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How well do you know the actual real-life locations that inspired some of your most loved Disney animated films?

Most fairy tales start out with the lines “Once upon a time, in a land far, far away,” followed by authors and movie makers painting magical landscapes that bring these stories to life. Some of them can be fairly specific in indicating locations, but in cases where stories have more vague settings, storytellers draw largely upon their imaginations to create worlds based on various places all over the world that already exist.

For years, Walt Disney Pictures has been doing an exceptional job of just that: creating their interpretation based on either the origins of such stories or the global locations that seem to fit these tales the most. In any case, there is no denying that these worlds have awakened the fantasies of all readers and viewers. From the home of a beautiful girl who fell in love with a beast to that of a marionette that dreamed of becoming a real boy, here are 11 locations that are said to be the basis of tales that are as old as time.


Setting for: Mulan

Based on the sixth century poem “The Ballad of Mulan,” the story is of a woman who pretended to be a man and took her father’s place at war. The emperor’s home in the Disney adaptation was inspired by the Forbidden City, a 72 hectare royal estate located at the heart of Beijing, China that served as the imperial palace from 1420 to 1912. Once home to emperors and their households during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Forbidden City is now the site of the Palace Museum.

In real estate news: Beijing is one of the five Chinese cities that made it to real estate investment expert Jones Lang LaSalle’s World’s Top 30 Most Dynamic Cities as indicated in the group’s City Momentum Index (CMI) 2017. Another one of the five cities, Shanghai, also managed to overtake Tokyo as Asia Pacific’s top city for real estate investment in the fourth quarter of 2016.


Setting for: The Little Mermaid

Written by author Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid is about a young mermaid who was willing to trade her life at sea for a human she fell in love with. While Prince Eric’s castle in the animated film was strongly influenced by the Château de Chillon in Switzerland, the story originated from Denmark, where a statue of a mermaid inspired by the titular character had been erected in Copenhagen.

In real estate news: Last year, nonprofit research and education organization Urban Land Institute (ULI) and consultancy company PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released the Emerging Trends in Real Estate Europe 2017, which ranked Copenhagen sixth in their list of Top Markets for Real Estate Investment and Development in 2017. According to the Emerging Trends report, Copenhagen was described  as “a vibrant home to technology start-ups” and that residential projects in city were one of the best opportunities, whether for sale or for rent.


Setting for: Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tangled

France is the backdrop of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the tale of a physically malformed bell-ringer who fell in love with a gypsy; as well as Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s Beauty and the Beast, the tale of a beautiful, well-read woman who learned to love a beast, who turned out to be a handsome prince placed in a curse by an enchantress.

While Cinderella—the rags-to-riches story of a cinder girl—is said to have thousands of variants in various countries, the most popular version is Charles Perrault’s French interpretation Cendrillon, ou La petite Pantoufle de Verre, which was also the basis of the Disney film. Also, Rapunzel—on which Tangled is loosely based—is widely known as a German story of a girl locked in a tower, but Disney animators partly based their illustrations of the kingdom of Corona on the Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy.

In real estate news: Paris was referred to as one of the seven global gateway cities for 2017 in the aforementioned ULI Emerging Trends report. On the other hand, ULI said that investors were being cautious when it came to investing in Paris due to the stuttering French economy, the upcoming 2017 French Presidential Elections, and high labor costs in the city. One French city being touted for having great real estate potential is Lyon, with its sizeable market, varied tenant base and active local government.


Setting for: Hercules

Despite being named after the character in the Roman adaptation, the Disney film Hercules was based on the Greek mythology of Heracles, the son of Zeus known for his immense strength and momentous adventures. Researchers for the film went to Greece and Turkey to study classic Greek mythology and Greek illustration to develop the movie’s settings.

In real estate news: According to a column in the New York Times, Greece continues to feel the effects of its economic depression, leading to the decline of its real estate market. From 2004 to 2014, Greece reportedly showed a drop in real estate transactions by 74 percent, while home construction fell by 95 percent from 2007 to 2016. Global Property Guide noted, however, that house prices were declining at a slower rate, although it was uncertain if they will start going up again before the end of 2017.


Setting for: Pinocchio

Le avventure di Pinocchio, a story about a wooden puppet with the desire to be a real boy, was written by Carlo Collodi, a children’s writer. Collodi grew up in a small village in Tuscany, which was also the setting of the story.

In real estate news: A column in the New York Times noted Italy’s real estate market’s upward trend  began in 2014 and that 2016 showed around 500,000 transactions throughout the country compared to only 400,000 in 2013. Situations like the effects of the Brexit referendum, terrorist attacks in Europe, and Italy’s economic and political problems are hindering a more robust recovery. However, the increased availability of mortgages, the increase in housing supply, implementation of government incentives and more affordable asking prices were said to be indicators that the country could be in for a continued recovery.


Setting for: The Jungle Book, Aladdin

The Jungle Book is a book of fables that was centered on an orphaned Indian boy named Mowgli, who was raised by wolves. The author, Rudyard Kipling, was born in India and lived there until he was six years old. According to him, the stories “were a collection of everything he ‘heard or dreamed about in the Indian jungle.’”

While Aladdin had a more Middle Eastern theme, the sultan’s palace is actually based on the Taj Mahal, which is not a castle but a tomb built in 1632 by Emperor Shah Jahan for his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal.

In real estate news: A article referred to the Indian economy as one of the fastest-growing in Asia and was projected to grow by seven percent in 2017. ULI’s Emerging Trends in Real Estate Asia Pacific 2017 also noted India as an emerging market destination, with Mumbai and Bangalore the top-ranked cities in terms of investment and development prospects.


Setting for: The Lion King

Inspired by William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Lion King was about a lion cub that came to his own as the new king of his pride after his father was murdered. To create the movie’s magnificent Pride Lands, a team of animators traveled to Hell’s Gate National Park in Kenya to research the environment and the animals living in it.

In real estate news: According to The Wealth Report, one of the industries that some of Kenya’s wealthiest individuals are investing into is real estate, citing that one-third of the country’s high net worth individuals are putting money into the property sector, as well as in building and construction. Also, Africa Property Investment Summit General Manager Kfir Rusin said that Nairobi will be Africa’s next first-class city after Johannesburg due to the influx of expatriates.


Setting for: Frozen

Frozen narrates the tale of a princess who set off in search of her cryokinetic sister who placed their kingdom in eternal winter. While the film’s Ice Palace was said to be inspired by the Hôtel de Glace in Quebec, Canada, the natural environment of Frozen was patterned on an entirely different landscape: Norway. Disney sponsored various research field trips to the Scandinavian country, where artists drew inspiration from its geography, as well as its architecture and culture.

In real estate news: Norway’s property prices in 2016 showed their biggest annual increase ever of 8.3 percent due to decreasing unemployment, low interest rates and strong purchasing power. Last February, property prices saw an increase of 13 percent, the highest in nearly ten years, but they may eventually drop due to plans to build over 38,000 homes to meet demand.


Setting for: Brave

Set in medieval Scotland, Brave is the story of a young girl fighting to defy the tradition expected of her status as a princess, while trying to save the life of her cursed mother. Director Mark Andrews revealed that the film’s environment was created based on Scotland’s glens, forests and coastline. The movie’s Clan DunBroch castle, he added, was inspired by three Scottish medieval structures: the Urquhart Castle, the Dunnottar Castle and the Eliean Donan Castle.

In real estate news: Scotland’s commercial property market is seeing a lot of activity, with investors coming in from countries like South Africa and China, according to a report by property consultancy firm Knight Frank. It added that Edinburgh will continue to be a hub of investment activity due to its “landlord-friendly lease terms, relatively attractive pricing, and strong occupier fundamentals.” Also, UK estate agency, Your Move, revealed an almost five percent increase in rent in the 12 months leading to February this year, while financial services company Nationwide Building Society shared that overall year-on-year house prices in Scotland increased by 2.9 percent during the first quarter of 2017.


Setting for: Snow White

Snow White is a nineteenth-century German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm about a young girl who fled her evil stepmother and lived with seven dwarves. But for the movie, Disney animators took their visual cues from the Alcázar of Segovia, a castle in central Spain that was originally built as a fortress but was later on used as a royal palace, a state prison and a military academy. Now, the Alcázar is being used as a museum and military archives building.

In real estate news: According to commercial real estate services group CBRE, the Spanish economy will continue to display the highest growth rate in the European Union (EU), with a projected growth of 2.5 percent, and that the residential, retail and logistics sectors will continue their good performance. A report by Property Watch also noted that big cities like Barcelona and Madrid will remain popular as second home destinations to foreign buyers.

United States

Setting for: Pocahontas, The Princess and the Frog

Disney’s Pocahontas, the story of a young Native American princess, was based on the real-life Powhatan native from Jamestown, Virginia. Aside from doing extensive colonial period research, the team behind the movie also visited Jamestown to capture the town’s historic landscape and recreate it in film.

The Princess and the Frog, the tale of a young girl who turned into a frog herself after kissing a frog prince, was loosely based on the Brothers Grimm’s German fairy tale Der Froschkönig oder der eiserne Heinrich or The Frog King. However, the Disney interpretation was set in New Orleans during the 1920s; and paid homage to the Louisiana city’s heritage, Art Deco architecture and voodoo spiritual folkways.

In real estate news: When business mogul Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential elections last year, many industry experts speculated that the country’s property landscape would find an ally in the new Commander-in-Chief, who had been in real estate for a long time. One prediction—that property prices would go up when he takes office—seems to have already come true when single-family home prices increased by 5.9% in January, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index. This price recovery, however, was not bringing about inventory growth as expected, leaving buyers with fewer options at high prices.

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