Magic Kingdom: How Disney’s new roller coaster fakes guests out
One item you won’t see on the grassy top of the newly opened Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom: A lawn mower.
That’s because the lush look of the upper reaches of the attraction is one of those Disney World mirages. In other words, faux. Fake.
In the planning stages of the roller coaster, it was determined that it just wasn’t practical to maintain a lawn that precariously perched in the middle of Fantasyland, so they went artificial, says Rebecca Bishop, area development director of Walt Disney Imagineering’s landscape architecture division.
Working with a Chinese company, Disney “developed these grasses, and we developed the color palate and we had certain criteria to be believable,” Bishop says. There are multiple shades of green involved, she says.
“We did a kind of a mosaic of colored grasses to hopefully make that look real,” Bishop says. Where heavier rains might have occurred along the mountain, the grass is a deeper green. Near the top, where not much water would be stored, it’s more of a yellow grass, she says.
They wanted the grass to blow in the wind and not look manicured. But it’s not like AstroTurf. It’s mostly 8-inch and 11-inch grasses.
“We had some 18-inch grasses that we’d stick in in areas to make it look like it was bad hair in the morning,” Bishop says. About half the faux grass has wire inside it for “verticality,” she says. And developments in technology will help keep the grass from fading into a blue shade, she says.
Another challenge was the edge – where the “grass” ends.
“We were able to use a heat gun and we melted the grass,” Bishop says. “We folded it over so it kind of hid — what I call the hairpiece, the toupee — the base that the grasses are in.”
Other not-so-natural sights on the Mine Train site: poppies, shrubs and trees. There are 350 fake shrubs amid 20,000 real ones on the mountain’s base and 55 synthetic trees versus 150 live oaks, cedars and birches.
The trees, placed by a crane, are an engineering feat, Bishop says. “They’re secured, they’re welded. They’re double-, triple-welded so there wouldn’t’ be any chance of anything flying off or injuries,” she says. (Key Florida words: hurricane-proof.)
Imagineers used scenes from 1937’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” for inspiration, even though the Disney classic didn’t worry too much about being horticulturally correct.
“Sadly, the artists in the movie can put a sycamore leaf on an oak bark tree and you’re like ‘Oh, that’s going to be hard to make that work,’ ” Bishop says. She also used the Black Forest as a model using Florida-friendly lookalike plants.
The goal was to fool guests, but what about Mother Nature?
“The minute we got the trees up, the birds were there. They can nest up there, that’s fine,” Bishop says. “But the funniest thing was the bees would come up and try to pollinate or try to get honey from our shrubs and our poppies. They were kind of ticked off.”