



Thanks to the generosity of Daveland reader R. Potter, I can share these images that he shot of the Sleeping Beauty Castle Dioramas, circa 1991. Even though I prefer the artistry of the original and the 2008 versions, R. Potter brings up a good point about how the narrative of the 1991 version is much more cohesive and actually tells a full story. Some of the "flat" look to the 1991 Diorama that you might notice has to do with the use of a flash to capture these extremely rare images. In particular, the scene of Aurora climbing the stairs, following a glowing orb, was much more interesting in person as R. Potter describes for us:

I had read your commentary about this scene and there was actually more to it than my picture shows—unfortunately the flash blurs the more interesting aspect of this scene so I'll have to describe it. Along with Aurora climbing the stairs, there was a glowing ball of light that was seen near the top of the landing. There was also a small figure of Maleficent that would come slowly out of the doorway onto the landing which made this scene more dramatic.  But you can't see this from my picture, unfortunately.

Flash or not, it's still amazing to have this colorful record of the 1991 version. Thanks again!



From the storybook:

"In a far away land long, long ago, lived a king & his queen. Many years had they longed for a child and finally their wish was granted. A daughter was born. They called her Aurora."


From the storybook:

"Fearful of Maleficent's curse, King Stefan decreed that all spinning wheels in his kingdom be burned. To protect Aurora from Maleficent, the Good Fairies hid her in a forest cottage."



From the storybook:

"Princess Aurora grew in Grace and Beauty. But on her 16th Birthday, a dancing green light lured her to a tower. There she found a spinning wheel glowing in the dark. 'Touch the spindle,' a voice commanded Aurora obeyed, and pricked her finger."


From the storybook:

"High atop the tower Princess Aurora slept, awaiting the noble Prince Phillip, who would one day come to release her from her slumber...With true love's kiss."


From the storybook:

"High atop the tower Princess Aurora slept, awaiting the noble Prince Phillip, who would one day come to release her from her slumber...With true love's kiss."



“When you’re preschool age there is only today, having fun in the moment, basic needs to be met (potty, something to eat, naps, what's next, sleep), and an imagination that is beginning to bud. Your earliest memories are getting formed, especially the ones that are wonderful-branding-iron-on-the-brain-magically-super-special! Who knows why first memories get remembered as such?

“My earliest memories include a trip through the Disneyland Castle Walk-Through, which opened before ‘Sleeping Beauty’ premiered in theaters. That would put me and the two trips my parents took me on from Mobile, Alabama to California’s Disneyland within the right period for a fairly new Castle Walk-Through to have been open to the public, around 1957–1958 (when I was 3 1⁄2 or 4 1⁄2 years old).

“Having seen the Sunday night Walt Disney TV show on ABC back in the 1950s, I guess my parents thought Disneyland would be a nice, decent, fun place to take their little daughter to. No interstate highways back in the 1950s, just a long drive in a Chevrolet Impala of the era from Alabama to California and back home again. The trip took days back then (just one-way), with a longer driving time than it would today.

“My memories and images of the Castle Walk-Through are wispy and hard to grasp onto. A few family photos are in an album I got from my parents house after they both died. Back in the late 1950's, I wore a plaid dress with a petticoat to Disneyland and little black patent leather shoes with white socks. With manners of dress being more casual now than they were in the 50’s, it's hard to realize that people dressed up nicely to attend places out in public like Disneyland. No Disney marketing or merchandise about princesses then as now, so I was not dressed in a little girl’s Disney princess gown to tour Disney royalty’s house as many little girls do today. I did have a battery operated magic wand like Tinker Bell’s at home though which I dearly loved, but taking things like this into public places where it might be lost was not an option back then. “I kind of remember stepping up the stairs. I definitely remember Aurora lying there on a bed in her castle with beautiful colors around her and how she was drawn, enchantingly asleep. I definitely remember a stack of burning spinning wheels! In hindsight, seeing that meant all the story elements in the castle were really happening! I remember a prince bending over to give Aurora the wake-up kiss. I remember that to see these windows I had to either be on tiptoes or lifted up. I also remember that it was dark and that the walls were made of stone and I remember stained glass-like windows which lit the hallway so that guests could see where they were going. And I remember that even though I was seeing still images, my mind was telling me that I was in the castle where all these events took place and that I was actually seeing those events happen. It was a strange blend of thinking on my part at the time, considering that I was only 3 1/2–4 1/2 years old! Captain Kangaroo and all the characters he interacted with on his TV shows were still real to me at that time, too. The Storybook Canal Boats were real to me as well. All the characters of these Disney fairy tale stories really lived in those tiny cottages, castles and buildings—so thrilling! I was buying into all this Imagineering stuff hook, line and sinker, and seeing where the characters really lived—well that was supremely wonderful!

“That would have been the extent of my wispy memories, but the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ Blu-Ray/DVD released October 2008 triggered two more. The first one was one of the DVD’s Easter Eggs (hidden bonus material) of a special book handed out after park guests toured the Walk-Through attraction. Somehow, I remember that book! In later years, meaning well, my parents must have tossed it out. Oh, the pain of not having a Disneyana dealer’s appraisal on it today! ;-)

“But the other memory that was triggered by viewing the Blu-ray's bonus materials was to look through some peepholes, and the castle's gargoyles looked back at you via an Imagineering trick of using mirrors on the other side of the peepholes. Wow—I remember seeing blinking eyeballs! That could be why I have an emotional memory of the attraction being so foreboding…it was Imagineered that way! And seeing eyeballs blinking back at me—really scary! I remember just being in ‘shock and awe’-type of scared. I don't think I screamed or cried; maybe it was a closer emotion to being impressionably scared and nearly frozen, but not terrified. Disney, as I learned in adult Disney fandom, always puts a ‘wink’ into his works to let audiences know not to take things too seriously. After a short lifetime of watching Walt’s Sunday evening ABC TV series, I knew that maybe on an emotional instinctive childlike level that Walt would never petrify or terrify me, but just ‘kinda scare’ me. Strangely enough I didn't remember the mirrored wall of eyes for most of my lifetime until I watched the bonus material on the “Sleeping Beauty” Blu-Ray. The repressed memory was released by emotion!

“Despite that little scare, I enjoyed my first visit to Disneyland at age 3 1⁄2. Back at the motel on the night we were to pack and drive back home to Alabama, apparently I told my parents ‘I sure did have fun today. I wish I could have fun again, someday.’ This ‘cuteism’ prompted my parents to book another day’s motel stay, another day of park tickets, and another trip back to Disneyland. I don't think I was being knowingly manipulative; I didn't know how long the drive back home to Alabama would be. It was just a simple statement of how I felt, that’s all; nothing wrong with that! ;-)

“In 2008, the proceeds of the sale of my late parents’ house financed two vacations to Disneyland which had been postponed when hurricane Katrina closed the nearby New Orleans airport. A dream of mine came to fruition that year: to show my son his first Disney park, just as my parents had done for me. Son is a veteran of WDW; now he's also a veteran of Disneyland, having seen the places I had seen at ages 3 1/2 and 4 1/2. I was able to share with him family history as well as another unique Disney park. Sadly for me, the Castle Walk-Through was closed at the time of both visits; gladly for son though, since Disney princesses were a source of embarrassment to be around at that ripe old age of 12. However, I hope someday there will be a return visit by us to Disneyland, and he can go through (at least once) one of my most memorable and long-lived Disney memories, and experience some family history and legacy from his mom and the Imagineers and management who so graciously reopened the Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk-Through this past year.”


From the storybook:

"Maleficent summoned all the demons from her castle to prevent Prince Phillip from reaching the Princess."


Evil Maleficent transforms herself into a fire-spewing dragon, while Prince Phillip hides below in the thorns with his trusty horse, Samson.

From the storybook:

"Maleficent turned herself into a flame-spewing dragon, to stop Prince Philip at any cost. It was a fearsome battle! The Prince finally threw his sword, and struck the dragon in the heart."

At left is an animation of this scene that plays in a loop over and over, from the attraction at Disneyland.


In this final scene, Princess Aurora is awakened by True Love's Kiss. Surrounded by a bed of roses, a flock of birds also circles overhead. Guests leaving will see the shadow of Maleficent and hear her evil cackling.

At left is an animation of the scene from the actual attraction at Disneyland.


"Make it pink!"

"Make it blue!"

The fairies continually change the color of Aurora's ballgown, as can be seen in the animated book sitting at the foot of the exit stairs.


At left, you can see an animation of the storybook at the end of the attraction, which shows Aurora's gown changing from pink to blue.



“My recollection of the Sleeping Beauty Diorama goes back to my 1st visit when I believe it required either an A or B ticket. Later on my parents bought the unlimited ride package where my brother and I wore red wrist bands. I remember entering on the right side of the building coming from Main Street. Upon entering, it had a stone-like appearance on the floor and walls lit by a soft greenish light. The walls were lined with pictures of the Sleeping Beauty story as one climbed the stairs. Once at the top of the stairs, there was Sleeping Beauty lying under a glass enclosed casing. If you looked closely, you could see her chest move as if she were breathing. Then as you passed by, you’d walk down another set of stairs with more pictures of the story, and you came out on the left side of the castle.”

NOTE: I have received a number of emails clarifying Jay’s story. Most likely, the Diorama he refers to is the “Barbie & Ken” version because it used dolls instead of stylized painted backdrops and characters. A number of readers have also questioned whether Sleeping Beauty’s chest actually moved as if she were breathing.