Sleepy garden walls
Ryan P. Wilson
Within the vast array of stories at the heart of Walt Disney World are just as many storytelling techniques. Sometimes that story is told by the screaming guests plunging over a waterfall. Other times it is an architectural triumph, such as a glistening spire of tomorrow. A story can be translated through music, artwork, design details like crates and crash test dummies, and even the lay of the land. Often times overlooked the landscaping process of plotting the terrain and then planning what is to cover than ground can be a critical element to the authenticity of the story being told. Today, we’ll look at one such garden from Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
The winding walkway up to the Hollywood Tower Hotel, otherwise known as The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, is filled with luscious and overgrown vegetation. Though the hotel, the embodiment of 1930s Hollywood, has been left vacant and untended for the better part of the previous century, it still finds ways to evoke old Hollywood dreams. The pathway, which meanders past signs directing visitors to the some of the hotel’s once well-appointed grounds, such as the Arboretum, Bowling Green, Rose Garden, Band Pavillion [sic], Natatorium, and Grand Terrace, and stunning figurines allows guest to feel as if they are moving into a simpler, opulent time. The vegetation itself, however, tells two stories.
The trees, shrubs, and floral of the Hollywood Tower Hotel’s entrance is simply enchanting. Clumps of bougainvillea are mashed near blazing bouquets of azaleas, while the striking African irises create a stark contrast against the thousand shades of green offered by the vines and fronds of shrubbery, Bismarck palms, and pennisetum. The wandering garden is a showcase of some of the finest specimens of flowering plants and distinctive foliage, all of which adds to the feeling of wealth and influence the Hollywood Tower Hotel sought to imbue itself with.
This same plant palate has turned against this once star-studded resort, however. The once well manicured flowers have been allowed to run rampant for the past several decades, spreading their roots in any and all directions. With no guidance, the live oaks have welcomed the musty Spanish moss to swathe the bare limbs and droop down towards visitors and overgrowth below. While beautiful, this dense vegetation offers guests the realization that they are on their own, and that any encounter hereafter is, more than likely, not going to be as glamorous as this garden once was.
This unkempt tangle of plants and flowers also serves one additional purpose, sound. While the low tones of jazz still echo through the misty passage leading towards the Hollywood Tower Hotel’s lobby, this overgrown beauty also serves as a buffer between the noises of Sunset Boulevard and the story of Hotels rise and fall. It even shields away some of the noise from the guest plummeting in the service elevator above.The Hollywood Tower Hotel is at once the lap of luxury and the gateway to the unknown. By moving, even briefly, through tangled trellises, tufts of sickly-sweet flowers, and abandoned gardenworks we enter both of these worlds simultaneously. The landscaping of the Hollywood Tower Hotel triggers the deep dark thoughts associated with the unknowns of the Twilight Zone and the glitz and glam of Hollywood’s heyday, just as any good storytelling element would do.