Ever watch a film and instantly want to visit its location? Here’s a list of Disney Animated movies that have real-life references to inspire you to travel!

Written by: Reb Czukoski – December 12th, 2021 12:34 pm pst

Tangled, Frozen, Encanto, Moana

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Disney has made a lot of beautiful animated movies that make the viewers long to be part of their worlds. We’ve seen in the past how they transform real recipes into fictional food that makes our mouths water, but they also need to be applauded for the scenery in their films that catch any wishful travelers’ eye. Here’s a list of 5 top Disney worlds with references from real places that inspire people to want to visit them.


Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Set in a fantastical version of Colombia, Encanto follows the Madrigal family, a group of people with powers that help keep their land flourishing. The main character Mirabel hasn’t been blessed with a gift like the others in her family, but it is her duty to keep the bond between them all strong. 

The film has received lots of positive reviews in its accuracy to what Colombian culture looks like in the valleys. The directors of the film traveled to destinations in real life like the Cocora Valley, Barichara, and Cartagena to gather inspiration for what the film could look like. So although the town itself is meant to be fictional and mystical, a lot of the motifs like colorful houses and wax palm trees are recreated extremely well. All of the beautiful parts of Colombia are highlighted in the movie and even though it has only been released for a few weeks now it has already made back the box office budget that it took to produce the film, so if you’re interested, it’s not available online yet but you should definitely go watch it in theatres!

Big Hero 6

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Hiro Hamada is a robotics prodigy and has been joined by a companion named Baymax, which was the robotic healthcare creation of his deceased brother. There is a plausible chance that someone is responsible for his brother’s death, so the two form a team of engineers that go on to defeat the masked villain. 

The city that the movie takes place in is called San Fransokyo. This location was a place in California for Japanese immigrants in San Francisco before the earthquake of 1906 that wreaked havoc on the land. The fictional land was made as an alternative universe to the parts of San Francisco that were booming with Japanese culture, thus blending elements of San Francisco and Tokyo to gather this fictional image. This film was the highest-grossing movie in the year that it came out and even won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. We long to visit San Francisco and Tokyo alike from the film alone, so if you want to watch it to see how beautiful it is, it’s available on Disney+!

Raya and the Last Dragon

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

A warrior princess wants to recover a dragon gem that would be able to bring her father back and destroy the evil souls that live in her land. These spirits, otherwise known as the Druun, have been turning living creatures into stone and destroying the land, so it’s up to Raya to save her home. 

Raya lives in the fictional land of Kumandra, which was based on many different Southeast Asian cultures. Some of these inspirations required research trips to visit Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The screenplay was written by both Vietnamese-American writer, Qui Ngyuen, and Malaysian-American writer, Adele Lim, and the two explained their process for developing the story through different geographical locations and how all of those elements were able to create this individual story while still being culturally accurate. Although this film didn’t do as well in the box office as some of its counterparts, possibly due to the pandemic, it’s a celebration of Southeast Asian culture ranging from food to music, to martial arts, so if you want to be part of the experience you can watch it on Disney+!

Tangled and Frozen

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Rapunzel from Tangled is a princess secluded to a tower in the depths of the forest, providing her mother with the magic that comes from her long blonde hair. Princess Elsa and Anna from Frozen deal with the effects of Elsa’s magic because of the danger she can cause, which makes Elsa run away from her home on her coronation day after revealing her powers by accident.

There have been conspiracy theories as to whether or not these two films took place in the same location and they have yet to be debunked. Tangled takes place in the fictional kingdom of Corona even though the original fairytale of Rapunzel was set in Germany, while Frozen is set in the kingdom of Arendelle, supposedly based on different locations in Norway. Germany is not a nordic country, but with the history of Germany’s occupation in Norway and other northern European countries, it makes sense that there would be overlap in the two lands. While there have been fan theories about whether or not the two are in the same location, both of the movies have very similar cultural influences from the respective countries that they were based on, and have similar stylistic choices in the villages that they are set in. We suggest that you watch both of these films on Disney+ to make that decision for yourself!


Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

The daughter of a chief to her Polynesian village, Moana, feels chosen by the ocean to go and fulfill the prophecy of returning an artifact to Te Fiti. She searches for the help of a demigod, Maui, to save her land from the dangers to come.

The island of Motunui where the film takes place is fictional, but it’s based on the heritage, myths, and history of places like Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, and Tahiti. Maui is also a form of Polynesian mythology for many people of that culture, so basing the character off of that helped to portray the rich history of the ocean and island voyaging. The film was extremely popular and shows the beauty in the Polynesian islands, making anyone who watches the film fall in love with the setting. If you’re interested in taking in the beautiful cultures you should stream it on Disney+!

About The Author:

Reb Czukoski is an intern with AfterBuzz TV and a senior at Emerson College studying visual media arts with a focus in animation and minoring in peace and social justice. They are currently pursuing a career in animation and graphic design, with an interest in movies, music, and social media.

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