Universal Shares Behind-The-Scenes Look at Creating Tropical Landscaping for Jurassic World VelociCoaster at Islands of Adventure
As we anticipate the Jurassic World VelociCoaster opening in the Universal Islands of Adventure, the park continues to add thematic elements to the surrounding areas, including landscaping.
Neal Diebold, affectionately known as “The Tree Guy” at Universal Orlando Resort, recently shared with Discover Universal Blog what it’s like to be creative about the flora in Jurassic Park. Neal is a registered landscape architect and area development manager for Universal Creative. He’s been working on the project for the past year and a half.
“One of the big things Shelby (show producer for the ride) has been saying all along is that we want the attraction to have teeth,” says Neal. “In my role, that meant adding a lot of gnarled, hard-feeling plants to the environment. For example, if you step over the cylinder and submerge, the landscaped bed you walk into is a pile of saw palmetto with large, sharp fronds coming your way. It will feel toothy and add to the thrill of the ride. “
Neal credits his father, who spent his career in zoos and themed environments, with the passion for his job.
Diebold works closely with various teams in the execution of a project as large as VelociCoaster – the plant engineering team, the show set team, the facility design team, the driving and show team, operations, environmental health and safety as well as the horticultural team.
Several palm trees, ficus trees, clumps of bamboo and other tropical-looking plants are currently scattered behind the parks, just waiting to be returned.
“One of the very first things I did on this project was come out in the middle of the night to move a 56,000 pound tree,” says Neal. “We call it our hero tree and the team had decided before I joined that it was worth saving. It is a large ficus tree with a palm growing out of the center. You can’t just buy a tree like that; Your best chance of having a really good, large, established tree is to move it from a nearby location. “
“I’m starting from this first conceptual phase where everything is kind of like this:” Maybe we could do this, maybe we could do that, “says Neal.” At the point where we are now in the project: “OK How do we actually do this? ”We rely on a lot of input from parking partners to make sure what we do is successful and as easy to maintain as possible. There are a number of unique challenges to tending a tree next to a roller coaster that goes by at a speed of 70 mph. “
Neal also names one of the challenges working on the project, the weather. Lush jungles and tropical plants are a staple throughout the franchise. However, these plants are common in South America or in tropical parts of Asia and Africa, where they thrive.
“Basically, you look at the palette, try to figure out what you can replicate, and go from there,” says Neal. “But it can be particularly challenging in Jurassic because a lot of the material that looks like this is also very tropical and we’re warm in Florida, but really more subtropical. A good frost in Orlando can really harm these plants. “
To allow these plants to survive, the team uses heaters and blankets to protect them.
“That’s the goal,” says Neal. “They want people to know they are entering a jungle environment. So when you step under the big giant archway and see not only the tropical foliage but also prehistoric looking things like cycads or screw pines, you will know that you are in Jurassic Park. “
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