Sunday, May 3, 2015

Cultivating the Magic Tour at Disneyland

For a few years now, Theresa has wanted to do the Cultivating the Magic tour of Disneyland, but we just never got around to taking it. I figured it'd be awesome to surprise her with it. And not only that, but I got a whole bunch of our friends together to go on it with us! This is going to be great!

All I told T was to save the date of May 3rd. After calling Disneyland Guest Relations I learned that you could only book this tour 30 days out and the tour had a maximum limit of 10 people (not counting kids under 3). I sent out an email to a bunch of my Disney friends and had enough friends who wanted to come that we'd be filling all 10 openings. When April 3rd came around, Ruston and I were on the phone at 9am booking the tour to make sure we got all 10 spots.

Come May 3rd T, Ian and I left the house at 7:20am, with her still having no idea what was going on today. It didn't take too much time on the freeway before she kinda figured we were going to Disneyland. Who's ready to have a fun day?

After we entered the park, I told Theresa that I was kinda feeling like taking a tour today. How about we go on the Cultivating the Magic tour? That got her excited as we walked over to the guided tour booth. As we got close she said "I see Jacob!" and soon after that "and Ruston too!".

Yep, no strangers on this tour. There's T, Ian and I (of course), Ruston and Jacob (who should be very familiar to anyone reading this), Shannon and Nicole (two friends from work who show up for Painting Day, egg decorating, etc), Catherine Pablo and Lucas (also work friends) and Bruce and Roger (two friends who we saw when we spent the night in the Disneyland Dream Suite).

We were asked to check in at 8:30am for our 9am tour. Here we were given our personalized name tags. Ruston showing off his name tag. There's a not so hidden Mickey made of roses, and I love that they used clear tape with our names instead of a regular label maker.

At 9am, our bubbly and excited Disneyland Tour Guide Nicole arrived to pass out our audio receivers and give us our basic operating instructions. This way we'd be able to hear her anywhere within 15 feet or so without having to be right next to her.

"When Walt was originally designing his new park Disneyland he wanted all of the details to be perfect. From the architecture, to the pavements, the trashcans, and even the plants, all play an integral part to the show you see before you. We're going to see Walt Disney's original Magic Kingdom as you have never experienced before. During our 2 hours together we will explore the Magic Kingdom and learn a little bit about the plants and how they enhance the story lines in the different areas around the park."

Our very first stop is of course the entrance to the park. Here we see the giant floral Mickey face that has been welcoming guests to the park ever since it first opened in 1955.

The white and purple flowers representing Mickey's face are made up of over 10,000 flowers and is changed out up to 10 times a year! That's a lot of flowers! The flowers surrounding Mickey are also changed out to fit the seasons, like during the holidays when poinsettias are incorporated.
Nicole also told us how the park was built with a berm surrounding it to help keep the outside world out and keep the fantasy in. Our group continued into the park underneath the classic quote "Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy."

As you enter the park, you're surrounded by bright colorful flowers, and hanging baskets of flowers like that of a Victorian Garden to make you feel happy.
When Walt was designing the parks, he didn't know a lot about landscaping, so he turned to another team to help design his vision. When Walt built his home in Holmby Hills in 1952 he turned to a couple brothers, Bill and Jack Evans to landscape his back yard. Fast forward a few years when it was time to landscape Disneyland, he turned to the same set of brothers to landscape Disneyland.

Main Street itself it built using forced perspective, so while the first floors of all the buildings are normal size, the upper floors are built on a 5/8th scale, to make the building seem taller and farther away than they actually are. The Chinese Evergreen Elm trees lining Main Street also have to help maintain that illusion. These trees are pruned to maintain their appearance, but after 20-25 years they become too large and new trees take their place. You can see a full grown Chinese Evergreen Elm in the photo above beside the Opera House.

Unfortunately Jack Evans passed away not long after the opening of Disneyland, but Bill Evans went on to become the Director of Landscape Architecture for Disney. He continued to consult for Disney parks, including all of Walt Disney World, Disney Paris, and Tokyo Disney.
For all his contributions to the Disney company, he was honored with a window on Main Street that reads, "Evans Gardens, Exotic and Rare Species, Freeway Collections, Est 1910, Morgan (Bill) Evans, Senior Partner". We'll get in to what that Freeway Collections line means in a bit.

Next the group followed Nicole and her riding crop to the hub of Main Street.

At the Hub, you're greeted with the same Victorian Garden feel as Main Street, surrounded by bright colors and lots of flowers. Bill Evans worked with the designer of Sleeping Beauty Castle Herbert Ryman to match the color of the four trees that flank the hub to the colors of Sleeping Beauty Castle. They're not in bloom now, but when they are, the pink flowers produced by these Tabebuia trees compliment the castle beautifully.

As Nicole was talking, Ruston and I were both distracted by the red flower bushes in the background.

They reminded Ruston of exploding fireworks!

As you look around the hub, you can kind of see a preview of what each land has to offer. For everything except Adventureland that is. Adventureland looks like an overgrown jungle. Let's head there next!

While Main Street is supposed to represent a classic civilized area, Adventureland in contrast represents the uncivilized area. Plants here are supposed to look overgrown and exotic.

One of the first trees you encounter is this Bodhi tree, which is the type of tree that Buddha was said to have been sitting under when he achieved enlightenment. Its heart shaped leaves are said to represent prosperity or luck, which you'll need when entering a land of Adventure.

Adventureland is not only home to plants, but also one of the original opening day attractions of Disneyland. Bill Evans worked together with Harper Goff to create the feel Walt Disney was going for with the Jungle Cruise. The instructions from Walt were "Bill, give me a jungle." Bill took that and created this Hollywood style jungle that brings together pieces from many jungles all over the world. Let's ride it!

We were led through the exit where we boarded a boat of our very own! Waving goodbye to the people on the docks.

It was a little weird going on a tour and not hearing the usual skipper spiels.

We learned about the different bamboos they used, that when it's first planted can grow up to 12 inches a day. Nicole also pointed out the Colocasia plants, also known as elephant ears, near the elephant bathing pools.

His happy "I'm playing with something I shouldn't be" face.

It was a great ride on the Jungle Cruise with the boat all to ourselves.

At the beginning of the Jungle Cruise, Nicole pointed out a couple plants called Bromeliads and told us to remember the name because we'd be quizzed on it later. Props to Roger and Bruce for actually remembering.

This planter just outside the Jungle Cruise holds many varieties of Bromeliads, which are also known as air plants. These plants have a unique root system that allow it to survive wherever, even without soil.

Before we leave Adventureland, there was one more tree that was pointed out. It's the tallest palm tree in Adventureland and it's one of the oldest trees in the park. It's called the Dominguez Palm after Ron Dominguez the farmer whose 10 acre orange grove Walt Disney purchased to build this park. This Canary Islands Date Palm was planted in 1896 and keeping this tree was one of the stipulations of the purchase of the land. Once the park opened, Ron got a job with Disney, eventually working his way up to being the Vice President of Attractions at Disneyland. He was even made a Disney Legend and got his own window on Main Street. It was titled "Orange Grove Property Management, We'll care for your property as if it were our own, Ron Dominguez, Owner."

The base of this giant palm tree next to the Indiana Jones fast pass.

After enjoying Adventureland, our group continued into New Orleans Square. Ruston took this picture of a beautiful rose with Tom Sawyer's Island in the background.

Nicole pointed out that New Orleans Square opened over 10 years after Disneyland opened its doors. Bill Evans wanted the land to have large full trees instead of newly planted ones, and came up with a new method for cutting off the roots of large developed trees, replanting them, and having them take root in a new location. It just so happened that the 5 Freeway was being built at the same time that Bill needed trees, so many of them came from there. Thus the "Freeway Collections" line on his Main Street window.

After seeing the entrance to New Orleans Square, our group continued to the Haunted Mansion. Here, the plants help tell the story of an old haunted house. Many of the trees are weeping cyprus, which gives the impression of mourning. Instead of bright green plants, a more muted dull green plant was chosen, so it almost looks like the plants themselves are dying. And you won't find many bright colors here. Nope, you'll find deep purples and reds, which might suggest blood.
One other thing you won't find are flowers, which might be an indication of hope and renewal. Definitely not something you'd associate with the Haunted Mansion. There is one exception to this rule though, and that is for the Calla Lily, also known as the funeral flower.

Now that we've seen the outside, it's time to see what the ghosts have done to the inside. We waited in the regular line to get in, but it was only a couple minutes.

Ruston - Have some grass invisible ghost horse.

Inside, the only thing we saw that related to the tour was the wallpaper before you go into the stretching room. It features Calla Lilies.
I was a little confused why they included a ride on the Haunted Mansion on this tour. The outside grounds are great to look at, but besides this wallpaper, there's nothing to see inside.

At the exit to the mansion, are these eight giant Italian Cypress trees, which used to be at the entrance to Tomorrowland. They lead into Critter Country whose E ticket attraction is Splash Mountain. Again the horticulture team uses forced perspective with the plants to make the mountain appear bigger. At the bottom you'll find longer greener grasses, while at the top the grasses are shorter and grayer, giving the impression of distance.

Our next stop was outside the Golden Horseshoe where we found this Dawn Redwood. Back during World War II in 1941, a Chinese aristocrat was scouting a local forest in anticipation of invading forces and ran into a tree that they had never seen before. It was taller than most trees they had seen and they knew it was something unique. Samples of the cones and foliage were sent away for analysis, and it was discovered that this was a tree thought to have been extinct for over 1.5 million years.

Four cuttings were taken from that original tree and given to collectors of rare and exotic plants. One of them happened to be Bill Evans, and that is why this very special and unique tree can now be found inside Disneyland.

Next, we gathered near Rancho Del Zocolo and were pointed out the plants that fit in with the Mexican heritage of Frontierland.

From the enormous cactus right in front of the restaurant.

And the beautiful orange and pink bougainvillea.

It was right around an hour into our tour and it was here we were all given a "comfort break".

After approximately 10 minutes, we were back on our way and ready to step into our real life fantasy in Fantasyland (Nicole's words).
First we inspected Snow White's Scary Adventures. This is another somewhat spooky ride, and to give it that feel, the same weeping juniper trees as the Haunted Mansion were used to give it a similar feel.

Around the attraction, near what could be considered a window similar to where the wicked queen confronted Snow White with the poisoned apple, roses could be found. Those red roses surrounding the window could represent the red apple offered by the queen or could even represent Snow White's lips, which were described as being "red as the rose".

Walt Disney was inspired by his trip to France and Italy and wanted Bill Evans to incorporate some of the techniques into Fantasyland. Walt developed a fondness for the French landscaping technique called parterre (a French word meaning on the ground). Bill used these techniques not only to create symmetric patterns, which is typically how they are found, but also to write out names of attractions. We'll see some examples of those later.

Completely unrelated to the Cultivating the Magic tour, but while we were in Fantasyland this boy happened to walk by. Now there's a real Mickey Mouse fan.

Before this trip, I never knew there was such a thing as the official Disneyland Rose. Nicole told us about how a special rose was wanted to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Disneyland. Behind Dumbo and scattered throughout many other places in the park, you'll find the Disneyland Floribunda Rose. The petals go through cycles of bright copper, apricot, orange and pink colors, and it has a light spicy scent.
If you would like to have the Disneyland Rose in your garden, you can purchase them from Jackson and Perkins, the same grower as Disneyland. Luck will have to be on your side though, because they're frequently sold out.

Now if there's one ride at Disneyland that better be included on the Cultivating the Magic tour, you know it's the Storybook Land canal boats. Here you float by miniature versions of scenes from some of our favorite fairytales. Because the scenes are in miniature, the plants need to be too. Disney chose plants not only for their small size, but also for their slow growth.

Who knew whales were herbivores?

Getting a good look at the parterre spelling out Storybook Land.

Ruston - This Flower, although only having been around about a year and a half, is one of my all time favorite Flowers.
Aww. How sweet Ruston.

11 adults and 2 kids all squeezed into one boat for our journey. Good thing we're all friends.

Besides the particular plants they chose, there are also a few techniques Disneyland uses to keep these plants small. Many of these plants are in pots, although it is covered from our view, which helps keep them small. It also aides the horticulture team when it's time to replace something.

Remember those Italian Cypress trees at the exit of the Haunted Mansion. Those can grow up to 80' tall. These are the same trees, but pruned to be 1'-2' tall.

Apparently the inspiration for this patchwork quilt of succulents came from the Silly Symphony Lullaby Land.

What's the oldest tree in the park? That would be this Mugho Pine tree. Even though it's barely over 2 feet tall, it's over 150 years old!

After our private ride on the Storybook boats, the group made their way to it's a small world. Again drawing on his inspiration from his travels in Europe, Walt Disney asked Bill Evans to incorporate the art of topiary into Fantasyland. Bill told Walt that topiaries in their original form take 25-30 years to create, so Walt then asked Bill what he could create in 2 years. Bill came up with the idea of using a steel frame in the shape of an animal and then using a fast growing shrub to go around it. The only downside is that they only last 3-5 years, so right now backstage, there are replacements for each of these topiaries growing. There are 16 different topiaries growing in this area. What's your favorite?

We're starting to near the end of our tour. Our last stop will be in Tomorrowland. We walked down Matterhorn Way towards the entrance of Pixie Hollow.

Here we see flowers representing each of the fairy's colors. Purple for Videa, orange for Fawn, yellow for Iridessa, etc. And Tinker Bell is represented just by all the varying shades of green.

We were also told the story, but not shown, how the original submarine voyage show building was kind of a sore thumb. Bill worked out how much weight the structure could withstand and put about 4 feet of dirt, bushes, and trees on top of it to hide it. Even a portion of Autopia drives over the Submarine Voyage show building.

After Pixie Hollow, we all followed Nicole to the entrance of Tomorrowland. While the attractions inside Tomorrowland are supposed to represent the future, so to do the plants. The theme of Agrifuture is used, in which the landscaping is full of agriculture where everything is either edible or harvestable.

Well as a parting gift, I have for each of you....
Wait what? We're not going into Tomorrowland? Nicole spent maybe 60 seconds talking about it from the entrance and that was it. Both T and I were a bit disappointed about that. We would have gladly traded the 15 minutes spent on the Haunted Mansion that didn't really have anything to do with Cultivating the Magic, for some more time learning about the plants back here. Sigh. Oh well. Back to the tour.
As a parting gift for each of you, we have a gorgeous collectible pin, featuring a very special flower.

And if you give it enough love and attention, it may even grow on you. The flower featured is the Disneyland Rose, and now that I've seen that, looking back at our name tags, the hidden Mickey flower on that is also the Disneyland Rose.

This is pinned to a packet of Forget Me Nots seeds, which we can plant ourselves.

Thank you Nicole for the wonderful tour. I know everyone came away with a better appreciation for all the attention and thought that went into planning the park, and the care that it takes to maintain it.

High five from Ian for a job well done.

If you are interested in learning about any of the plants inside Disneyland, there is a binder at City Hall listing everything. If you want to do it from your computer or smartphone, I found to be a very helpful resource in writing this trip report and for finding some of the names of things I just couldn't remember.

If you'd like to take this tour yourself, you can do what I did and call the Disneyland reservation line at 714-781-TOUR (8687) to book the Cultivating the Magic tour. Tours are given on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, once per day at either 9am or 10am. The cost is $49 per person over 3 years old, though if you have an annual pass you can save 20%. I think $40 for a 2 hour guided tour of the park is a pretty great deal.

Ian trying to get a closer look at some of the flowers at the entrance to Tomorrowland.

Before we called it a day, we stopped back in Fantasyland for a spin on what I think is Ian's favorite ride.

Waving at Ruston and Jacob.

Hi guys!

Theresa learned that the inner horses are much smaller than the outer ones.

High fives for being awesome!

Well I hope you enjoyed getting a closer at some of the magic that goes into the horticulture at Disneyland.

1 comment:

  1. Bravo Joe!! It was like being on the tour all over again.