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Nine years in the planning, three years in construction, Walt Disney World's new 500-acre Animal Kingdom theme park stretches the meaning of landscape and the boundaries of landscape design.

"Nature takes millions of years to produce a landscape; it takes Disney three years."—Michael Eisner, President and CEO of Disney during Animal Kingdom's grand opening.

Several dozen of us, excited and wideeyed, are traveling on a narrow winding trail through the heat and this exotic landscape. We're bumping and swaying along in an open-sided, 32-passenger safari vehicle. The landscape surrounding the trail is unlike anything most of us have ever experienced. Palms, Trees of implausible, non-Midwestern shapes. Savanna grasses. Termite mounds.

Except for some of the grasses, all are newcomers to this landscape. A few years ago it was pasture and scrub. But, from appearances we couldn't have known this.

Nor could we have known that the vegetation surrounding the tire-rutted road was laid out in beds by an energetic and voluble landscape architect with a penchant for wearing turquoise jewelry, colorful Hawaiian-style shirts, and khaki bush shorts. Paul Comstock, architect and the lead creative designer, motorcycled over this very trail, and marked the future beds with spray paint as he went.
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