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Snow White Wishing Well and Grotto in Disneyland

There’s quite a story behind the Snow White Grotto just off to the side of Sleeping Beauty Castle. One account claims that it all started with an unexpected gift from an Italian sculptor

There’s quite a story behind the Snow White Grotto just off the East side of Sleeping Beauty Castle. One account claims that it all started with an unexpected gift from an Italian sculptor to Walt Disney. Could Snow and her 7 dwarfs have been based on a European boxed, soap set?

Snow White Grotto in Disneyland with wishing well in foreground

Disney Legend John Hench worked directly with Walt in designing this peaceful, tranquil, garden-like setting just over a wooden bridge to the SE corner of Sleeping Beauty Castle.

One popular story states that it that it all began when a Milan-based sculptor, Leonida Parma, carved a beautiful set of Carrera marble statues of Snow White and the 7 dwarfs as a gift to Walt and shipped them to the U.S. The sculptor chose as his reference/model a set of soap figurines that were popular in Europe at the time.

Side note: apparently the original marble statues did not tolerate the elements over the years and were replaced by fiberglass in the 1980’s.

To fit into the packaging, all the soap characters were molded to the same height, so the sculptor followed suit and carved Snow White the same height as her seven dwarfs. But in the movie, of course, the dwarfs appeared to be about 3 feet high.

Closeup of Snow White in grotto with a deer at Disneyland

So Hench came up with a plan to place Snow White’s statue up high at the top of a waterfall next to some smaller-than-normal woodland creatures. Then he positioned the 7 dwarfs lower and closer to the guests, making them appear larger. This idea is called forced perspective.

Snow White Grotto in Disneyland with 7 dwarfs and waterfall

However, Jim Korkis in his very excellent book, Secret Stories of Disneyland (pg 134 top), states another possible scenario:

“After Hench’s death, paperwork was discovered that the statues were actually commissioned by Disney…”

– Jim Korkis

Snow White Wishing Well

Snow White Wishing Well
Credit: Flickr Anna Fox (CC BY 2.0)

This blue-roofed wishing well is one of the most romantic spots in all of Disneyland and has witnessed more than a few marriage proposals. It dates back to 1961 and attracts plenty of guests’ spare change – all of which is donated to local children’s charities.

If you toss in a coin, the wishing well may play the song, “I’m Wishing,” from the original movie soundtrack as sung by Snow White’s original voice artist Adriana Caselotti (1916-1997). The Disney people asked her to re-record the song in the 1980’s, and she had trouble hitting some of the higher notes. But in one, last final take, she nailed it.

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