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

Disney ParksA view of Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom in 2019.
  • Since Disney World opened in 1971, Cinderella Castle has become a landmark of the Orlando, Florida, theme park.
  • Though its always maintained its regal structure, the landmark has changed quite a bit over the years.
  • In 1996, for example, the castle temporarily resembled a pink birthday cake.
  • And starting in 2007, Disney World began to celebrate winter holidays by decorating the castle with thousands of sparkling lights.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Nothing says you’ve arrived at Disney World quite like seeing Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom.

Since the theme park first opened in 1971, the iconic landmark has welcomed both longtime parkgoers and first-time guests. However, it hasn’t always looked exactly the way it does in pictures.

From a pink birthday overlay to new lighting features, here’s how Cinderella Castle has changed over the years.

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

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

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 fibreglass 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.

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

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.

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

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 colourful 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.

Chris O’meara/APCinderella Castle remained pink for more than a year.

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.

Robert Sullivan/Getty ImagesParkgoers celebrate Disneyland’s 50th anniversary on May 5, 2005.

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.

Hilary WhiteCinderella Castle was temporarily ‘vandalised’ by Stitch in 2005.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Handout/Getty ImagesA view of ‘The Magic, The Memories, and You!’ on November 9, 2011.

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 last year, Cinderella Castle looked a lot like it did when Magic Kingdom opened in 1971.

Disney ParksA view of Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom in 2019.

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-grey colours, pointed spires, and gold accents throughout 2019.

Soon, however, Cinderella Castle will look very different.

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

In February, Jason Kirk, the vice president of Magic Kingdom, announced in a Disney Parks Blog post that the iconic structure will be getting a makeover in honour 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’s unclear when parkgoers will 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, though they had to halt work on the castle in March due to coronavirus restrictions.

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

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, Disney World shined blue lights on Cinderella Castle in honour of healthcare workers.

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

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.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.