Zelda: Breath of the Wild is Based on Disney’s Magic Kingdom, and I Can Prove It
*Spoiler Warning: This post discusses the Breath of the Wild map in depth, and may spoil the locations of places and items you might want to find on your own.*
The first time I stepped into the vast open world of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and looked out at the looming castle where Ganon waited for our final battle, I thought the same thing that I’m sure many players thought:
Wow, that . . . really looks like the Disney castle.
The similarities between BOTW’s corrupted fortress and the place at Disney World where Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck dance around for your amusement are undeniable — a tall central tower surrounded by multiple spires, off-white stone and blue domes, small towers set further out from the castle itself — and all of it surrounded by water that reaches from either side of the castle and into a big circle to the south. It doesn’t take much imagination to look at it all and imagine that you’re actually seeing a post-apocalyptic Magic Kingdom.
But like most players, I wrote it off as coincidence — just two designs drawing from the same architectural influences. However, earlier this year I started planning a trip to Disney World, which meant spending plenty of time looking at the map of the Magic Kingdom park. And the more I looked at it, the more familiar it seemed — eerily familiar, in fact. The layouts, the features, and even some small details of those two maps are weirdly similar. I’m now convinced that the BOTW designers had to be using the Magic Kingdom as a reference for Hyrule. Don’t believe me? Here’s the evidence.
South of the Castle: Central Hyrule and Main Street U.S.A.
Moving directly south of Hyrule Castle, we find the Central Square — a large statue stands at the center, surrounded by circular paths with radial branches.
Just south of Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom, we find exactly the same configuration: a circular path with spokes leading out to different areas of the park, and at the center — the statue of Walt and Mickey.
From both of these locations, there’s a path leading directly south to a town area: Hyrule’s Castle Town Ruins and Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, U.S.A. And on both maps, the path leads to a smaller circular area, Town Square/Sacred Ground Ruins.
A little to the west of here is my favorite connection between these maps: the Ancient Tree Stump in BoTW, which we can now assume is the ruins of MK’s Swiss Family Tree House.
North of the Castle: Great Hyrule Forest/Eldin Mountains and Fantasyland
If the previous section has you thinking that these are all still coincidences, I’m about to win you over to the “this was on purpose” argument with one sentence:
Just north of both castles, there’s a sword in a stone.
The developers aren’t even trying to hide their source, really. Of all the places they could have put the Master Sword, embedded in stone and waiting for it’s hero to pull it out, they chose the area north of the castle — exactly the spot in Magic Kingdom where you’d find the sword in the stone from “The Sword in the Stone”.
Look a little to the east and the similarities continue. The rocky Goron City matches up nicely with the rocky Be Our Guest Restaurant, just with lava flows nearby instead of a river. And east of that is Death Mountain, where the Gorons do their mining, which pairs a little too perfectly with the Seven Dwarves Mine Train on the Magic Kingdom map.
The water-loving Zora are also in this part of the map, as is Under the Sea — Journey of the Little Mermaid and Ariel’s Grotto on the MK map. Considering that the Dumbo ride is in this section of the park, I’m surprised the BoTW designers didn’t find some excuse to stick an elephant up here — oh wait, they DID.
East of the Castle: Neculuda/Lanayru and Tomorrowland
The eastern section of Magic Kingdom is home to Tomorrowland, an area focused on technology and the world of the future, so it’s no surprise that this is where Link encounters his first tech lab. But the standout connection in this part of the map is further east.
Who could forget the snowy peak of Mount Lanayru, the huge mountain that hid one of the game’s giant dragons? Who could forget soaring around with that spiraling dragon, curing it of its corrupted eyes?
And who could forget Space Mountain: also large, circular, and white-capped, also on the eastern edge of the map, where you ride a spiraling roller coaster?
West of the Castle: Tabantha Frontier and Frontierland . . . oh, come on, they’re not even trying to hide it
Like really? The only place in Hyrule with “Frontier” in the name, and they put it directly west of the castle, just like Frontier Land in the Magic Kingdom?
And of course, a little to the north we’ve got the Hebra Mountains on one map, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad on the other. Both maps have notable large waterfalls in this area, Spash Mountain and Hebra Plunge.
Further south in Magic Kingdom, you’ll find the Magic Carpets of Aladdin, and further south in Hyrule you’ll find Gerudo Town, where carpets are all over the place.
The One Nagging Problem
There is one big problem with this theory, and since I’ve left off in the southwestern area you probably see what it is: Gerudo Desert. What could be the Magic Kingdom equivalent of Gerudo Desert?
It’s such a huge area, separate from everywhere else. Any BotW player has spent a good bit of time moving across that seemingly endless, flat, open space, while trying to manage the unforgiving heat. What at Disney could that possibly be a nod to?
I wondered the same thing. And then I realized:
Gerudo Desert is the parking lot.
- Images of Breath of the Wild were captured in-game by me, except for the image of the Master Sword, which I captured from a promotional video. Images of the Magic Kingdom map are screen captures from the My Disney Experience online map. Photos of the inside of the park were taken by me.
- This online map of Breath of the Wild was invaluable in working on this piece.