One of the first things you see when you enter the gates is Mickey’s happy face comprised of over three thousand flowers. The iconic symbol welcomes you into a magical world and hints at the fun you will discover. The petals are completely changed nine times a year based upon seasons and celebrations. Of course, the flowers are maintained regularly so everything about Mickey’s face smiles. This landscape feature and so many others help to create the Disney experience. At the urging of my pal, Dave (fellow City Planner and mentor), I participated in the Cultivating the Magic Tour at Disneyland. Here is what we experienced.
We were given headsets and personalized name tags. You have to book ahead to hold your spot and the cost was $49 per person. Discounts apply for annual passholders. There were about eight of us led by two guides. Our tour began at 9am on a Saturday morning and lasted approximately two hours.
Naturally, we started on Main Street. As many regulars know, the architecture decreases in the distance, creating a forced perspective. In other words, the street looks longer than it appears. To match this unusual scale, the trees are kept to a specific height. When they outgrow their allowable height, they are redistributed elsewhere and a smaller tree is planted in its place. At the end of Main Street is the central plaza or “the hub”. This is where you see Walt holding Mickey’s little hand. This space is framed by Trumpet Trees to compliment the colors of the castle in the view beyond.
Next, we entered Adevntureland where the foliage is designed to look like the area was just discovered, not manicured. Thus, you will find large trees with wide leaves, dense greenery, and exotic-looking plants. Our guides took us on the Jungle Cruise (when you pay for a tour, you skip the lines) to further show how the plants enhance the wild atmosphere. The tall eucalyptus trees along the back of the ride are original to the farming land and were used to protect the local crops. Walt wished to keep them and while the Jungle Cruise was meant for another location in the park, he knew they would serve best along this future expedition.
In New Orleans Square, the aura of death swirls in the air. Yes, we visited the Haunted Mansion. Weeping plants adorn the graveyard to imply a forgotten landscape. You will find a distinct lack of flowers except for Calla Lilies, the official funeral flower. Another smaller example of a foreboding design is at the Snow White’s Scary Adventures ride. We ventured through Frontierland and headed to Fantasyland next. Dark trees line the view where the Evil Queen peeks down at the crowds below. The rest of Fantasyland includes happy, bright flowers to reflect a childlike glee. The 50th Anniversary rose boasting a beautiful coral-like color can be found next to the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride.
Nearby, Storybook Land Canal Boats give you an excellent view of the tiny vignettes created for each Disney classic. Utilizing potting and bonsai tricks, plantings are maintained at a very small scale to match the itty bitty castles and homes to your favorite characters. Like the Main Street trees, if the plants outgrow the required scale, they are replaced and planted elsewhere. Just outside of the iconic It’s a Small World are 16 topiaries shaped to a variety of whimsical creatures. Because it can take years to fill the frame of the desired shape, there are several topiaries growing behind the scenes for a quick switch when the time comes.
Lastly, we rounded off our morning in Tomorrowland. Walt believed that the future of mankind depended upon a sustainable landscape. Therefore, you will find that the plants in Tomorrowland are edible. Fruit trees, herbs, and other such useful plantings line the various walkways and attractions. The artichokes – one of my favorites – were just about to bloom.
As a special thank you, each tour guest was given a commemorative pin with a pack of seeds. I thoroughly enjoyed this tour. The tour guides were friendly, knowledgable, and you just can’t beat the setting. They showed us some neat corners that one might normally overlook. There were other great tips and secrets, but I can’t give them all away. See for yourself and take a Disney tour one day.
Big shout out to Dave and his lovely wife, Mina, for coordinating our tour – thank you! Check out https://disneyland.disney.go.com/events-tours/ to see the full menu of unique tours and call (714) 781-8687 to book your adventure.