While they could have just used Paleo-botanist Ellie Sattler, Universal Creative’s Neal Diebold explains what plantlife he and his team are installing around the new Jurassic World VelociCoaster, opening this summer at Universal’s Islands of Adventure

What’s Happening:

  • Neal Diebold, who is a registered landscape architect and an area development manager for Universal Creative at Universal Orlando Resort, has spent the last year-and-a-half ensuring that when Jurassic World VelociCoaster opens at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, the landscaping not only continues to add to the theming of Jurassic Park, but that it actively adds to the thrill of the new ride.
  • Neal started at Universal in 2017, first working on the area development for Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. Once that ride opened in June of 2019, Neal moved over to the Jurassic World VelociCoaster team, andl quickly got up-to-speed on the overall project and what plant specimens had been salvaged for reuse.
  • Having the bulk of the former Triceratops Encounter jungle to use, the team ended up salvaging a host of trees and plant specimens throughout pre-construction. Several palm trees, ficus trees, clumps of bamboo, and other tropical-esque plants are scattered around behind the parks right now, just waiting to be returned near their new neighbor, a roller coaster.

  • Neal works closely with several different teams in the execution of a project as big as VelociCoaster — the facility construction team, show set team, facility design team, ride and show team, operations, environmental health and safety, and the horticulture team. He’s a part of the early development where potential plants are being listed, as well as ensuring that once the plants arrive they’re being well taken care of.

What They’re Saying:

  • Neal Diebold: “One of the big things that Shelby (Show Producer for the ride) has said all along is that we want the attraction to have teeth. So in my role, that meant adding a lot of kind of gnarly, harsh-feeling plants to the environment. For instance when you go up over the top hat and you dip down, the bed of landscape that you’re going into is a bunch of saw palmettos with big, sharp fronds coming at you. It’ll have that teethy feel and really add to the sense of thrill on the ride. One of the very first things I did on this project was coming out in the middle of the night to help move a 56,000-pound tree. We call it our “hero tree” and the team had decided, before I joined, that it was worth saving. It’s a big ficus tree with a palm growing out of the middle of it. You can’t easily buy a tree like that; your best chance to have a really good, large, established tree is to move it from someplace close…You want people to know that they are entering a jungle environment. So when they step under the big giant archway and see not only the tropical foliage, but prehistoric looking things like cycads or screw pines — they’ll know they’re in Jurassic Park.”

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