Theme parks are always about exploration. Not necessarily about the genre of exploration, but about the personal journey of a guest as they explore each area, attraction, and sight “within the berm.” The concept of “stairs to nowhere” have added layers of depth to these environments, creating locales that feel lushly lived-in and unfabricated. One of the best examples of this concept is Disneyland’s New Orleans Square, where guests have endless nooks and crannies to explore. This piece by master Herb Ryman shows a peaceful courtyard off of Royal Street. What goes on here? Who lives here? Where do the stairs go? The presentation and the questions it spurs pique interest and encourage you to continue exploring.
Did you know that the water at Disneyland isn’t just water? The water is dyed a greenish/brown color and circulated throughout the park - to mask the depth and keep it fresh respectively through the use of a “green water” system. But few people know
the system would more accurately be referred to as the “green tea” system due to the way the water gets it’s color. As environmental regulations became more stringent, in 1979 Disneyland started using a mix of green and regular tea leaves as a natural way to dye the water throughout the park. In fact approximately 1,955 pounds (nearly a ton!) of ground tea leaves are circulated through the system each year. While it’s hard to quantify the following claim, this is said to contribute to the calm and tranquil atmosphere of the park especially near the Rivers of America. Stray cats ,wild ducks and other birds can be seen congregating around the waterways engaging in regular, what cast members call, “tea parties”. In fact the birds are a bit too regular - their overly relaxed bowels have been the bane of many a custodian and guest hairdo alike.
In recent years the use of so much tea as a natural colorant has become problematic. With the rising popularity of green tea as a gourmet drink served in coffee bars around the world, and especially in California, the cost has risen steeply. It’s risen so much that ticket prices have increased drastically to cover the growing expense. Park Managers fear that the method of obscuring the shallow depths will soon become unsustainable - revealing the emu leg bones, lost sunglasses, and (most disturbingly) remains of children turned into small world dolls.
Clearly another solution must be found. Some speculate that the construction of Star Wars land, and the draining of the Rivers of America has been an elaborate coverup while researchers try to find an affordable replacement colorant. After all, it does seem very unlikely that Disney would otherwise be laying out such a large sum of money for a new attraction.
We’ll know soon enough as the River will be back shortly. Recent changes in LA law regarding the growing and selling of the cannabis plant have lead to rumors pointing to this as a suitable replacement. Keep an eye out for any changes in hue or particularly hungry, philosophical ducks.
Next up in our series: How DO they create that perfect Disney grass.
Many theme park fans consider Disneyland’s New Orleans Square one of the paramount examples of a perfect themed environment. The detail in every facade, shop and restaurant is incredible. As we’ve mentioned before, much of the land’s effectiveness is thanks to the stunning artwork produced by Herb Ryman. His layered, atmospheric pieces, (such as this one) envision a lively area that encourages guests to explore and take their time in. This piece in particular was so effective and evocative that it was lent to the United States State Department in 1987 to be displayed in the U.S. Embassy in Paris, a first for the Disney company.
Some of the most evocative theme park concept art comes from the legendary Imagineer Herb Ryman, specifically his work on Disneyland’s New Orleans Square. In the piece above, Ryman has dreamt up a red-shelled candy shop for guests to pop into as they stroll the streets of the [little] Big Easy. From the period-attired denizens to the color choices, Ryman shows off New Orleans Square as a living, breathing corner of Disneyland.