Behind-the-Scenes: Topiaries at ‘it’s a small world’

Heather Hust Rivera

by , Vice President, Consumer Products

Have you ever marveled at the topiaries at “it’s a small world?” I’ve been fascinated by them since I was a young girl. We recently spoke with the Disneyland Resort Topiary Engineer and are sharing some of the highlights from our interview today. I was surprised to learn there are 15 topiaries at “it’s a small world” and a total of 26 around the Resort.

The video below gives a behind-the-scenes look at how the Disneyland Resort Topiary Engineer maintains the zebra at “it’s a small world.” You’ll want to watch the video through the end to catch a few tips on how to grow your own topiary, and we hope the surprise ending puts a smile on your face.

Here are some additional fun facts about topiaries:

  • There were 24 original Disneyland Park topiaries premiering in 1963. They included a waltzing hippo, a poodle, a pig, bears, elephants, seals, and giraffes. In 1966, they were permanently planted at “it’s a small world.”
  • Growing a typical shrub Character Topiary can take from 3-10 years for completion, depending on the size and complexity of the shape.
  • Walt Disney got the idea of creating “living” topiaries by seeing traditional topiary gardening in Europe. He asked his film animators and Disneyland landscape team to work together to create the first living sculptures for Disneyland in 1963. They came up with several and one of those included Dumbo making his debut in Fantasyland.

Do you have a favorite topiary at the Resort?


  • wow! that was so cool & so informative! makes me wanna go out & try to create a cute Topiary. Craig is really great at explaining what goes into being a part of Disneyland’s topiary crew. I really enjoyed this video. Please feature Craig again! :oD

  • I have only been to Disneyland once. While we were there they were doing renovations on It’s a Small World. So I didn’t get to see any of them.

  • Great video! Very informative. It makes me want to go to the park and see them right now. I would love to see more videos with this worker describing other behind the scenes magic around the park!

  • The topiary engineer was very knowledgable on the subject and I will use the tips to try and recreate my own topiary.

  • I always loved It’s a Small World when I was a child. My parents would take me on it over and over again. My mom says that once, during a slow time, the cast members took pity on us and let us just stay on the boat for another trip. The story goes that we had gotten off and then run right back around the line a couple of times already, and there really wasn’t anyone else in line. The topiareis and the facade make it so special. When I was little, I always thought it was fairy (or fairy godmother) magic that made the topiaries. I was pretty surprised on our first trip to Disney World that the entrance to IASW there was so barren. I know it has the building facade inside…sort of…now, but in my pictures it is incredible how much bare concrete and infrastructure in plainly visible. I hope that with the refurbishment, this improves.

    Thanks for the great video!

  • I really wish there was a book on this. I have the Donald Duck topiary framing. I just need some helpful tips to grow and take care of it.

  • Love these videos! : )

  • That’s something I’m always amazed by: both the quantity and quality of the plants in the park. The landscaping is incredible!

  • The topiaries at It’s a Small World have always facinated me. I can’t stop myself from snapping their picture every time I ride. But now I want to know where all the others are around the resort!

  • I never think of Disneyland as having pests! Hehe!
    Great video, thanks! Keep them coming! 🙂

  • Very cool.

    I really like the ending.

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