17 photos show how Disney World's Cinderella Castle has changed throughout the years

·8 min read
cinderella castle
A view of Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom in 2019. Disney Parks
  • Cinderella Castle is the main landmark of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

  • That being said, the attraction has changed quite a bit over the years.

  • The castle was redecorated for the theme park's 50th anniversary in October 2021.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Cinderella Castle was constructed over the course of 18 months in 1970.

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Magic Kingdom was practically barren during construction in 1970. Disney Parks/YouTube

As seen in vintage video footage posted by Disney on YouTube, Cinderella Castle — as well as the rest of Magic Kingdom — was built across barren land.

According to Disney World, materials like concrete, steel, plaster, cement, and fiberglass were used during construction of the castle, but bricks surprisingly played no part, despite the castle's outward appearance.

By opening day, Disney imagineers had created a building actually worthy of a princess.

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People walk around Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, on September 22, 1972. Charles Bennett/AP

Disney World opened for business on October 1, 1971. At the time, lush greenery surrounded the front of Cinderella Castle, which was painted with light blues, grays, and golds.

Each spire was also topped with a small flag. To this day, the castle still stands as the tallest structure in Magic Kingdom, reaching 189 feet.

The castle maintained its iconic appearance in 1995, more than two decades after the park first opened.

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A view of Cinderella Castle in Orlando, Florida, on April 28, 1995. ABC Photo Archives/Getty Images

In photographs from that year, the castle looked mostly the same as it had on opening day. However, its spires were seemingly painted a darker shade of blue than they were originally, and colorful flags were placed in front of the castle entrance.

In 1996, however, Disney covered the landmark with a pink birthday-cake overlay to celebrate the park's 25th anniversary.

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Cinderella Castle remained pink for more than a year. Chris O'meara/AP

The castle was transformed on October 1, 1996, according to the Disney Everyday blog. It was covered in pink paint that looked like icing, candy-cane spires, and 26 decorative birthday candles. The overlay remained in place until January 31, 1998.

While some people loved the transformation, others weren't as impressed. After all, people travel from across the world to have their photo taken in front of Cinderella's home — not a larger-than-life cake.

The castle was decorated again in 2005 as part of a worldwide Disney celebration.

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Parkgoers celebrate Disneyland's 50th anniversary on May 5, 2005. Robert Sullivan/Getty Images

Disneyland turned 50 in 2005, and the anniversary was celebrated by every Disney theme park around the world. At Disney World specifically, each tower on Cinderella Castle was covered with gold spirals and character statues. Peter Pan and Wendy, for example, could be seen "flying" around the tallest spire.

A "magic mirror" was also attached to the front of the castle, displaying images of other Disney castles located around the world.

One of the most surprising castle changes happened in 2005, when Disney World introduced Stitch's Great Escape.

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Cinderella Castle was temporarily "vandalized" by Stitch in 2005. Hilary White

When the alien-themed attraction opened in Magic Kingdom on November 16, 2004, parkgoers were surprised to find a giant Stitch inflatable sitting inside the park, according to WDW Info.

Even further inside, they encountered Cinderella Castle covered in toilet paper and a sign that read "Stitch is King!"

For the first time in 2007, Disney draped twinkling lights over Cinderella Castle.

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A view of Cinderella Castle covered in lights on November 5, 2017. Handout/Getty Images

Though nightly shows have changed since 2007, Disney World still incorporates the stunning lights into its yearly celebrations. In 2019, for example, the castle was lit each night between November and December as part of "A Frozen Holiday Wish."

Cinderella Castle is often decorated for the annual Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade.

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The Jonas Brothers perform in front of Cinderella Castle on December 6, 2009. Handout/Getty Images

As seen in photos from the 2009 event, Disney World used red curtains, garland, wreaths, and ornaments to bring holiday spirit to the Magic-Kingdom landmark.

Similar decorations are still used throughout the park today — and they're all purchased by a single Disney cast member, according to "One Day at Disney," a book that documents the wide variety of roles held by Disney employees.

In 2011, Disney World introduced a nighttime show that saw Cinderella Castle covered in projections.

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A view of "The Magic, The Memories, and You!" on November 9, 2011. Handout/Getty Images

The light show ran between 2011 and 2012, and was named "The Magic, The Memories, and You!" According to Touring Plans, special effects were used to display various images across the castle, including portraits of real parkgoers and scenes from Disney movies.

Between the months of November and December, Disney put a holiday twist on the show, covering Cinderella Castle in images of candy canes and gingerbread.

As of 2019, Cinderella Castle looked a lot like it did when Magic Kingdom opened in 1971.

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A view of Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom in 2019. Disney Parks

Of course, the building had been spruced up over the years — for example, criss-cross patterns were painted across some of the castle's exterior. Still, it maintained its blue-and-gray colors, pointed spires, and gold accents throughout 2019.

In February 2020, Disney announced that Cinderella Castle would look very different by the end of the year.

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The new-and-improved castle will likely be complete before the start of 2021. Disney Parks

Jason Kirk, the vice president of Magic Kingdom, announced in a Disney Parks Blog post at the time that that the iconic structure would be getting a makeover in honor of the 70th anniversary of "Cinderella."

No specific changes were revealed at the time, but a mock-up image seemed to show that the castle would be painted pink. It was then unclear when parkgoers would be able to see the new and improved castle, but renovations had begun before the park temporarily closed.

Disney had made tons of progress on the renovations by March of that year, though they had to halt work on the castle due to coronavirus restrictions.

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A view of Cinderella Castle during renovations on March 12. Orlando Sentinel/Getty Images

As recently as March, construction equipment could be seen surrounding the Magic Kingdom landmark. Parkgoers didn't seem to mind too much, however, as they continued to take photos and gather around the castle.

However, construction at Disney World was halted that same month as a result of the pandemic, and it's unclear how this will affect changes to the castle.

In April 2020, Disney World shined blue lights on Cinderella Castle in honor of healthcare workers.

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Parkgoers surround a blue Cinderella Castle on April 7, World Health Day. Orlando Sentinel/Getty Images

The theme park did so on April 7, also known as World Health Day.

"The gesture is a salute to medical personnel on behalf of all Walt Disney World Resort Cast Members during these challenging times," a representative for Walt Disney World News wrote at the time.

Parkgoers caught a glimpse of the newly painted castle in July 2020.

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It's unclear as to exactly when the castle renovations will be completed. Disney/Handout/Getty Images

Before reopening on July 11, Disney allowed select cast members to start visiting Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. Those who chose the latter park were able to see the newly painted Cinderella Castle, which now has bright-blue spires and a pale-pink exterior.

While many people say they love the landmark's new, bold colors, others have argued that the castle now looks unfinished and too similar to Disneyland's castle.

That being said, Magic Kingdom Vice President Jason Kirk said on the Disney Parks Blog that painters are still applying "finishing touches" to the castle.

While hosting the NBA at its Florida resorts, Disney celebrated the Los Angeles Lakers by adding purple-and-gold lights to Cinderella Castle.

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A view of Cinderella Castle on October 11, 2020. Handout/Getty Images

As Insider's Scott Davis previously reported, the NBA resumed its 2020 season in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic by placing its teams in a "bubble" at Walt Disney World. Players stayed at three Disney hotels, and games were held at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex.

After the Los Angeles Lakers won the 2020 NBA Final on October 11, Disney celebrated the win by shining purple-and-gold lights across Cinderella Castle.

Disney World announced it would add even more decorations than originally planned to the Magic Kingdom landmark in 2021.

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Disney World recently shared this concept art of what Cinderella Castle will look like. Disney Parks

For "The World's Most Magical Celebration," which starts October 1 and will continue for 18 months, Cinderella Castle will be decorated with gold ribbons, blue banners, and a 50th-anniversary sign.

The new decorations complement the pink-and-gold paint job the castle received in 2020.

The magical makeover was completed by Disney as of July 2021.

A view of Cinderella Castle decorated for Magic Kingdom's 50th anniversary.
Disney released this picture of Cinderella Castle at the end of July 2021. Disney Parks

Disney World shared the news via Instagram on Friday, writing: "The Cinderella Castle royal makeover is complete as we ramp up to Walt Disney World's 50th Anniversary celebration, beginning October 1st. ✨ #DisneyWorld50."

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