Cheerios and Fiddle Ferns

September 1, 2002

Concept artwork for the new play area at Disney MGM Studios.

Imagine that you’ve nearly completed building a brand-new house which will you shortly move into.  You’ve saved to design your new house and to build your new house, and although you aren’t finished with construction, you are close.  Only the finishing touches for your new house are left to complete and you can then move in.  But just as you complete all those finishing touches, you begin to remodel.

That’s what occurred when the Disney MGM Studios Theme Park opened in the Spring of 1989 at Walt Disney World, because due to guest demand the park was crowded. Very crowded.  So, in response a number of new attractions were quickly ordered.  The list of new things for guests to experience included new dining, new restrooms, new walkways, new shows, new shops, and a new play area.

Empty land but future location for the Movie Set Adventure.

Building on and inspired by the success of the Disney film, “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”, work began on the “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure”, which opened to guests on December 17, 1990.  Located on the ‘New York Streets’ section of the Studio Backlot, the new play adventure was located on what was empty land.

A giant piece of breakfast cereal attracts guests.

The concept was to recreate a version of the back yard of the house seen in the film.  This would allow guests to explore the yard under the shade of 30-foot-tall blades of grass.  And, set among the grass were giant ants, a huge dog nose (which sprayed wet dog sneeze, so yuck!), and an empty Kodak film canister with a film roll that was actually a slide.  In addition, guests walking across a soft dark ‘dirt’ surface could discover a leaf that was used as water wall, a maze made up of plant roots, and a leaking water hose which was helpful to combat the Florida heat.

The ‘dirt’ was actually a soft rubber like material.

The ground was made a soft surface, or ‘safe deck’, which allowed guests to fall without injury.  This material would later be installed in a number of Disney projects featuring playgrounds before falling out of favor and being removed over the course of time.

Guest slides were clad to appear as roots.

Normal play structures were not to be found in this playground.  Open roots covered the slides as one example of cladding normal play equipment.  Similar unclad slides can be experienced today in other Disney theme parks.

Climbing the spider webs afforded guests a view into the park back of house.

Another activity was a set of climbing nets that were disguised as spider webs and hung in an arrangement that allowed guests to climb up to the top for an uninspired view of what was a rather basis industrial area.  The view was a rare look into a Disney back of house that was normally off limits to guests, so it was unique if only for that experience.

Workers attacking a large piece of foam turning it into cereal.

The set pieces were built in a variety of ways, with some of the methods being pure trial and error.  In the example of the giant cereal round an open cell foam (sometimes called ‘bead foam’) was employed.  The foam would be roughly cut with various sizes of saw blades by workers operating under a tent for shade from the Florida sun.

Red areas circled denote the hot wire tool and the black marker.

In this close up of the image worker is captured as he holds a large black marker in one hand which he used to circle an area of foam to remove.  The reason for the removal was to create the divots common to pieces of cereal.  The worker would remove the area using an electrically heated wire that was hot enough that it would melt the foam prior to cutting away the unneeded portions.  Thereafter clean up and minor revisions to the work would occur and the process would continue until a single piece of cereal was produced.

Hard materials being transformed into soft fiddle ferns.

Elsewhere in the production yard a combination of foam and plaster were used to create the several Fiddle Ferns that would be ‘planted’ in the play area.

The iron skillet useful for feeing hungry workers.

Finally like all workers they need to be fed, and one of the advantages of a production yard was the ready availability of cooking gas and an iron skillet.  Oh, and meat.  Lots and lots of meat.

The “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure” entertained guests of all ages for many years and survived several changes to the park, but it couldn’t survive the biggest one. The last day of operation for the “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure” was April 2, 2016. It was replaced by “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge”, a land that lacks giant fiddle ferns.

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