CLOSE
Dolder Tower in Riquewihr, France. iStock
Dolder Tower in Riquewihr, France. iStock

You Can Visit the Two French Villages That Inspired Belle's Hometown in Beauty and the Beast

Dolder Tower in Riquewihr, France. iStock
Dolder Tower in Riquewihr, France. iStock

Beauty and the Beast's Belle spent her days reading fairy tales set in lands far, far away, but what this tamer of the Beast didn’t realize was that the "Little Town" she called home was perhaps the most magical village of all. Inspired by the real villages of Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé, two neighboring towns in France's Alsace region, Belle's hometown is practically a real-life destination where fans of the classic, animated Beauty and the Beast can walk a mile in Belle’s dainty, size six ballet flats. And now, with Disney's live-action version in theaters, our wanderlust for quaint bookshops, reading hardbacks by a fountain, and touring ornate castles is at an all-time high.

 

RIQUEWIHR

It’s easy to see why Disney’s animators chose Riquewihr for inspiration, and even easier to see why Belle grew up with a love for fairy tales. From its bright, cheery houses to a steeple rising above the city, this "poor, provincial town" (her words, not ours) is straight out of a child’s imagination. Adventures by Disney has included Riquewihr on its itinerary for next year's Beauty and the Beast-themed Rhine River cruise, but if you'd like to live out your childhood fantasies before then, Riquewihr is just a 45-minute drive from the Strasbourg Airport.

Vieille Ville Bonjour, bonjour! Walking through this medieval village—the Old Town portion of Riquewihr—is like strolling through a storybook. Vibrant blue, yellow, and pink houses line cobblestone streets, creating a maze perfect for dodging dudes like Gaston. The town's clock tower, Dolder Tower, overlooks the village's main square—the perfect spot to gossip about "crazy old Maurice." Of course, we can’t forget the baker. While he had zero interest in Belle’s book obsession, he sure knew how to bake a mean baguette—which you can buy in present day Riquewihr at the walk-up Au Petit Délice pastry shop on Rue du Général de Gaulle.

iStock

Brocante Collections To find your own Lumières and Cogsworths, stop by Brocante Collections (2 Rue Latérale), a Riquewihr antique store with everything from dolls and dishes to clocks and candlesticks. Sadly, French-speaking home décor is not guaranteed.

Riquewihr Library While far from the Beast’s elaborate library, Riquewihr has its own collection of over 8000 books at the local Bibliothèque. But, to truly embody Belle’s bookworm tendencies, you’ll have to travel six hours outside of Riquewihr, to Paris’s Shakespeare & Company, the mecca for all book lovers. Frequented by icons like Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce in the '20s, Belle would've racked up quite a bill at this literary destination.

A town square fountain in Riquewihr—perfect for reading chapter three. iStock

Château d’Isenbourg For the full fairytale experience, you can spend the day exploring the town, then end it by sleeping in a castle. The Château d’Isenbourg, just 30 minutes south of Riquewihr, is a five-star castle hotel in the Alsace region. Sure, you may not meet the Beast of your dreams, and yes, this is a far cry from the real thing, but with an onsite spa, Jacuzzi, and nearby wineries, who needs a prince in disguise and his extravagant bachelor pad?

RIBEAUVILLÉ

Roughly twice the size of Riquewihr, Ribeauvillé was another source of inspiration for the Disney team. This town—a short 10-minute drive north of Riquewihr—is bordered by three cliffside castles and embodies that distinct fairytale charm for which the Alsace region is known. Points of interest include:

Wistub Zum Pfifferhus Is this where Gaston and his gang planned their attack on the Beast over brews and bad dancing? Perhaps. The Wistub Zum Pfifferhus's wooden interior and hearty cuisine (think sausages and steaks) could easily prepare that testosterone-fueled clan to storm the castle.

A street in Ribeauvillé. iStock

Ribeauvillé’s Castles Castle Saint Ulrich, Girsberg Castle, and Haut-Ribeaupierre Castle provide a majestic backdrop to this quaint village. Ribeauvillé’s castles were built around the 13th century and are accessible by foot, but you may need Gaston’s "five dozen eggs" diet because the hour-long uphill hike is a doozy. (Except please don’t follow this crazy diet—no one needs nearly 5000 calories worth of raw eggs.)

Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg While slightly outside of Ribeauvillé (a 20-minute drive), the Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg is perhaps the closest thing the Alsace region has to the Beast’s lavish residence. It has a drawbridge ("Kill the Beast!"), a medieval garden (where the snowball fight with all the feels could have taken place), and is surrounded by forests. The castle is open to visitors daily and offers special tours throughout the year. Of course, the actual inspiration for the Beast's castke is Château de Chambord, according to a Screen Rant interview with animator Glen Keane. But if you don’t feel like driving six hours to the Loire Valley, the Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg will do the trick.

Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg. iStock

The one glaring thing missing on this list—a must on any Alsace itinerary—is wine. The Alsace region is known for styles like Pinot gris, Riesling, Muscat, and Gewurztraminer, and restaurants throughout Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé serve up some of the region’s finest vintages. While wine wasn’t a central focus in Beauty and the Beast, one Disney fan site notes that Alsace wine was present during the failed wedding scene, which is a good enough reason for us to raise a glass and give a cheer to the beloved beauty and her beast!

nextArticle.image_alt|e
arrow
entertainment
15 Facts About Disney's Jungle Cruise
Flicrk // Thomas Hawk // CC BY-NC 2.0

Everyone turn around and wave goodbye to the folks back on the dock … they may never see you again. But then again, you probably never saw them before, either. Here are 15 facts about Disney's Jungle Cruise.

1. WHEN IT DEBUTED, IT WAS A VERY SERIOUS TRIP THROUGH EXOTIC LOCATIONS.

For the first few years, the Jungle Cruise was more of a documentary-style attraction. All of the funny scenes and jokes were added years later—and thank goodness. The ridiculously bad jokes delivered with perfect apathy (“And now, we’re approaching beautiful Schweitzer Falls, named after the famous African explorer, Dr. Albert Falls.”) are the best part of the ride for many people.

2. WALT DISNEY WANTED TO INCORPORATE LIVE ANIMALS.

 Baseball legend Stan Musial and his family are seen on the Jungle Cruise attraction at Disneyland Park in July, 1965 in Anaheim, California
Disney/Disney Parks via Getty Images

When the ride was still in development, Walt Disney wanted to use live animals. When a zoologist explained that many of the animals were nocturnal, which would leave daytime guests gazing at catnapping creatures, Walt opted for creatures he could control. For a time, however, the ride queue did feature live alligators.

3. DISNEY DROVE A CAR THROUGH THE DRY "RIVERBEDS" TO PROMOTE THE RIDE.

As Disneyland was being constructed, Walt often gave TV viewers a preview of what was being built. Before the Jungle Cruise had water, he drove a Nash Rambler (one of the show’s sponsors) through the “riverbeds” to show off Schweitzer Falls and the crude mechanics of the animals.

4. IT'S THE RIDE THAT LED DISNEY TO VIEW HIS PARKS AS NEVER BEING COMPLETE.

It may be apocryphal, but the story goes like this: Walt was strolling through Disneyland when he heard a young boy asking his mom to take the eight-minute trip through the jungle. Not even slowing her stride, the mother replied something to the effect of, “No, we did that last time we were here.” Hearing that, Walt decided he had to keep changing and improving things in order to keep guests coming back.

5. SOME JUNGLE CRUISE SKIPPERS HAVE GONE ON TO BIGGER AND BETTER THINGS.

Famous wisecracking skippers include Kevin Costner and Ron Ziegler (Richard Nixon's press secretary). 

6. MOST OF THE "EXOTIC" JUNGLE PLANTS AREN'T EXOTIC AT ALL.

Jungle Cruise at Disneyland in Anaheim, California
Boris Dzhingarov // Flickr, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

How do you get the tropical aesthetic provided by exotic plants without shelling out the big bucks for shipping and maintaining them? Just use Disney’s tactic: “plant” an orange tree upside down and let vines grow and twine around the exposed roots.

7. THE WATER IS CLEANER THAN IT LOOKS.

That murky water passengers sail through is dyed brown, dark green, or muddy blue. The coloring serves two purposes: It provides a more realistic portrayal of swampy waters, of course, but it also conceals the fact that the cruise ships are on a track in a pool that’s less than four feet deep in most areas.

8. DISNEY WAS THRIFTY WHEN IT CAME TO THE AIRPLANE USED IN THE RIDE.

If you pony up the cash for a Lockheed Model 12 Electra Junior airplane, you might as well get your money’s worth, right? Disney used the back half for the scene near the Jungle Cruise's hippo pool at the Magic Kingdom, and the front half for the Casablanca scene in "The Great Movie Ride" at Hollywood Studios. 

9. SOME OF THE SPECIAL EFFECTS ARE PRETTY LOW-TECH.

You might think that getting the animals’ eyes to glow as you make your way through the Asian temple is a high-tech trick, but it’s really just the opposite. Their eyes are really just marbles painted with a reflective coating.

10. LOOK FOR INSIDE JOKES HIDDEN IN THE QUEUE.

At the Magic Kingdom at Disney World, a pair of crates sits bundled with some barrels as if they’re cargo ready to be shipped. A close look at the addresses reveals that one is going to “Thomas Kirk, Esq., M. Jones, Cartographers Ltd. Field Office, Island of Bora Danno.” The other is addressed to “Kenneth Annakin, Director of Imports, Wyss Supply Company, Colony of New Guinea.”

This is a reference to the Disney movie Swiss Family Robinson. Tommy Kirk played Ernst Robinson in the 1960 film, then went on to play the title character in the 1964 movie The Misadventures of Merlin Jones. James MacArthur, the actor who played Fritz Robinson, later played Danny Williams—you know, “Book ‘em, Danno” on Hawaii Five-O. So that’s the first crate explained. The second crate refers to Ken Annakin, the director of Swiss Family Robinson, and “Wyss Supply” is a little wink to the author of the original book, Johann Wyss.

11. A JUNGLE CRUISE MOVIE STARRING TOM HANKS AND TIM ALLEN WAS PLANNED, AND SCRAPPED.

Buzz and Woody meet Jumanji? It almost happened. Entertainment Weekly first reported on a Jungle Cruise movie starring Tom Hanks and Tim Allen back in 2011, which clearly never came to be. But that doesn't mean that a movie isn't happening: Though no release date has been set, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Emily Blunt, and Jesse Plemons have all signed on for starring roles in the film.

12. ONE OF THE BOATS ACTUALLY SANK.


Wikimedia Commons // DearCatastropheWaitress//CC BY 2.5

Perhaps its name was prophetic, because “Sankuru Sadie” at the Magic Kingdom did, in fact, sink. In 2004, the boat took on more water than it could hold and went under—though, given how shallow most of the water is, it probably didn’t go far. The boat was refurbished and put back into rotation.

13. THERE USED TO BE A KATHARINE HEPBURN CAMEO.

The ride was largely inspired by the movie The African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. As a somewhat macabre homage to the film, the Florida Jungle Cruise once featured a little nod to Hepburn—literally. Near the end of the ride, Trader Sam the headhunter cheerily holds up a couple of shrunken heads. “Trader Sam has a deal for you. Two of his heads for one of yours,” is how the joke typically goes. Riders who looked closely would have noticed that one of Sam’s shrunken heads looked an awful lot like Hepburn.

14. ED SULLIVAN RODE THE JUNGLE CRUISE IN A 1959 KODAK COMMERCIAL.

If you want to see what the Jungle Cruise looked like just a few years after Disneyland’s opening day, check out this commercial for Kodak’s innovative new Brownie camera, available for just $74.50!

15. DISNEYLAND'S JUNGLE CRUISE FEATURES A PALM THAT PRE-DATES THE PARK.

Located just outside the entrance of the Jungle Cruise in California is a large palm tree. Referred to as “the Dominguez Palm,” this bit of vegetation has been around way longer than Mickey has been; it dates back to 1896. It’s named after the family who lived there before the land became a theme park. The rancher who sold the land to Disney requested that this particular tree be spared, and Disney obliged, moving all 15 tons of tree from the parking lot area to Adventureland.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
arrow
travel
See the Spot That Inspired Sleeping Beauty's Castle
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

When Walt and Lillian Disney took a European vacation prior to the construction of Disneyland, they were particularly inspired by one location in southwest Bavaria, Germany: Neuschwanstein Castle. Built by King of Bavaria Ludwig II starting in 1869, the castle was meant to have serious dramatic flair; the king hired a stage designer from Munich, Christian Jank, to design it.

Walt Disney went on to use Neuschwanstein as the basis for Sleeping Beauty's castle in Disneyland, but Ludwig II—known as the "fairytale king" for his love of plays, stories, and music—had far from a fairy-tale ending. In fact, he only lived in the still-unfinished castle for six months before his cabinet had him declared insane and replaced him. He died under mysterious circumstances, found drowned in waist-deep water, not long after.

You can learn more about the castle, and see some beautiful footage, in this video from Great Big Story.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios