Exploring Disney’s Tree of Life

Bryan RipperBlog

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is one of Disney’s most unique parks to date. The park not only has that Disney magic that we are all so fond of, but it is teeming with life – literally! That is why it is so fitting that the park icon and defining structure is the 145 ft. tall Tree of Life. Modeled after a Bonsai tree, it is not only impressive to look at, with its kaleidoscope of animal images carved into its trunk, but there are some pretty impressive features about the structure that might not be so apparent at first sight.

1. It Has An Oil Rig For A Skeleton

One of the challenges that Imagineers had to overcome when it came to building a giant tree as the park’s icon was making it structurally stable enough to be able to handle hurricane-force winds that are so common in Florida. After all, there are plenty of massively tall trees in Florida, but you will find many of these same trees in ruins after a hurricane. They also needed enough room inside the structure to be able to house an attraction. So, someone came up with the idea to use an oil rig to act as the “skeleton” of the structure, which would give it the stability it needed and the room in the base that it needed to house an attraction. Additionally, there are more than 8,000 branches and 102,000 man-made leaves at over a foot long a piece.

2. There Is An Attraction Inside of It

There is a fantastic 4D show inside the Tree of Life called “It’s Tough To Be A Bug” with the characters from “A Bug’s Life”. The 430-seat theater runs continuous shows throughout the day featuring Flik, Hopper, Chili, and Claire de Room, in which guests wear “honorary bug eyes” affording them a 3D experience with surprise fourth dimensional surprises.

3. There Are Over 300 Animals Featured!

The Tree of Life features hundreds of animal carvings throughout its trunk, branches, and even roots. One animal was even added very late in the production process. British primatologist Jane Goodall visited the Tree of Life and expressed her observation that there were no chimpanzees on the Tree of Life. Disney quickly corrected this oversight by adding in a very large chimpanzee near the base of the tree.

4. There Is A “Hidden” Path To The Tree

Ok. It’s not exactly “hidden”, but it is off the beaten path (pardon the pun). Many people don’t know about The Tree of Life Garden path, which takes you up close to the Tree of Life and allows you viewing angles and views of animals that you can only see from this path. This tree is literally a work of art, and you could spend an hour or more just walking around it looking at all of the different animal carvings that are visible from different angles.

5. The Tree Of Life Was Not Disney’s Only Idea

One of the original ideas for the park icon was that of a three-tiered carousel. This would have been a massive carousel with three completely different experiences. One of the tiers was to be a typical “Dumbo The Flying Elephant” type carousel with birds and insects instead of elephants. The second tier would be more like a traditional carousel, like the one found behind Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom, with a variety of different animals to ride on. The third tier would be at the base of the carousel and would be set in the water that would surround the carousel. The ride vehicles of this tier would be boats themed after various marine animals.

6. The Tree Of Life “Awakens” Nightly

Each night, at various points in the evening, a nighttime show projects onto the Tree of Life. This show is known as the Tree of Life Awakening. Currently, there are 4 different shows that run throughout the night at unscheduled times. Each show is different and uses special effects to make it appear as though certain animals carved into the tree have come to life. This is a new addition to the park as Disney’s Animal Kingdom is attempting to add more nighttime attractions and features to the park. If you haven’t seen this yet, it is definitely worth making a trip over to Animal Kingdom to experience it at night.

7. There Is At Least One Hidden Mickey

Hidden Mickeys are common all over Disney parks and resorts. The Tree of Life is no exception. In my opinion, the best Hidden Mickeys are the ones that are right in front of your face, but so subtle that they are not immediately recognized. This is one of those Hidden Mickeys. Disney Imagineers paid homage to the mouse that started it all with a patch of moss right on the front of the Tree of Life to the left of a buffalo’s head.

There are so many great things to appreciate in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I think this park, maybe more so than any other, has treasures that are often overlooked and only really appreciated when you slow down and stop to take a look around. The next time you’re at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you might want to schedule some time in your day to spend just looking at the Tree of Life from multiple different angles, walking down The Tree of Life Garden path, and really taking it all in. There’s definitely more than meets the eye.