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Video transcript

In the last video, we talked about how the architecture of buildings can be used to support the theme and story of a land, but buildings are just one part of creating the spaces in which our stories take place. Landscaping is another important aspect of themed environments. It might look like the plants in a land have always been there, but every hill, tree, rock, and blade of grass is carefully designed and placed to reflect the central story and theme. We talked earlier about how the architecture of a building can make you feel different ways, the same thing goes for landscape. For example, large trees might make you feel like something's been there for a really long time, whereas thorny bushes could be scary and intimidating. Let's hear more from a few Imagineers about how they approach landscape design. Landscape's a particularly hypnotic art form because trees and bushes so powerfully seem to be like they've always been there, so when you walk through a finished landscape you have this powerful sensation that it's always been that way, and yet of course in our world it's entirely designed and every bit as much designed as any form of architecture. We worked very very closely with our landscape designers, who not only work the whole development of the site and how its laid out, but in the choice of all the planting materials and the planting beds. In creating a land like Treasure Cove, we go from very formal gardens, to very wild and tropical settings around our canoe ride, which is intended to be set right in the middle of the jungle. For Disney's Animal Kingdom and for Pandora we're working at a very, very high level of photorealistic detail so we need things to look absolutely real. absolutely real. So for example, when we were sculpting the floating mountains and I am looking at the model and I'm looking at all the roots, and all the vines, and they have this oddly fantasy look to them. They look like they belong in a fairy tale because the designers are making them up and when you make something up you're using your brain to imagine how it would really be, but in the real world there are so many factors affecting the way something looks that often while it's very real it doesn't make that much sense. So we hiked around in the jungle and we photographed, and observed, and sketch real tree roots, and real vines on real giant trees, growing in a real rainforest, which are doing things nobody would expect. They're past being logical and so we brought all that information and they redid all these finds so that no longer did they look like an imaginary vine, now suddenly they looked like real vines because they were coming from the observation of actual, real vines growing in a real forest. As Joe just mentioned, Imagineers often do a lot of research to understand how things look and behave in the real world, but our job isn't to recreate the real world. Rather, we use these observations to inform our design to make our themed spaces more believable. Sometimes Imagineers will use living plants in a landscape design, sometimes they'll use fabricated human-made plants, and sometimes they'll use a combination of the two. So in the case of Pandora, there was a very, very intimate collaboration between the landscape designers who are working with real, living plants and the show set designers and rock work experts who are actually creating artificial plants. And the point was because they collaborated in this way, the final product makes it very, very difficult for a casual viewer to identify which plant is handmade and which plant is real. We will often times try to share a plant palette with the designers for the artificial foliage. A plant palette is the plant vocabulary that we're using to populate a land, so it's the species of trees that we're concentrating on, any of the shrub, and ground cover species, that all makes up the plant palette. There are also some interesting challenges and opportunities when it comes to the practical issues of creating a landscape design. For example, can we get water to where it's needed? Can the plants survive in the local climate of the park? And how will the landscape change over time? Landscape design is there to beautify. It's there to mask things that you don't want to see, like say a big air-conditioning duct or a back of house door, so you plant very thickly to to control what the guests see. And it also provides shade. Somebody has designed all the underground plumbing to keep that landscape alive, someone has figured out how to move these giant objects and put them in place. Our story is set in the Caribbean, we wanted it to feel very tropical but in reality, our land, Treasure Cove, is set in Shanghai which has a very different climate and very different seasons of the Caribbean. So there is a real science to choosing the plants than our Caribbean and look and feel and maybe even indigenous to that area, that will survive the cold winters of Shanghai. There are tricks to getting a landscape to appear grown-in and old, like it's been there for a long time. Just one example, you can go find a tree growing could be growing in somebody's yard next to their house it's been growing there for 40 years, 60 years, and because of that it's grown up next to the house and then it bends away from the house, and it grows up over there. So you buy that tree, you dig it up, you put it on a truck, you bring it to your theme park, you plant it, and then you build your building right next to it so that the building follows the shape of the tree. When you're done it looks like that tree has been growing next to your building for 40 years, which means the building you just built that is less than a year old must be 40 years old. Use the next exercise to explore how landscaping and plant life in your land will support your story and theme, while at the same time remaining practical and functional.