« August 2014 | Main

September 2014 Archives

September 1, 2014

Landscaping the World - Epcot - Part One

Jack Spence Masthead


Epcot encompasses about 300 acres. I realize that once you subtract the buildings, walkways, and World Showcase Lagoon this number is diminished greatly, but this is still an enormous amount of property to landscape and maintain.

In case after case, Disney uses trees to create a visual barrier. Take a look at these Epcot examples.


Row of Trees

Row of Trees

Row of Trees

Row of Trees


Many people, including myself, often compare Future World with Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom. When Epcot was new, this was a fair comparison as both areas promoted science and technology. Today, that association becomes weaker as Tomorrowland has become a far more fanciful land than it was in the 1970s and 1980s. However, the architecture found in Future World and Tomorrowland still has some similarities. In both cases, the Imagineers were trying to envision a future with grand structures and massive expanses. Nevertheless, there is one major difference between the two. That difference is landscaping.

The Imagineers learned their lesson with Tomorrowland. As wonderful as this futuristic land was, they found out that people wanted some trace of nature. Concrete is cold. Plants are soothing. To that end, the Imagineers corrected this shortcoming and filled every nook and cranny of Future World with greenery and flowers.

Take a look at the Epcot ticket booths. The massive columns that support the overhang are surrounded by plants. A short walk away, the main entrance is augmented with more planters.


Ticket Booths

Main Entrance


For a long time, the entrance plaza of Epcot was filled with squat planters containing low growth and small trees. This area was open and provided guests with a vast expanse.


Epcot Forecourt

Epcot Forecourt

Epcot Forecourt


For the Millennium Celebration, the Imagineers removed most of these planters and replaced them with 35 granite monoliths ranging in height from 3 to 19 feet. On their surfaces was room for approximately 700,000 one-inch-square photo etchings. Many people loved this addition while others felt it blocked off the panoramic view of this area.


Epcot Forecourt


The grounds of Epcot are magnificent year round, but each spring, the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival transforms this park from fantastic to spectacular with the addition of even more plant life and topiary. Although this article will not be focusing on that event, it must be mention when discussing the first flower bed guests encounter when entering the park.


Epcot Flowerbed


Each year, this simple planter is transformed for this annual event and greets guests with a fantastic array of color and fancy.


Flower and Garden

Flower and Garden


Guests encounter a well-tended symmetrical garden when approaching Spaceship Earth.


Spaceship Earth


A number of years ago, a large awning was built behind Spaceship Earth. It was a desperately needed addition as shade was difficult to find in this area. To secure this covering, massive cables were attached to anchors on the ground. To help "hide" these anchors, potted plants have been positioned nearby.


Awning

Awning Anchor


When Epcot first opened, a very unusual palm tree grew directly behind the Spaceship Earth lounge. Today, two such trees grow in this flower bed.


Palm Tree

Palm Tree


From the very beginning, the Imagineers have used foliage to soften and hide the massive walls and windows of Communicore/Innoventions. Here are a few examples.


Bushes Hiding Buildings

Bushes Hiding Buildings

Bushes Hiding Buildings


For many years, a garden and flagpole sat in the middle of Communicore/Innoventions Plaza. It was removed when the stage was added behind the fountain to make up for the lost pedestrian space and provide more viewing area for performances.


Flagpole

Missing Flagpole


In Future World West we see a number of planters gracing the entrances of The Seas with Nemo and Friends, The Land, and the Imagination Pavilions. Once again, this was the Imagineers attempt to distance this area from Tomorrowland. Besides flowers, massive trees fill this space.


Future World West

Future World West

Future World West

Future World West


Before Nemo came to Epcot, the foliage in front of the Living Seas Pavilion played a much smaller role in creating an atmosphere. This can be seen in the first two pictures. Today, this area is thick with lush growth as can be seen in the third and fourth pictures.


Nemo and Friends

Nemo and Friends

Nemo and Friends

Nemo and Friends


Flanking the Land Pavilion to the north and south are two vast expanses of lawn. Technically, these spaces are place holders for future pavilions. Of course, I wouldn't hold my breath of anything happening soon. So to make this area more attractive, the Imagineers have planted a number of shrubs and sculpted them into fanciful hedges.


Future World Lawn

Future World Lawn


When Epcot opened, a group of palm trees graced the entrance to the Land Pavilion. These were replaced a few years ago with shade-producing deciduous trees.


Land Pavilion

Land Pavilion


Beneath these trees is a simple water garden and a patchwork of ground cover and river rocks. The various colors and textures create a beautiful work of art.


Land Pavilion

Land Pavilion


Perhaps the most celebrated garden in all of Walt Disney World can be found inside the Land Pavilion. The "Living with the Land" attraction takes riders on a 14 minute journey through tropical and temperate greenhouses, highlights aquacell farming, and discusses a multitude of innovative growing techniques.


Living with the Land

Living with the Land

Living with the Land

Living with the Land


The primary draw factor for the Imagination Pavilion is an "up" waterfall and playful fountains. Still, plants play a part in the overall design. Take a look at the sign out front. It is overflowing with growth. In addition, the base of the pyramid features a number of planters. This can be seen in both the old and new color schemes.


Imagination Pavilion

Imagination Pavilion

Imagination Pavilion


For a number of years, a topiary of Figment graced the upper terrace of this pavilion. But alas, he has been retired.


Figment


Here's a little known fact about Epcot. When the park first opened, Future World West was supposed to represent the right brain, the artistic side. This was represented by curving walkways, rounded planters, and water features. Future World East was supposed to represent the left brain, the logical side. This was represented by the straight walkways and angular planters. Some of this has been removed over the years, but it is still evident if you look for it.

The landscaping of the Energy Pavilion is rather modest. A simple flowerbed follows the straight lines of the reflecting pool. However the sides of the building are flanked by thick growth. This lush landscaping was selected to help tell the story of the prehistoric world we're about to enter.


Energy Pavilion

Energy Pavilion

Energy Pavilion


Inside the Energy Pavilion, the Imagineers needed to create an entire world of ancient growth. For the foreground scenes they replicated a forest of realistic looking plants. For the background scenes, nearly 500 running feet of murals were created.


Energy Pavilion

Energy Pavilion


Mission: Space is flanked on each side by a large stand of trees. Besides framing this futuristic structure, these trees help hide backstage buildings from guests' view.


Mission Space

Mission Space


The pavement in front of Mission Space contains a number of curved lines embedded in the concrete. These are supposed to represent the orbits of planets and other space objects. Notice how the floral design surrounding the attraction's marquee follows this same pattern.


Mission Space

Mission Space


Near the Mission: Space shop is a sloping wall. Take note of how the hedge is cut to match the incline.


Mission Space


When Epcot opened, there was an attraction in Communicore called Electronic Forum. Here, guests would enter an "electronic" theater where each seat was equipped with four buttons labeled A through D. On stage was a cast member who would asked topical questions and guests could voice their opinion by pressing one of these buttons. The answers were immediately tabulated and projected on an overhead screen. The results were also shared with recognized research-based organizations. Outside this theater were dozens of television monitors broadcasting news programs from all over the world. One channel even broadcast live from the House of Representatives. To make all of this communication possible, two huge satellite disks were positioned nearby.


Satellite Disks


The Electronic Forum only lasted a few years before it was discontinued and this area was converted into additional shopping space. However, the outdated satellite disks remained until the early 2000s. Today, these disks have been replaced by trees.


Replacement Trees


That's it for today. Check back tomorrow when I'll be discussing the gardens of World Showcase.


September 2, 2014

Landscaping the World - Epcot - Part Two

Jack Spence Masthead


Yesterday I discussed the landscaping found in Epcot's Future World. Today I'll finish this park with a look at World Showcase.

The main entrance into World Showcase always contains manicured hedges and brightly colored ground cover or flowers. In November and December, this area is used to display the yearly Christmas tree.


World Showcase Entrance

Christmas Tree


This spot is also used for the annual Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. The first picture below was taken during one of the earlier events. The following picture was taken of this same location, but in 2014. Notice how much more detail the horticulturists are adding to these topiary figures today.


Old Topiary

New Topiary


The pyramid of the Mexico Pavilion is supposed to be located somewhere in the tropical regions of this vibrant country. To help us believe the story, the structure is bordered by a lush forest.


Mexico Pavilion

Mexico Pavilion

Mexico Pavilion


On the other side of the promenade, La Hacienda and La Cantina are presumed to be located along an arid coastline. Once again, landscaping helps us believe this. Here, the plants are succulents and cactus with a rocky ground cover. The occasional potted plant also helps us believe that water is at a premium.


Mexico Pavilion

Mexico Pavilion

Mexico Pavilion


Trees play an important part of the Norway Pavilion design. After all, this Scandinavian country has a number of thick forests. To introduce guests to the pavilion the Imagineers placed two stands of trees near the entrance.


Norway Pavilion


Within the pavilion, trees can be found in abundance.


Norway Pavilion

Norway Pavilion

Norway Pavilion


At the back of the pavilion is a lovely garden. For years, a deciduous and two pine trees occupied this space and provided welcome shade. When I visited recently to take pictures for this article, I found that these trees were gone. I don't know if this is a temporary or permanent change.


Norway Pavilion

Norway Pavilion


The meadows of Norway are represented by a garden of wild flowers found outside Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.


Norway Pavilion

Norway Pavilion


The exterior of the Kringla Bakeri og Kafe was modeled after structures found in the Setesdahl Valley of Norway. Sod roofs were once common in this part of the country. Before the sod is placed on the structure, birch bark is laid across the roof as the watertight element. The main purpose for the sod is to hold the birch bark in place. In addition, sod is an excellent insulator and its heavy weight helps stabilize the structure.

Notice how the flowers are missing in the second roof photo.


Norway Pavilion

Norway Pavilion

Norway Pavilion

Norway Pavilion


China is known for its gardens. So perhaps that is why one of the most beautiful gardens in all of Walt Disney World can be found in the China Pavilion at Epcot. Once passed the Gate of the Golden Sun, you cross a bridge which traverses a lovely lotus pool surrounded by a typical Chinese garden. These gardens were inspired by those in Suzhou, a large city located adjacent to Shanghai.


China Pavilion

China Pavilion


Care was given when the Imagineers selected the plants for this garden. As always, they wanted to tell a story. For example, this Contorted Mulberry tree tells two stories. First, it was selected for its beauty. In China, this tree provides florists with a number of possibilities. Its foliage is large and turns golden in the autumn before the leaves fall. In the winter, its twisted branches add beauty to any garden or flower arrangement.


China Pavilion

China Pavilion


But this mulberry tree was also selected to represent China's silk industry. Silk moths lay their eggs on mulberry leaves and their offspring feed on the greens until entering the larvae stage. At that time, the caterpillar encloses itself in a cocoon made from one single strand of silk. This strand can range in length from 1,000 to 3,000 feet, which can be unraveled and turned into thread. The famous Silk Road came into being sometime between 206 BCE - 220 CE. Although many goods were traded along this route between Asia and the Mediterranean, its name came from the magnificent silk textiles produced in China.

Another plant found in the China garden is the camellia. This beautiful bush with dark green leaves and an array of different colored blossoms is a native of eastern Asia. It was cultivated in China and Japan for centuries before being exported to Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. In China, camellias are known as cháhuā (flowering tea) as many specimens are suitable for brewing.


China Pavilion

China Pavilion


How can we speak of Asia and not think of bamboo? This member of the grass family is widely used in China as a building material and as a food source. In Hong Kong, contractors use bamboo scaffolding (rather than metal piping) when building skyscrapers reaching 30 to 40 stories high.


China Pavilion

China Pavilion


The water lily can also be found in this lovely Chinese garden. These plants are native to the tropical climes of the world and are a common sight in Southern Chinese ponds. Much of this plant is edible.


China Pavilion

China Pavilion


The Germany Pavilion does not have a formal garden as found in the China Pavilion, but landscaping still helps shape the mood here.

To the left side of the pavilion is Snow White's wishing well. This is a great spot to have your picture taken with Walt's first princess. But if you check out this spot when Ms. White is busy cleaning the dwarves' cottage, you can see some interesting living details. The landscapers have allowed vines and other plants to grow up the side and beneath the roof of this structures. This helps us believe that the well has been here for years and not just a prop.


Germany Pavilion

Germany Pavilion


The Germany Pavilion features a lovely park with a number of tree-shaded benches that look out onto World Showcase Lagoon. This is a wonderful spot to sit and relax for a few minutes when your tired feet can take no more. This area is also a great spot to watch Illuminations.


Germany Pavilion

Germany Pavilion


Within the platz you'll find a smattering of landscaping. The first instance is the flowerbed that surrounds the statue of Saint George. Once again, notice how the plants change over the months and years.


Germany Pavilion

Germany Pavilion

Germany Pavilion


Hanging baskets are also represented in the Germany Pavilion.


Germany Pavilion


And on the upper floors we find window boxes filled with geraniums. Non-living geraniums, that is.


Germany Pavilion

Germany Pavilion


The first annual Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival was held in the spring of 1993. Each year since the festival's inception, the always beautiful Epcot is transformed into an even more magnificent park with the addition of topiary, displays, and thousands of additional plants and flowers. If you've never attended this event, it is worth considering when planning your next trip to Walt Disney World.

One of the early exhibits for this festival was a garden railway built next to the Germany Pavilion. Each year, a miniature town and train was erected for the delight of guests, then at the completion of the event, the layout was dismantled. However, the layout became so popular that it was eventually decided to make it a year-round exhibit. The display features LGB trains and structures.


Germany Pavilion

Germany Pavilion

Germany Pavilion


LGB stands for Lehmann Gross Bahn (Lehmann Big Railway) after the company's founder, Ernst Paul Lehmann. All locomotives, track, and accessories are built to run in rain and snow, which is why the Epcot train continues operating even during summer downpours. LGB trains are "G" gauge (scale), meaning the track's rails are 45 mm (1.772 in) apart. During the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, LGB often has a booth in this area selling their wares, along with some specially designed Disney engines and cars.

The Italy Pavilion owes its inspiration to opulent 16th century villas of the Italian Renaissance. It's interesting to note, most of the landscaping seen here can be found growing in terracotta pots. Terracotta is Italian for "baked earth."


Italy Pavilion

Italy Pavilion

Italy Pavilion

Italy Pavilion

Italy Pavilion

Italy Pavilion


However, the Italy Pavilion does have a few plants that have put down more permanent roots. The first of these is an olive tree which pays homage to the olive industry so associated with this country. In fact, Italy is second only to Spain in world production of this fruit.


Italy Pavilion


Next to the Neptune Fountain is a long, stone wall. Planted here are grape vines. This, of course, represents Italy's wine industry. Italy produces approximately one-fifth of the world's wine, making it the largest producer in the world. Italy cultivates grapes in virtually every region of the country and has thousands of vineyards. Italians also lead the world in wine consumption. Per capita, they drink 18½ gallons a year as compared to 6½ gallons in the U.S.


Italy Pavilion


The horticulturists of Walt Disney World often use substitute plants for the actual variety when selecting species for the countries of World Showcase. After all, the weather in Central Florida is vastly different from that found in many of the regions represented. The only wine-producing grape that will grow in the hot and humid climes of Orlando is the Muscatine grape. This grape is native to the Southern United States and creates a sweet wine. This is not a varietal you would commonly see in Italy.

Two Southern Live Oaks anchor The American Adventure. Currently, the flowers beneath these trees create a five-pointed star. At Christmas time these will be replaced with poinsettias, as will hundreds of other flower beds around Walt Disney World.


The American Adventure

The American Adventure

The American Adventure


The fountain in front of the theater's main entrance is also transformed into a garden at Christmas time which will provide space for a Christmas tree.


The American Adventure

The American Adventure


Since opening, the America Gardens Theatre has used trees to help shade the audience. These were recently swapped out for a new variety.


The American Adventure

The American Adventure


Gardens play an important part in Japanese culture. The Imagineers kept this in mind when designing the Japan Pavilion and devoted much of the available space here to landscaping.

Originally transported to Japan from China, the Japanese garden has evolved over time and taken on a distinctive look of its own. While Buddhist gardens were designed for meditation and contemplation, gardens of the nobility were intended for recreation and aesthetic pleasure. As gardens grow and mature, they are constantly sculpted to maintain and enhance the overall experience. In Japan, gardening is considered a high art form.


Japan Pavilion

Japan Pavilion


A typical Japanese garden contains a number of elements in its design. These include water, rocks & sand, bridges, architecture, lanterns, fences, trees & flowers, and fish. All of these can be found in the Japan Pavilion garden.

Water - Japanese consider water to be a life source and thus is abundant at the Japan Pavilion.


Japan Pavilion


Rocks & Sand - Rocks in Japan represent the enduring nature of the Earth. Most of the larger stones found at the Japan Pavilion were imported from North Carolina and Georgia since boulders are scarce in Florida.


Japan Pavilion


Bridges -- Bridges symbolize transition, the passing from one segment of your life to another. In other words, "We have made it this far. Do we want to turn back? Do we wish to continue on the same path? Or change direction?"


Japan Pavilion


Architecture -- Traditional Japanese architecture has been characterized by wooden structures, elevated slightly off the ground, with tiled or thatched roofs. Inside, sliding wooden doors were used in place of walls, allowing for the customization of space depending on the need.


Japan Pavilion


Lanterns -- Stone lanterns were introduced by tea masters to guide guests through their gardens to the tea ceremonies held in the evening.


Japan Pavilion


Fences - Fences are often used in Japanese Gardens to compartmentalize. It's not uncommon for several types of landscaping to be displayed in one area. A fence can add beauty and helps divide one section of the garden from another.


Japan Pavilion


Trees & Flowers - Evergreen trees are symbols of eternal life and are plentiful at the Japan Pavilion. Because of the climatic difference between Japan and Florida, only a few trees native to Japan can be found at the Japan Pavilion. Some of these include the Sago Palm, the Japanese Maple, and the Monkey-puzzle tree. Azaleas, native to several continents, including Asia, can also be found here.


Japan Pavilion


Fish -- Koi are simply domesticated carp that are used to decorate ponds and water gardens. They were first bread by the Japanese in the 1820's for their distinctive color. They were virtually unknown to the outside world until 1914 when they were exhibited at an exhibition in Tokyo. Interest was immediate and the hobby of keeping koi spread worldwide.


Japan Pavilion


Rock gardens (Karesansui) are associated closely with Zen Buddhism. Unlike traditional gardens, rock gardens have no water feature. Instead, gravel or sand represents the sea, ocean, rivers, or lakes and sometimes the sky. Raking the stones provides two benefits. First, the patterns are esthetically pleasing and represent waves or ripples. However, achieving this "perfection" is not easy and raking allowed Zen priests to concentrate and meditate while performing this task. When viewing the rock garden at the Japan Pavilion, ask yourself, "Are the large rocks islands in the water, or are they the tops of mountains protruding above the clouds?"


Japan Pavilion


Until the recent addition of Spice Road Table, the Morocco Pavilion had one of the more unusual gardens found in World Showcase. Here, a large waterwheel directed water into a Chahar Bagh (Persian for four gardens). The classic design of a Chahar Bagh has a fountain or holding trough at the center of the garden which flows into four channels at right angles to each other. The four channels are often associated with the four rivers of Paradise as described in the Koran. These waters flow to the four quarters of Heaven.


Morocco Pavilion

Morocco Pavilion


As Morocco is an arid country, lush gardens are not the norm here. In the Morocco Pavilion we see evidence of this as all of the growth is contained in small gardens or in pottery.


Morocco Pavilion

Morocco Pavilion

Morocco Pavilion

Morocco Pavilion

Morocco Pavilion

Morocco Pavilion


In the France Pavilion we find a kiosk surrounded by a ring of trees. Sights like this were once a common scene along Parisian streets. The kiosks served as information boards and displayed advertisements and newspaper articles. The ones seen in the France Pavilion are plastered with the works of French artists, many promoting upcoming exhibits.


France Pavilion


There is a lovely park-like setting bordering the "Seine." Although not accessible to the public, this area of the France Pavilion was inspired by the famous painting "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" by pointillist artist Georges Seurat. In reality, this was better illustrated before International Gateway was build and the embankment installed.


France Pavilion

France Pavilion


It was the Imagineers' desire to create an urban ambiance in the France Pavilion that reflects perpetual springtime in Paris. To achieve this, landscaping plays a vital role. Flowers, blossoming trees, and colorful plants can be seen everywhere. With this foliage, it was hoped that an atmosphere, capable of inspiring an impressionist artist, would be achieved.


France Pavilion

France Pavilion

France Pavilion

France Pavilion

France Pavilion

France Pavilion


Jardin à la française (French formal garden) is a style of landscaping based on balance and symmetry. The idea is to impose "order" into nature. This style of gardening reached its apex in the 17th century when landscape architect André Le Nôtre used his talents at Versailles. In the decades that followed, this style was widely copied by other courts of Europe. A recreation of this gardening technique can be seen in the France Pavilion.


France Pavilion


Between the France Pavilion and International Gateway is an elaborate fleur de lis.


fleur de lis


Behind The Tea Caddy and The Queens Table shops in the United Kingdom Pavilion is a wonderful example of an English cottage garden. In days of old, homeowners would work small patches of their land and grow food items to help supplement their diet. A variety of fruits and vegetables were often planted. Herbs were also found in these gardens, but they were usually planted for medicinal purposes rather than as a seasoning. As the country became more prosperous and fruits and vegetables easier to obtain, flowers began to find their way into these plots. Today, cottage gardens overflow with greenery and color.


United Kingdom Pavilion

United Kingdom Pavilion

United Kingdom Pavilion

United Kingdom Pavilion


The row houses at the back of the pavilion face out onto Disney's version of Hyde Park. Anyone familiar with the real Hyde Park knows that this replica has been scaled down considerably. This area is one of the most peaceful in World Showcase. There are a number of park benches throughout the square and this is a wonderful spot to just sit, relax, and soak in the ambiance.


United Kingdom Pavilion

United Kingdom Pavilion


In the early years, a topiary of Mary Poppins could be found here. With the advent of the annual Flower and Garden show, we began to see less and less topiary in Epcot during the rest of the year. By reducing their numbers during the non-festival months, it became more special during the event.


United Kingdom Pavilion


Across from Hyde Park is a hedge-maze fashioned after the Somerleyton Hall Maze created in 1846. Note, the bushes are about 2½ feet tall so only the youngest of children would find this puzzle challenging. However, it's very common to see adults maneuvering through this classic English maze.


United Kingdom Pavilion


Near the UK Pavilion restrooms is a typical English Renaissance garden and a fountain.


United Kingdom Pavilion

United Kingdom Pavilion


Even though vast portions of the China and Japan Pavilions have been given over to landscaping, when most people think of gardens and World Showcase, they think of the Canada Pavilion and Victoria Gardens. This lovely area was inspired by Butchart Gardens found in British Columbia.

In 1888, Robert Butchart began manufacturing Portland cement in Ontario. He was successful and eventually moved to British Columbia, attracted by the rich limestone deposits found in this area. In 1904, he put down roots here and opened a new factory.
As the years passed, the pit near his home grew deeper and deeper and eventually the deposits of limestone were depleted, leaving an ugly eyesore. However, his wife Jennie, conceived a plan for resurrecting this bleak pit. From farmlands nearby, she requisitioned tons of top soil and had it hauled by horse and cart to the pit. Once the wasteland was covered with nutritious earth, she began to plant an array of trees, shrubberies, and flowers and bit by bit transformed this hole-in-the-ground into the lush garden it is today.

Although Disney's Victoria Gardens can't compete in size with the original Butchart Gardens, they are stunningly beautiful. Flowers are always in bloom and the grass is always verdant green. The Imagineers even included Canada's national symbol, the maple tree. A stand has been planted adjacent to the gardens. And here's an interesting fact for you. The snowy winters of British Columbia haven't been forgotten. During the colder months of the year (by Florida standards), the Disney horticulturist plant white flowers and white-leaved shrubberies to suggest snow. As spring approaches, these white patches are scaled back to the shaded areas beneath the trees to suggest lingering snow. You can see an example of this in the fifth and sixth picture.


Canada Pavilion

Canada Pavilion

Canada Pavilion

Canada Pavilion

Canada Pavilion

Canada Pavilion

Canada Pavilion


Well this finishes up the landscaping of Epcot. I hope you've enjoyed our trip around the world looking at the lush growth that graces these pavilions. Check back next week when I'll be discussing the landscaping of Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom.


September 8, 2014

Landscaping the World - Disney's Hollywood Studios

Jack Spence Masthead


Last week I discussed the landscaping found in Epcot. I pointed out how important this aspect of theme park design is when telling a story and creating a mood. Today I'm going to look at Disney's Hollywood Studios and discuss how plants and trees help this park become more than just a collection of rides and shops.

In reality, the Studio uses landscaping to a much lesser degree than the Magic Kingdom. This is because the Imagineers' initial plans for this park called for it to be a working film and television production center. Yes, there was Hollywood Boulevard and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, but much of the original Studio was nothing more than soundstages. Still, landscaping played a part in this park.

The first landscaping visitors usually notice when arriving at the Studio are the many assortment of palm trees. Since the Studio is supposed to be located in Hollywood (Los Angeles), it was only natural to include this ubiquitous plant everywhere. However, the true story of palm trees and Hollywood might surprise you.


Palm Trees

Palm Trees

Palm Trees

Palm Trees


There is only one palm tree native to Southern California (Washingtonia filifera) and it grows nowhere near Los Angeles. Palm trees didn't become a part of the Southern California scene until the turn-of-the-twentieth-century gardening craze prompted home owners to plant this ornamental tree in their front yards. It wasn't until the 1930's (the same era as Disney's Hollywood Studios) that we saw municipalities begin planting palm trees in earnest. In 1931 alone, the Los Angeles Forestry Division planted more than 25,000 palm trees, many of them still swaying above the city's boulevards today.

Southern California cities planted palm trees to help promote their communities as the ideal place to live and work. Civic leaders wanted those living on the East Coast to believe that Los Angeles was a tropical paradise, even though in actuality, it was a semi-arid desert. And their efforts paid off. People believed the hype and moved to the area by the thousands.

Today, many of these palms are approaching the end of their natural life spans. Because these trees require a large amount of water that the area simply doesn't have in abundance anymore, the L.A. Department of Water and Power has said that it will not replace most palms as they die. Instead, they will look for trees better suited to the dry climate, trees that require less water and offer more shade.

Out front of the Studio is a large planter featuring topiary Sorcerer Mickey and his brooms. For many years, this topiary sat out front of the Hollywood Brown Derby. This is a good example of how the Imagineers are forever changing and moving things to keep the parks fresh and new.


Mickey Topiary

Mickey Topiary

Mickey Topiary


Sid Cahuenga's One-of-a-Kind-Shop is named after the Cahuenga Pass which is located near the Hollywood Bowl. It represents the bungalow style of residential architecture that began in the 1920's. Since this is a house rather than a commercial building, it features a garden and white picket fence that was typical of the time, including animal statuary.


Sid Cahuenga's One-of-a-Kind-Shop

Sid Cahuenga's One-of-a-Kind-Shop


More palm trees are seen lining Hollywood Boulevard. These are Mexican Fan Palms.


Mexican Fan Palms


Southern Live Oak grow like weeds in Central Florida and Disney uses them frequently. One good example can be seen shading the Director's Statue found at the end of Hollywood Boulevard.


Southern Live Oak

Director's Statue


Before the addition of Sunset Boulevard and the Sorcerer's Hat, the plaza in front of the Chinese Theater created a giant Mickey by using Echo Lake and planters strategically placed. Remnants of this Mickey still exist today, but for the most part, he has been obliterated.


Mickey From the Air


Anchoring both sides of the Chinese Theater forecourt are two very unusual planters. Beside these planters are smaller pots holding oddly pruned bushes.


Chinese Theater Planter


On Sunset Boulevard, the landscapers have place flower pots atop stone fence posts. Additional pots flank the many openings leading into Sunset Market.


Sunset Blvd Planters

Sunset Blvd Planters


Behind Catalina Eddie's we find a Victory Garden.


Catalina Eddie's

Victory Garden

Victory Garden


During World Wars I & II, Victory Gardens (also known as War Gardens) were encouraged by various governments, including the United States. Citizens were asked to plant fruits and vegetables in their backyards, apartment terraces, and rooftops. This additional produce would help lower the price of food that the U.S. War Department needed to buy to feed the troops. The money saved could then be spent elsewhere in the military. It's estimated that these gardens produced up to 40 percent of all the fruits and vegetables consumed nationally during the war. And in addition to the tangible benefits, the gardens were considered a morale booster. Since Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards at Disney's Hollywood Studios are set in the 1930's and '40's, it makes sense that you'd find a Victory Garden here.

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster is housed in a building that resembles a soundstage. To help disguise and soften this building, the Imagineers have planted more palm trees and shrubbery along the side of the structure.


Rock 'n' Roller Coaster


The Imagineers have kept the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in a state of arrested decay. In other words, the building has been neglected, but any further deterioration has not been allowed to continue. This can also be seen in the gardens that surround the hotel. The flower beds are overgrown and no longer manicured, yet they have not reached the point of total disarray.


Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror


The grounds outside the Beauty and the Beast Theater are well maintained and layered.


Beauty and the Beast Theater


Over and over again, you will see simple flower beds at the Studio. Once again, this has to do with the fact that this park was supposed to be a working movie and television center and many of the structures were uninspired. The planters help reduce the harsh exteriors.


Wall Planter

Wall Planter

Wall Planter


Over in the Echo Lake area we find the Academy of Television Arts and Science Hall of Fame display. On the wall behind the awards is a beautiful example of climbing plants being trained to grow in a design. I thought you might enjoy seeing an early picture of this pattern and then the fully grown version.


Television Arts and Science Hall of Fame

Television Arts and Science Hall of Fame


The Fifties Prime Time Café is housed in an "office building" that uses the International Style of architecture. This motif came into being during the 1920s and 1930s and represents the beginnings of modern architectural design. Being an office building, the planters and plants here reflect a business-like decorum.


Fifties Prime Time Café

Fifties Prime Time Café

Fifties Prime Time Café


Just a few yards away from the Fifties Prime Time Café we find the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular attraction. Although most of the Raiders of the Lost Ark story takes place in the mountains of Nepal and the arid desert of Egypt, many viewers associate this movie with the film's thrilling beginning which took place in the jungles of Peru. To that end, the area surrounding this stunt show are thick with tropical growth. Not only does this growth set a mood, it also provides a natural barrier between the theater and the adjacent walkway.


 Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

 Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular


Outside the Star Tours attraction we find the home of the Ewoks. Here, the Imagineers have used real and prop trees to recreate the forest dwellings of these cute furry creatures. The Imagineers are also demonstrating that "only what the camera sees need be built." In the first picture below, the scene looks fake. But when you take the same exact photo and crop it correctly, our minds can believe these fake trees tower hundreds of feet into the air.


Star Tours

Star Tours


Across the walkway from Star Tours is a photo op where guests can pose sitting atop a sort of flying motorcycle. (Sorry Star Wars fans, I don't know the official name of this vehicle.) Once again, a distant camera shot looks fake while a cropped shot has realism. In addition, the plants give depth to the picture and help the backdrop look more real. (Okay, you have to use your imagination a little, but you get the point.)


Star Wars Photo Op

Star Wars Photo Op


The Streets of America are lined with a few trees, but for the most part, this section of the Studio is devoid of plants. One exception can be seen in front of the Plaza Hotel. Here, four potted plants add a touch of elegance to this fine establishment.


Plaza Hotel


I almost didn't mention this next attraction, but then I figured, why not.

The Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure is all about plant life. Sure it's fake, but it does immerse guests in greenery.


Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure

Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure

Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure

Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure


Another good example of how the landscapers are forever changing things can be seen with the "Splash" Fountain. Take a look at the plants that circle this water feature and how they have changed over the years.


Splash Fountain

Splash Fountain

Splash Fountain


Before Pixar Place took over much of Mickey Avenue, this thoroughfare had only a scattering of trees and bushes to soften its soundstage exteriors. Now that Toy Story Midway Mania has arrived, the walls feature brick facades and the street is lined with numerous shade trees.


Pixar Place

Pixar Place


Over at Voyage of the Little Mermaid we find a sculptured hedge separating the queue from the walkway. It's easy to miss the shapely bushes while only concentrating on the colorful fish, but without this greenery, these sea creatures would seem out of place.


Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Voyage of the Little Mermaid


Unremarkable greenery can also play an important role in the parks. It can hide sound speakers. Ever notice how the music just seems to be coming from nowhere? Well often it's coming from the bushes.


Hidden Speakers


Like the Magic Kingdom, the Studio uses lampposts to good advantage and we often see flowering baskets hanging from these decorative light fixtures.


Hanging Basket

Hanging Basket

Hanging Basket


I'm certain the fulltime landscapers stationed at the Studio could add volumes to what I have showcased here. But for the most part, I think I've hit the highlights. I hope you've enjoyed this green tour of this smallest of the Walt Disney World parks. I know I learned a few things while researching its plant life. Check back next week when I'll be discussing the Animal Kingdom.


September 15, 2014

Landscaping the World - Disney's Animal Kingdom

Jack Spence Masthead


Disney's Animal Kingdom is the largest of all the Disney parks around the world. And since the theme of this park is animals and nature, it also contains the most growth. A staggering amount of growth. On opening day, over four million plants, big and small, had been added to the landscaping here. Africa alone included 70,000 trees and 770,000 bushes.


Planting Trees


Since the Imagineers wanted the park to look fully established on opening day (April 22, 1998), the landscapers began planting the land over two years in advance. To help in the process, they imported fully grown trees from around the world and used accelerators in their on-property tree farm to vastly speed up a sapling's growth.

Just like at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, a berm was constructed around portions of the park to hide the real world from the one they were creating for guests. And not only would these berms act as a barrier, they would also be a place where additional plants and trees could be grown and "stored" if needed to replace a dying species somewhere in the park at a later date.

This next picture shows the berm as seen from the parking lot. Behind this pile of dirt and dense growth lies Dinoland U.S.A. But you'd never know it from this angle.


Berm


When exiting the parking lot tram, guests pass between four planters filled with bushes and palm trees. Not only are these planters attractive, they also serve to direct passengers away from the walkway Disney bus guests are using. This creates a more uniform traffic flow.


Tram Planters

Tram Planters


When viewed from above, the pavement coloration found in the entrance plaza creates a large tree.


Pavement Tree

Pavement Tree


The Rain Forest Café marquee was designed not only to display the restaurant's name, but at the same time act as a fountain and planter. Although not obvious in this picture, water is flowing from the letters.


Rain Forest Café


I've mentioned in past articles that once the Rainforest Café had vast waterfalls cascading from its roof. Unfortunately, the landscaping grew and grew until this view was completely obscured. Today, scaled backed falls have been created on the side of the building.


Rain Forest Waterfall


Near the back entrance to this restaurant is a miniature rainforest complete with playful animal recreations and some giant toadstools.


Rain Forest Garden

Rain Forest Garden


The Oasis is that area located between the Animal Kingdom turnstiles and the bridge that spans Discovery River on the way to Discovery Island. The Oasis is equivalent to Main Street at the Magic Kingdom. It was the Imagineers intention that this area be used as a decompression spot - an area where guests could transition between the real world and the world of nature and animals.

The Oasis recreates a lush tropical jungle. The only open spaces you'll find here are the pathways that lead guests deeper into the park. Greenery surrounds you at every turn. Yet, there is nothing here that stands out and grabs your attention with the exception of epiphytes.

And epiphyte is a plant that requires no soil to grow. Instead, it attaches itself to other plants but is non-parasitical. It derives its nutrients from the air, rain, and accumulating debris near its base. If you look up into the trees and rocks of the Oasis, you'll see a number of these unique plants. (In some cases, Disney has helped the process along.)


Hanging Plants

Hanging Plants

Hanging Plants

Hanging Plants


Discovery Island at the Animal Kingdom acts like The Hub at the Magic Kingdom. It ties all of the outlying lands together in a harmonious manor. But rather than depict a real geographic location, Discovery Island uses humorous, almost cartoon-like representations of animals to create a whimsical locale that does not conflict with the other areas of the park. One example of this can be seen on the clay pots that act as planters.


Clay Pots

Clay Pots

Clay Pots


Flame Tree Barbeque offers a good example of how the Imagineers don't always get things right the first time around. In the first picture below, you can see a large area of growth surrounding the restaurants marquee. In the second picture you can see this has been scaled back greatly to offer better pedestrian traffic flow.


Flame Tree Barbeque

Flame Tree Barbeque


One of the most beautiful gardens in all of Walt Disney World can be found in the dining area of Flame Tree Barbeque. Here, water, trees, sculpture, and plants combine to create a peaceful atmosphere that has the capacity to calm the most ruffled guests.


Flame Tree Barbeque Reflecting Pool

Flame Tree Barbeque Reflecting Pool


But what I found interesting about this garden is that it uses several potted plants to complete the picture. If I had been designing this park-like setting, I would have made everything look as if it was naturally growing from the earth. Yet these terracotta pots fit right in. In fact, they add a new layer of detail.


Flame Tree Barbeque Reflecting Pool


On several occasions, I have overheard young children ask their parents if the Tree of Life is real. In each case, the parents held back their amusement and patiently explain to their child that the tree was created by Disney. But the question does speak volumes. It shows that the Imagineers created something that looks real when viewed with emotion and without logic.

Notice in this next picture how the landscapers have framed the Tree of Life with real growth. This helps add to the illusion that this is a real tree.


Tree of Life

Around the Tree of Life are the Discovery Island Trails. These take guests on journeys past animals and through dense growth. When walking through some of these overgrown areas, a person's imagination can run wild.


Tree of Life


You might think that the landscaping over at Dinoland U.S.A. would try to recreate the humid tropics in which dinosaurs lived. But for the most part, that's not the case. The backstory for this land tells us that dinosaur bones were discovered near a hunting lodge that was nestled in a forest. To help with this story, a number of deciduous trees can be found around this building.


Dinoland U.S.A.

Dinoland U.S.A.


Years later when time travel was invented and the Dino Institute was established, the developers of this endeavor supplemented the adjacent forest with tropical plants. They wanted to create a primeval world that would appear suitable for dinosaurs. Then they placed recreations of these prehistoric beasts around the property to help promote the Institute and attract tourists.


Dino Institute

Dino Institute

Dino Institute

Dino Institute


Take a look at the Dino Institute's entrance. Sago Palms have been placed atop the monoliths.


Sago Palms

Sago Palms


It's interesting to note, the Sago Palm is not a palm but a cycad. Fossils of this plant have been found around the world and have evolved little since the days of the dinosaurs.

Over at Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama, license plates have been used to create containers for shrubs and spell out the amusement park's name.


Dino-Rama, license plates

Dino-Rama, license plates


At the old gas station, an abundance of discarded tires have been put to good horticultural use.


Tire Planters

Tire Planters


And shrubs and trees help us believe we're actually on Diggs County Road 498.


Diggs County Road 498

Diggs County Road 498


The Theater in the Wild building is big and ugly. Once again, the landscapers have used plants to help hide this structure. In addition, they added a plant motif to the walls.


Theater in the Wild

Theater in the Wild

Theater in the Wild


Asia represents two distinct areas. The first of these is the wet and tropical village of Anandapur. The backstory tells of the Chakranadi (CHAWK-rah-nah-dee) River that is born from the snowmelts in the Himalayas. Its nurturing waters soon reach warmer regions where it feeds the dense jungle. Unrestrained growth is everywhere in Anandapur. What civilization there is in this area needed to be carved out of this jungle growth. Even now, it is a constant battle for the townsfolk to restrain this constant intrusion.

The first example of the ever-infringing jungle can be seen at this ancient idol. Here, a seed found a crack in the stone and began to set down roots. Then another and another. In no time at all, trees sprang forth and the structure began to crumble.


Crumbling Shrine


Over at the Flights of Wonder show we see how the jungle is reclaiming this stone structure.


Flights of Wonder


And in the floodwaters of the Chakranadi River, another tree is wreaking havoc on a temple.


Crumbling Shrine


Along the Maharaja Jungle Trek, the thick growth continues. Take a look at this tree trunk located near the Komodo Dragon. It looks centuries old.


Maharaja Jungle Trek Tree


From this tree, we walk along a thickly forested walkway. It takes no imagination at all to believe you are deep in the heartland of tropical Asia. Even the rocks are being consumed by encroaching greenery.


Maharaja Jungle Trek Walkway

Maharaja Jungle Trek Walkway


As this area was once the private hunting preserve of King Bhima Disampati, it was designed in a fashion befitting of royalty. This even included the landscaping. Take a look at how these once manicured gardens have fallen into disarray. Notice how the stone borders have begun to misalign and shift over the years.


Asian Garden


The blackbuck antelope grazes on a grassy knoll. Here, the Imagineers have tried to trick us into believing that this meadowland goes on forever. But in reality, just beyond the crest of this hill are barriers that keep these animals carefully cordoned off from their nearby tiger predators.


Asian Grassland


Expedition Everest provides tours through the Himalaya Mountains. Guests wishing to explore these mighty peaks charter excursions near the base of this massive chain. In this area, the climate is much dryer than that found at Anandapur. Although trees are present, most of the plants grow low to the ground in an effort to conserve what precious water they receive each year.


Dry Landscaping

Dry Landscaping

Dry Landscaping

Dry Landscaping


Tea is the primary beverage consumed by the people of Asia. So it is no wonder that it can be seen growing in a number of areas around Expedition Everest.


Tea

Tea

Tea


Bamboo is another plant that grows in abundance in Asia. Here at the Animal Kingdom, the landscapers plant this member of the grass family in sturdy containers. If they didn't, it would take over and grow unchecked. Notice in this next picture how the bamboo is growing in clumps. This would not happen in nature.


Bamboo


The walkway that connects Asia with Africa traverses a lush jungle. Along the way you just might run into Devine, the four-legged walking plant.


Asia Africa Walkway

Devine


Harambe is a port town located somewhere on the east coast of Africa. For the most part, the climate is hot with seasonal rains. Although plant life is abundant here, it isn't so thick that the town is fighting continual encroachment as the citizens of Anandapur must endure. If fact, the people of Harambe have used shrubs and trees in planters and gardens to help spruce up their town.


Harambe Landscaping

Harambe Landscaping

Harambe Landscaping


In Harambe we find a Kigelia (or sausage) tree. Today, the tree is primarily grown for ornamental purposes, but the fruit does have its uses. Although the fruit's liquid is poisonous, the flesh can be turned into an alcoholic beverage similar to beer. The gourds are also used by the locals to make herbal medicines that are believed to cure snakebites, syphilis, and rheumatism, among other things.


Kigelia (or sausage) tree

Kigelia (or sausage) tree


Kilimanjaro Safaris first travels through a lush jungle. Here, the plant life creates a canopy of growth that shades much of the roadway. After viewing black rhinos, crocodiles, bongos, and hippopotamuses, we burst out into the savanna where vast grasslands sustain wildebeests, antelope, giraffes, and ankole cattle.


Kilimanjaro Safaris

Kilimanjaro Safaris

Kilimanjaro Safaris

Kilimanjaro Safaris

Kilimanjaro Safaris

Kilimanjaro Safaris


When designing Kilimanjaro Safaris, the Imagineers knew that they could never grow enough plants, trees, and bushes to sustain the animals. Yet, they wanted the area to look natural. To that end, they hid many food troughs behind fake rocks so guests couldn't see these feeding areas. In addition, plants in containers are deposited each night in pre-dug holes. During the day, the animals can munch to their heart's delight, then at night, these spent plants are simply picked up, container and all, and replaced with a new container. This procedure is invisible to the guests and greatly simplifies the landscaper's job.

Several baobab trees can be seen in Harambe and out on the Kilimanjaro Safaris. These trees only bear leaves three months out of the year and the trunks contain vast amounts of water to sustain them during dry periods and droughts. A baobab tree can easily live to be over a thousand years old.


baobab tree

baobab tree


The baobab tree has many uses. The fruit contains three times the vitamin C of an orange, fifty percent more calcium than spinach, and is high in antioxidants. The leaves can be used to make a relish and a sauce or powdered to create a spice. And cooking oil can be extracted from the seeds.

Spoiler alert next two paragraphs:

For those of you who visit often, have you ever noticed that you never seem to call during the three months of the year when baobab trees are sprouting leaves? Well, there is a reason for this. None of the baobab trees you see in the Animal Kingdom are real. As I mentioned earlier, this species can easily live to be over a thousand years old. The trees depicted in Harambe are huge and would be hundreds of years old if real. And since the baobab tree is not native to Florida, Disney had to create reproductions out of concrete and wire. If you look closely at the upper branches, you can see they are actually rebar. Note: There a few real sapling baobab trees in Harambe, but the big ones are fake.


baobab tree


By the way, the termite mounds seen on Kilimanjaro Safaris are not real either. However, the ostrich eggs are authentic. They're just not going to hatch anytime soon as they have been filled with a non-organic material to give them longevity.


Termite Mound

Ostrich Egg

Ostrich Egg


At the end of the safari, we are returned to the jungles of Africa where we can survey the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. Once again, the landscaping in this part of the park is lush and verdant.


Pangani Forest Exploration Trail

Pangani Forest Exploration Trail

Pangani Forest Exploration Trail


When it comes to Rafiki's Planet Watch, the landscaping is unremarkable. For the most part, it is just a continuation of the growth found at Pangani Forest. However, I bet most of you didn't realize that you cross over a canal on the way to Conservation Station. The landscaping is so thick along the trail that it almost completely hides the waterway that runs on both sides of the walkway.


Rafiki's Planet Watch Canal

At Conservation Station, be sure to visit the Song of the Rainforest attraction. Here, Grandmother Willow discusses the importance rainforests play in the earth's ecology and how vital it is to preserve them.


Song of the Rainforest


This concludes my look at the landscaping found at the four Walt Disney World theme parks. I hope you've enjoyed this series and have a new appreciation for the hard work and serious thought that goes into every plant that is grown at Walt Disney World. Except for the rare weed, every plant was placed where it was for a purpose.


September 22, 2014

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Jack Spence Masthead


On several occasions, I have written to tell you that I am leaving AllEars. And on each occasion I have returned after a short amount of time. I was the boy who cried wolf. Well, I'm afraid that I'm repeating that message today. Once again, I'm writing to tell you that I am leaving AllEars. However this time I suspect my departure will be permanent.

There are several reasons for this. First, burnout. Each of my blogs requires between 20-40 hours of work to create each week. This is a big responsibility that I'm finding more and more difficult to commit to.

I'm also finding it problematic to come up with new topics to write about. I've been doing this for eight years now and I've already covered most of the World in one way or another.

And finally, I have other commitments that require my time. Balancing AllEars with the rest of my life can be tricky.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have read my column faithfully over the years. I would also like to thank all of you who have taken the time to write me comments. Your kind words have been my weekly paycheck. I've never shared this with anyone, but I judged the success of my blogs by the number of comments I received. Whenever I received 20 or more, I considered it a homerun.

My old blogs aren't going anywhere. Although my spot on the Blog Page will eventually be eliminated, my articles will remain. The easiest way to find them is to use the SEARCH field found on every page in AllEars. Just type "Jack" followed by the topic you're interested in. If I've covered that topic, it will be listed.

Please, if you see me wandering the parks in the months to come, stop me and say hello. I would love to take a moment and chat with you for a few minutes. Also, remember to stop and smell the roses. Disney details are everywhere. There is so much more to the parks than Space Mountain, Soarin', and Expedition Everest. Walt Disney World is a giant present. Unwrap it slowly and savor every part of it.

All my best to you,

Jack


Jack, Mickey, & Minnie



Return to Blog Central

About September 2014

This page contains all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in September 2014. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2014 is the previous archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.