Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Trees Are Part Of The Show

By Mark Landucci

To say that Disneyland is a case study in botany is a very accurate statement. Understand that about 90% of the plants at Disneyland are not indigenous to California. Let that sink in for a minute. Well over 800 unique species exist and thrive in the park. Today, however, I want to talk a little bit about trees.

….and this seems like a very boring topic. Trees. Honestly, who really cares about trees at Disneyland when there’s mountains in space, mountains full of big thunder or mountains that can (and will) splash you? I mean, with everything else to see and do (and eat), why would one even bother about the trees? I can go to any park in any city and get my kite stuck in a tree. I can walk down my street and see trees swaying in the wind. No big deal, right?? However, trees have always been an important part of the Disneyland story in terms of design and heritage. Continue after the page break for more...

Bill Evans

Walt Disney was a brilliant visionary. Even though he didn’t have all the answers, he was brilliant enough to know to surround himself with talented people that might. Enter landscaper, Bill Evans. Bill Evans and his brother were awarded the task of landscaping Disneyland. Before setting foot on the property, the Evans brothers invited Walt to tour their own property. There, they had developed all types of different botanical environments. This was both pleasing and impressive for Walt because he was adamant about specific theming for the park and the Evans brothers seemed to know how to cultivate his visions into reality.


Let’s start from before the beginning. Before Bill Evans joined the company. Disneyland was built on a grove of Orange…what? Trees. Okay…fine…there were also a few other types of trees there too: oaks, avocado, eucalyptus and palms. Remember those last two, okay?

Remember something else, Walt Disney wanted a park that was different than the typical amusement park. He wanted to utilize trees and gardens to create a relaxing, tranquil environment. He wanted the guests to feel comfortable just sitting and enjoying the views. Keep in mind, there was a time when guests could enter the park for a relatively low admission fee and still enjoy themselves. It was a park that could be enjoyed by many different types of guests. Trees proved to be versatile. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but they added a sense of completeness and maturity to the park. During the day, trees would provide shade in the hot Southern California sun as well as provide a place to hang sparkling lights when it became dark. For me, I personally enjoy nighttime in the parks.


Bill Evans in white hat

When Bill Evans was given a tour of the park (in progress), he noticed that the orange trees were being uprooted and destroyed. He was brash enough to put a halt to this process. Instead, he salvaged what he could and then marked the existing trees with special colored ribbons. Green ribbons meant the trees would stay in place, Red ribbons meant the trees were to be removed (and utilized elsewhere). The lead operator on the bulldozer that day, unfortunately was color blind and removed most of the trees anyway. This was a thorn in the side for the landscapers. However, they were able to salvage a great many of the trees, as well as all the trees from the local nurseries. In addition, the Santa Ana freeway was being constructed and this provided an opportunity to salvage trees that might be in its path.

Trees Playing Their Part From The Beginning

We can definitely go into the trees and how they play a part in the theming, but that might be better served in a future article. We can talk about Adventureland and more specifically the Jungle Cruise. It’s mind blowing to me when you consider that landscapers actually created a jungle. I digress, I know. I’ll just say that you’d never find the same type of trees (because of shape and color) in the Haunted Mansion queue area as you would in say…Fantasyland. This is all by design, not coincidence. In fact, we should really delve into the melaleuca’s, lapacho’s, weeping fig’s all along Main Street USA. Perhaps another day we will.

While I did mention Main Street USA, I wanted to call your attention to a row of eucalyptus trees. These trees are located right behind City Hall and they are one of the last original trees in the park. Meaning, they are in the same spot as they were before the park was built. But they also played a part in the design of the park. Originally, Tomorrowland was slated for that area, the west side. However, Adventureland and Fronteirland shared a common waterway and needed to be together. Along with their height and wind and sound protection, these eucalyptus trees would provide a natural division between Main Street USA and the jungle terra of Adventureland.

Original Eucalyptus Trees

There are three special trees that I wanted to point out to you.

In Adventureland, a certain palm tree dates back to 1896 and it belonged to the Dominguez family. In fact, it’s a Canary Island Date Palm. Their family owned some of the land that the park is built on today. Their son, Ron Dominguez, worked in the park on opening day and had a fruitful career with the company. He would become the Executive Vice-President of Disneyland. Mr. Dominguez is a Disney legend and as such, has a window on Main Street USA. In both tribute and respect, this tree remains intact. The re-theming of the Jungle Cruise loading dock and the Indiana Jones construction were done around this tree.

The Dominguez Tree in Adventureland

In Frontierland, without question, the oldest tree is where our next resides. As an anniversary gift from Walt Disney to his wife, Lillian, he presented this tree. It’s a petrified tree and is said to be between 55 and 70 million years old.

Petrified Tree

And finally….
With fall soon approaching, I wanted to point out a special tree that seems to sprout up for the Halloween season, more specifically mid-September to Halloween.

Behold, the Halloween Tree.

The Halloween Tree

The tree, a northern red oak (Quercus rubra), is approximately twenty feet tall and has a canopy of about twelve feet in diameter. It takes 1,500 lights and fifty painted pumpkins to decorate.

The tree is so named in honor of Mr. Bradbury’s 1972 novel, the Halloween Tree. The novel centers around a group of trick or treaters who learn the history of the holiday.

The Halloween Tree Novel

Ray Bradbury was a personal friend of Walt Disney, a fan of Disneyland, and collaborator with Walt Disney Imagineering. Specifically, he consulted on Spaceship Earth at Epcot. In gratitude of his contributions, on Halloween night of 2007, the tree was dedicated with Mr. Bradbury flipping the switch to light the tree.

Okay…that will do it for this week. I hope that this article give you some insight into the trees of Disneyland. There is so much more to learn and discuss on this topic and in time, we’ll do just that. But for now, the next time in you’re in the park, take a moment or two and notice the trees. Look at their colors and styles and how they fit into the particular land that you’re visiting.

Until next time…..


Mark Landucci comes to us from Northern California where he’s lived his entire life. He has a degree in Journalism from Sacramento State and continues to be a professional writer. Mark’s interest in Disneyland can be traced from the late 70’s when he made his first visit to the park. Instead of buying balloons, candy, t-shirts or hats, Mark’s only souvenir requests were the large park maps. He’d bring them home, open them up on the floor and stare at every detail. This is something he may (or may not) admit to still doing! Mark had a yearly subscription to the E-Ticket magazine and continues to look for missing magazines to fill his collection. In addition, he likes to read books about Disneyland as well as biographies of some of the men and women that built the park. Additionally, he listens to podcasts centered around Disneyland and Disneyworld. He is eager to discuss any facet regarding the design, history, future, attractions and social importance of the parks. In fact, Mark often offers a different view of the parks and what they mean. While he favors Disneyland, he’s warming up to the idea of Disneyworld. Maybe he’s humidifying up to the idea of Disneyworld J. Either way, he believes they both offer something unique.
Being the father of two daughters, he seems to live vicariously through them when they go to the parks. And daily conversations about the parks, including trivia about the parks is quite commonplace. I think they get annoyed with Mark, but don’t tell him that. Mark will write somewhat humorous articles that cover: attractions, history, design and maybe delve into the esoteric elements that Disneyland has to offer.

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