Vote of the week: Should Disneyland trim its trees?

October 23, 2009, 6:12 AM · Werner Weiss' recent photo essays at his outstanding Yesterland website have reminded me of a question that's been bugging me for some time now:

Should Disneyland cut down some of its trees?

Take a look here and here, where Weiss documents the visual changes in Disneyland Park over the past five decades. To me, the biggest differences in these photos are the size of the trees.

Main Street Street U.S.A. at Disneyland during Halloween

Take a look at this photo I shot earlier this month. The trees tower over the castle, in the background. And trees obscure the view of the Main Street shops from even Town Square.

Much of Disneyland, including Sleeping Beauty's Castle was built using forced perspective. That is, upper floors were built to progressively smaller scales, allowing relatively small buildings to create a visual illusion of greater size.

But when trees next to these buildings grow over 10 feet tall, the forced perspective is compromised, then lost. Disneyland becomes Lilliputian Land, with small buildings dwarfed by the towering trees.

In some places, the greenery is needed, such as behind City Hall, where the tall trees now block the view of show buildings behind it. But in other places, trees obscure what could be welcomed views.

I believe that many more kids would want to venture over to Tom Sawyer's Island if they could see the many play areas on the island from the mainland. Now, however, trees obscure everything on the island, creating an immense green "blank space" in the middle of the Rivers of America.

Clearly, I'm in the camp which believes that Disney needs to either prune back or cut down many of the trees in the park, to return to the park's greenery to the scale it had in the 1960s. (Early Disneyland was too bare, IMO.) I'm sure that others will disagree. So let's put it out there: Should Disneyland cut back its trees?

Discuss in the comments. And thanks again for reading Theme Park Insider!

Replies (18)

October 23, 2009 at 8:48 AM · I expect you're going to take some heat from the green community for this piece, but I agree with you as far as the castle goes. However, with regard to Tom Sawyer's Island, I like the fact that the trees create a place of adventure away from the rest of the park. When you arrive on the island, it really feels like you've left the hustle and bustle of the park and have embarked on a turn-of-the-century adventure. You can't see everything awaiting you, so there's plenty to explore and discover. Also, when exploring the fort and caves and winding paths, you can't just easily look out and see rest of the park outside of the island. In the case of Tom Sawyer's Island, I feel the trees are an absolutely intrinsic part of the experience.
October 23, 2009 at 9:19 AM · I agree with the last person. The trees make Tom Sawyer island. However, the trees on main street do kill the whole size thing disney tried to do originally. I noticed it looked funny right away. I am sure they have a way they could be trimmed to fit in correctly.
October 23, 2009 at 9:35 AM · The trees also get in the way of the fireworks in the central plaza (the hub). Lots of people get their spots for the fireworks only to find out that the spot they selected is obscured by a tree.
October 23, 2009 at 9:56 AM · If you've ever been to a nearly treeless park like Knott's crappy Farm, you will understand the importance of trees. I have been to Knotts in the summertime and had to leave early because it was so hot!
Disneyland is MUCH cooler mostly because of all the trees and the shade they provide.
Now on Main Street where there are few attractions and people don't usually spend much time in it, it MIGHT make sense to trim them back a little.
October 23, 2009 at 10:02 AM · Here would be my plan for severe trimming, or cut-downs and replanting smaller species:

1) Town Square

2) The Hub (both inside and outside, including Carnation Gardens and the pathway to the Matterhorn)

3) South and west of Thunder Mountain (need vegetation more consistent with desert theme).

4) Take enough off the top of the TSI trees at the south end of the island so people can see the treehouse.

Leave the rest.

October 23, 2009 at 2:39 PM · If you look at the Main St pics on Yesterland, it looks as if they did cut back the trees on Main St. I agree that it would be better to have smaller trees around and behind the castle to help with the forced perspective. The majority of the trees are nice to have around and add to the feel of the lands.
October 23, 2009 at 10:19 AM · Only in the hub could I support trimming back some of the trees to help with fireworks sightlines and perspective. In the rest of the park the bountiful trees offer a welcome respite and beauty.
Disneyland did remove some of the pine trees next to the Matterhorn about a decade ago because they grew almost as tall as the mountain itself! They were replaced with smaller trees so there is precedent for this sort of undertaking.
October 23, 2009 at 12:58 PM · I'm with the last commenter. The trees make the park infinitely cooler and much more beautiful. I don't want a "real desert" theme over by Big Thunder, it gets hot enough in Southern California as it is, I certainly don't need any cacti reminding me of the fact.

Trimming the hub trees makes sense, enough shade to cover the benches, but not so much that it imposes on the firework viewing.

October 23, 2009 at 1:12 PM · I don't think they need to cut down any trees. I visited Disneyland in June for the first time and thought it was beautiful park. Trees should stay!
October 23, 2009 at 1:37 PM · Without a doubt, trim, cut, remove, all the above. Great observation. I have been to the parks many times over the years and have never even considered how the trees and the parks surroundings have changed over the years. I'm sure this is overlooked by most guest, but it would be great to have it back to the way it was meant to be. Without the forced perspective the park is not truly what it was intended to be. It was designed this way for a reason and it should be restored at once!!
October 23, 2009 at 2:48 PM · ^But trees do grow so couldn't that have been the intention?

Did Disney in the 50's cut them to be like that or were they just young trees? That would be the true question to whether they should cut them or not.

October 23, 2009 at 4:24 PM · I'm so upset that Disney decided to ruin the entire look and feel of Magic Kingdom's Main Street over at WDW by tearing down all of the trees in the central hub as well as the ones lining the end of Main Street.

What was left was an awkwardly looking empty hub and the castle is directly in front of concrete, no beautiful lush greenery to make the castle setting more realistic and no visual separation between Main Street and Cinderella Castle.

The entire look is completely ruined and now Magic Kingdom's Main Street view has been essentially ruined... I really pray that one day Disney wises up and replants at least some of those trees.

The trees over at Disneyland might look large and may be messing up some of the forced perspective... But if what happened over at Magic Kingdom is any indication... Having no trees in sight would just make the view much, much more worse.

October 23, 2009 at 7:00 PM · They trim the trees... what is the problem??? Do you not like the way they do it??? may block some views, but I think that the views are actually improved!!! So what if you can't see the castle from a greater distance! this makes the castle even more respectable once you get closer to it! As for the rest of the park, I feel the same! here's something to think about??? Why does Busch Gardens Williamsburg consistantly get rated so well?? Maybe because the trees add to the ambiance of the park??? Why not the same with Disney?? Disney still trims the trees, but not in a way that I believe this post is meant to imply!!!!! Take a queue from BGW.... this is what really matters!

October 23, 2009 at 7:55 PM · I think the trees behind the Castle for sure!
October 24, 2009 at 11:23 AM · My main cutting would the trees behind the castle when viewing from the main street station. The trees ruin the force perspective action of main street. The castle is dwarfed by them.
October 24, 2009 at 4:46 PM · I wonder why they left the trees behind the Castle grow so tall to start with? You think they would have kept them trimmed to maybe 20 feet years ago.
October 25, 2009 at 12:23 PM · Some trees, like those on Tom Sawyer Island, can stay the way they are, but those trees on Main St USA and The Hub have to be significantly trimmed. It took this picture to make me realize how much the size of the trees do tower over the castle, which is supposed to tower over the entire park...I agree with Robert that the trees completely cross out the forced perspective, and if the castle didnt look short enough already (at least compared to Magic Kingdom's) the trees are doing it no favors
October 26, 2009 at 8:07 AM · Although the trees can block the view of fireworks, I think they are great. I don't know how many of you have been to disneyland in July or August, but the trees provide welcome shade and relief. I often find myself looking for shade, and at disnelyand I never have a problem finding it.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive