EPCOT’s International Flower and Garden Festival is coming into full bloom at Walt Disney World, and soon the entirety of Disney’s futuristic theme park will be covered top to bottom in brilliantly beautiful botanical displays. While the event is perhaps most famous for its larger-than-life topiaries of famous Disney Characters, they weren’t always a magical sight.
The topiaries at EPCOT are painstakingly created to resemble some of Disney’s most iconic characters, and many of them succeed by leaps and bounds. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice design is a particularly striking display as Mickey conjures a host of green blooming brooms. However, lifelike is not always the best thing for works of art.
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Disney has been incorporating their topiaries into many functions during the event for years, but some Guests might be a little eeked out by how impeccably detailed they are. For a prime example of this uncanny phenomenon, @ScottGustin posts a former advertisement for the Flower and Garden Show that did not age particularly well.
Them: Topiaries have never looked more real.
— Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) February 27, 2023
The Encanto topiaries already come equipped with an unsettling uncanny-valley-like gaze, but there’s something uncharacteristically disturbing about seeing these things in motion. If the Edward Scissorhands dreamscape wasn’t enough , Disney went even further beyond just an ad with them.
In 2013, Walt Disney World decided to pull this concept out of the ad and into reality by introducing a walkaround version of a Captain Hook topiary to mix and mingle with the Guests. On one level, this is a creative use of Disney Imagineering’s costume department. On the other, it’s also kinda creepy.
It might have been magical at the time, but the ad and the concept of living topiary Disney Characters did not age well. Aside from fan-favorite performers like Lady DiVine in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the concept has become more than a little off-putting in some circles.
Call it strange, call it an experiment, or simply call it marketing that only got creepy with age, but the idea of walking topiaries is still one of Disney’s weirdest moments in recent decades. Hopefully, the company considers carefully whether or not they want to repeat this stunt with their modern characters.