Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.
By Jim Korkis
Some of us, myself included, have visited the Disney theme parks so often over the years, that we start to take things for granted.
I remember as a kid going to Disneyland with my family and the very first thing we always had to do after we got through the turnstiles was to rush to get our picture taken in front of the huge Floral Mickey with the train station in the background.
In fact, at one time, it was documented that it was the most frequently taken photograph at Disneyland. Today, there are so many other options, it is sometimes overlooked by regulars even though it remains a favorite of first time visitors.
When Disneyland opened in July 1955, the very first thing that guests saw was the huge, smiling face of Mickey Mouse created in colorful flowers at the entrance of the park.
“It was the most photographed location at Disneyland,” claimed Disney Legend Bill Evans who supervised the landscaping of both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. “Everybody took a picture standing in front of it.”
“It was Walt’s idea,” said Evans in 1985 when I interviewed him. “Just like the face before every (theatrical) Mickey (Mouse) cartoon and audiences would start cheering and applaud.”
Beginning with the short cartoon, “Mickey’s Nightmare”, in 1932, every Mickey Mouse cartoon began with the face of Mickey Mouse with beams of light in the background. When Mickey cartoons were produced in color three years later that back ground was yellow.
That image brought cheers of recognition from audiences around the world because they knew it signified that they would be seeing Mickey Mouse and entering the world of Disney.
It is clear why Walt would want a similar image at the front of Disneyland, especially since he had designed the park as a film experience with each land representing one of the most popular movie genres of the day.
Evans built a light wooden framework for the outline of the head and individual sections like the eyes, ears and nose and then filled it in with thousands of plants. Depending upon the seasons and what bedding plants and annuals were available or even at the whim of the landscapers, the colors might change drastically.
For a brief time, there was even an attempt at Disneyland to do a side view of Mickey’s head rather than the more familiar front view but it was not as popular.
Over the years, the shape of Mickey’s head, as well as the individual facial elements, has changed significantly while still remaining identifiable as Mickey Mouse. Special limited edition “occasion-themed” variations have appeared like an orange version for Halloween.
Originally, the face was just called the “Mickey Mouse Planter” but in recent years has been referred to as the “Floral Mickey“. Evans mentioned to me that it was a “parterre”, a French term for an ornamental garden that forms a distinctive pattern.
With all the emphasis on Fast Pass and Magic Plus and the need to rush madly into the park and not waste a minute, I doubt whether many frequent guests today take a moment to stop and just appreciate the craftsmanship and significance of the Floral Mickey that for over half a century was the emblem of a Disney theme park.
Post card images from http://www.disneylandpostcards.net/
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Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: /ae/archives.htm
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.
He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse
Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South AND
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":