The 2017 film ‘The Florida Project‘ paints a vivid and immersive story about childhood in poverty through the whimsical yet incredibly whimsical worldview of six-year-old Moonee. Set in Florida, the film follows Moonee over the summer as she welcomes into mischievous, fun-filled days with her friends. Meanwhile, Moonee’s single mother, Halley, a young woman in her 20s, defiant but no less loving for it, struggles to make ends meet.
The pair reside in a low-end motel, Magic Castle, run by the perpetually exhausted but caring manager, Bobby. The motel’s existence as a home to several poverty-stricken families living in the shadows of the famed Disney World nearby occupies a significant space as the backdrop to Moonee’s story. Thus, ripe with thematic resonance, The Magic Castle is bound to make an impression on the audience, leading to curiosity about the motel’s real-life origins.
The Real-Life Inspiration Behind Magic Castle
Yes, The Magic Castle Motel from ‘The Florida Project’ is a real place in Kissimmee, Florida. In real life, the motel is known as the Magic Castle Inn and Suites and has been home to numerous families like Moonee and Halley over the years. As such, the reality of the Magic Castle infuses the film’s fictional plot with immense authenticity and ensures that the narrative reflects a realistic story.
Within the film, the motel is a consistent symbol of the protagonist’s financial issues as the mother-daughter duo near homelessness, which is only kept at bay by their strategic housing in a frugal motel. Moreover, the motel’s location, only six miles away from Walt Disney World, casts a shadow over the story, highlighting a notable juxtaposition in quality of life. The Magic Castle Inn and Suites sports a similar reality.
In a conversation with Phoenix Film Festival, the film’s writer and director, Sean Baker, discussed the real-life location of ‘The Florida Project’s’ motel and said, “It’s an actual place, The Magic Castle, and we were lucky enough [to shoot there]. The owner was extremely generous.” Emphasizing the reality of the situation depicted in his film and its prevalence as a national problem, the filmmaker added, “There are basically people who are holding on to a roof over their heads by using budget hotels throughout the country, as one step away from being on the streets.”
The incorporation of such an everyday landmark that plays a significant role in the lives of numerous people remains reflective of the film and its themes. Furthermore, by choosing a realistic background for Moonee’s life, the film increases its authenticity and provides an immersive experience for the viewers. Therefore, not only is the Magic Castle real, but so is the predicament presented through its residency within the plot.
Recently, the real-life Magic Castle Inn and Suites has proposed a bleak future for its residents. According to the Osceola News-Gazette, June of 2022 saw the displacement of numerous motel residents after the owners sold the property. Although Osceola County’s Human Services attempted to provide as much aid to the former Magic Castle residents as possible, the shift significantly affected many families, further highlighting the role Magic Castle played in many Floridians’ everyday lives.