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.

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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!

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Disney Parks May Soon Have Robotic Stunt People
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iStock

Animatronics are a staple of any Disney park, but as the company introduces more characters into the fold—like heroes from Star Wars, Marvel, and Avatar—the bar is being raised on audience expectations. On the screen, these characters defy gravity and pull off death-defying stunts, yet at the Disney parks, they’re still relying on fairly static animatronic models for their live shows and attractions. As Tech Crunch details, though, the gap between what the heroes do on film and in the park may be closing.

This development is all thanks to Disney’s R&D department, where Imagineers are working on next generation animatronics that can pull off aerial stunts like you’d see in any of the studio’s blockbuster films. The project is called Stuntronics, and its goal is to create animatronic stunt "heroes" that can replace a more static model in the middle of a Disney park show when the scene requires some high-energy action to take place. It's similar to the flesh and blood or CGI stunt people that movies have been using for decades.

In a video demonstrating their progress, a robot model is shown leaping from a cable to do backflips, double backflips, and other heroic landings. It’s something straight out of a Spider-Man movie and is years ahead of any animatronic character currently at the park.

Tony Dohi, principal R&D Imagineer at Disney, told Tech Crunch that the idea for this type of animatronic came about because they realized there was a “disconnect” between the exhibits at the park and what people see on film, so swapping in advanced animatronics for complex action scenes would go a long way toward making Disney’s parks feel more authentic to their properties. The Na’vi Shaman from the Avatar exhibit shows that Disney can get their animatronics to emote; this next step will put them into action.

According to Tech Crunch, right now the stunt robots are realized with the help of an “on-board accelerometer and gyroscope arrays supported by laser range finding.” They are autonomous and self-correct their aerial stunts to hit their marks. Though the model used in the video is just a generic mockup, it’s not hard to see how the Imagineers at Disney can easily turn it into any number of heroes from Marvel or Star Wars.

Stuntronics is just one of the advancements happening with robotics at Disney. Tech Crunch also detailed the Vyloo, which are a trio of autonomous bird-like robots in the park that react to guest movements. They can be seen in the Collector's Fortress in the Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! attraction at Disneyland in California.

The Stuntronics project is still in the R&D phase with no practical application in place just yet. But if this technology does progress the way the Imagineers are hoping, the blockbuster action of Star Wars, Marvel, and The Incredibles won’t just be exclusive to the movies anymore.

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Disney/PIXAR
10 Space-Age Facts About WALL·E
Disney/PIXAR
Disney/PIXAR

Ah, WALL·E: The movie that made a cockroach cute—and had us all sobbing about a trash compactor. Join us as we travel to infinity and beyond (hey, it’s from another Pixar movie, but it works) with these 10 facts about WALL·E on its 10th anniversary.

1. WALL·E AND R2-D2 ARE PLAYED BY THE SAME ACTOR.

The “voice” of WALL·E is legendary sound designer Ben Burtt. Burtt is best known for his work on Star Wars (you can go ahead and thank him for R2-D2’s distinctive chatter), though he’s worked on films like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and the Indiana Jones series as well.

2. ALIEN REFERENCES ABOUND.

The film boasts not one but two connections to Alien, which was one of writer-director Andrew Stanton’s inspirations for the film. Early in his career Ben Burtt worked on the movie, “mak[ing] sounds for the mother computer and that sort of thing.” WALL·E’s own version of “Mother,” the main computer on the starliner Axiom, is voiced by none other than Alien star Sigourney Weaver. “I waited until the movie was kind of done to make sure she wouldn’t think I was crazy when she saw the movie, but she was a huge fan,” Stanton said. “I really lucked out and she loved doing it. She got the in joke.”

3. THE DIRECTOR CAME UP WITH WALL·E’S LOOK AT A BASEBALL GAME.

Stanton got the inspiration for WALL·E’s design when someone handed him a pair of binoculars at a baseball game. “I missed the entire inning,” he recalled. “I just turned the thing around and I started staring at it and I started making it go sad and then happy and then mad and then sad and I remembered doing that as a kid with my dad’s binoculars and I said, ‘It’s all there.’”

4. THERE WAS A “NO ELBOWS” RULE.

A still from 'WALL·E' (2008)
Disney/Pixar

In coming up with the look of WALL·E, the film’s design team operated under a “no elbows” rule; though elbows would make it easier for WALL·E to express himself, as a trash compactor robot there’d be no practical reason for him to have them. “Doctor Octopus-style” antenna arms and collapsible, telescope-like appendages were considered before the designers settled on the ultimate design, inspired by inkjet printers.

5. THERE’S A FAMILY CONNECTION TO HELLO, DOLLY.

Thomas Newman, who composed WALL·E’s score, is the nephew of composer Lionel Newman, who just so happens to have co-scored Hello, Dolly, which appears prominently in WALL·E as it’s WALL·E’s favorite movie.

6. BEN BURTT CREATED A RECORD NUMBER OF SOUNDS FOR THE FILM.

Ben Burtt created a library of 2400 sounds for WALL·E—the largest number of all of his films by far. Among the raw sounds Burtt used in WALL·E are an electric toothbrush, shopping carts banging together, a Nikon camera shutter (for WALL·E’s eyebrow movements), Burtt sneezing while a vacuum cleaner was running (WALL·E sneezing), and a hand-cranked generator of the sort used in the John Wayne film Island in the Sky.

7. WALL·E’S COCKROACH FRIEND WAS NAMED AFTER A HOLLYWOOD GREAT.

Though not named in the film itself, WALL·E’s cockroach friend was given the name Hal by the Pixar team, a reference to both 1920s producer Hal Roach (Safety Last!, The Little Rascals) and the homicidal-minded computer in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

8. THE HUMANS WERE ORIGINALLY GOING TO BE JELL-O BLOBS.

Inspired by conversations with NASA scientist Jim Hicks, an expert on the effects of zero gravity on the human body, at one point Stanton was going to make humans literal blobs, so unrecognizable from who we are today that “even we the audience would think it was an alien race. It had more of a Planet of the Apes twist, and they at the end would discover, as well as we would, that it’s actually us.” But, he added, “it was so bizarre that I had to sort of pull back.”

9. A LEGENDARY CINEMATOGRAPHER HELPED STRETCH WALL·E TO NEW TECHNICAL HEIGHTS.

Cinematographer Roger Deakins, who has been nominated for a whopping 12 Oscars, served as a visual consultant on WALL·E, helping the animators figure out how to make the movie look like it was filmed with actual cameras. “Very often, animated films feel like they’re recorded in some kind of computer space,” producer Jim Morris noted. “We wanted this film to feel like cinematographers with real cameras had gone to these places and filmed what we were seeing. We wanted it to have artifacts of photography and to seem real and much more gritty than animated films tend to be.”

10. THERE ARE EASTER EGGS GALORE! 


Disney/Pixar

It’s a Pixar movie, so you know there are a lot of Easter eggs. Among them: Hamm the pig and Rex the dinosaur from Toy Story, plus Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc., can be seen in WALL·E’s truck near the beginning of the film. Skinner’s scooter from Ratatouille and the Pizza Planet truck are rusting in one of Earth’s many trash heaps. A reference to “A113,” a classroom at CalArts where many Pixar animators studied, can be found in every Pixar movie, and WALL·E gave it what Stanton called its “most obvious” placement: as the name of the directive that states humans can never go back to Earth. And when WALL·E creates a statue of Eve, the lamp he uses for her arm is none other than the star of Oscar-winning Pixar short Luxo Jr.

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