Neuschwanstein Castle is said to have inspired Walt Disney. This is the untold story of the Bavarian castle, which attracts 1.5 million visitors a year, and is also known as the ‘castle of the fairy tale king.’ Just over 150 years ago, in 1869, construction of Neuschwanstein Castle began in Bavaria, Germany. This documentary gives a behind-the-scenes view of the famous building, which is said to have inspired the Disney castle. Neuschwanstein was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria, a man known also as the Swan King or the Fairy Tale King, but also as Mad King Ludwig. Ludwig II did not enjoy reigning. He dreamt of a life surrounded by nature, was an ardent fan of Wagner, and loved mythical imagery. Neuschwanstein Castle was his dream realized in stone. But it was also a withdrawal from his duties as head of state. And the more Ludwig II hid away in his dream castle, the more he angered his ministers. They saw his artistic and architectural projects as overly extravagant. Eventually, this ‘overindulgence’ was used as grounds to declare him insane.
He was interned in 1886. Just days later, he drowned in Lake Starnberg under mysterious circumstances, together with the psychiatrist who had certified him insane. Six weeks after the death of Ludwig II of Bavaria, the castle was opened to visitors. The decision was also an effort to convince the public that the king had been ‘mad,’ and many came to see the castle. Then came the World Wars and Neuschwanstein was briefly forgotten by the public. During the Third Reich, Nazis misused it to store looted art. But the castle survived the wars unscathed. After the end of World War II, U.S. troops reached the castle. Before long, it had become a favorite among GIs stationed in Germany, and Neuschwanstein was once again a much-loved tourist attraction. Today, it’s a tourist phenomenon. This documentary offers a behind-the-scenes view of Neuschwanstein, a place that continues to cast its spell on those who visit, as the legend of King Ludwig II of Bavaria lives on.