Of the four theme parks in Walt Disney World, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a favorite of many guests thanks to its combination of natural beauty, amazing attractions, and wonderful entertainment. The park opened on April 22, 1998 and has been helping guests learn about the importance of conservation and preservation through entertaining and interactive experiences. The centerpiece of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the breathtaking Tree of Life which is situated in the center of Discovery Island. This massive structure welcomes guests into the park, showcases its beauty, and also can be seen from many different vantage points from many different locations. While the Tree of Life is beautiful on the surface, it also features a very rich and interesting history in terms of how it was created, built, and improved upon over the years. From clever thinking to pure artistry, the focal point of the park has it all. Here are eight amazing things about the Tree of Life in Walt Disney World’s Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
1. Recycled Oil Rig
When conceptualizing the focal point of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, it is no surprise that Imagineers wanted to both highlight nature while also championing their ideal of preservation and conservation through recycling. After deciding that the icon of the park would be a tree, the clever idea of recycling a used oil rig was decided upon to create a massive structure that would have plenty of support but also naturally take on the shape and structure of a tree.
2. Hidden Theater
The idea of a recycled oil rig also helped to make another idea of the Imagineers a reality. The original concept of the Tree of Life called for a theater to be located inside of the structure that would be home to a 3D entertaining show. The use of the oil rig allowed for plenty of room to be kept open inside of the root structure in the Tree of Life leading to the perfect placement of the Tree of Life Repertory Theater which is currently home to the entertaining It’s Tough To Be A Bug. Hosted by Flik from A Bug’s Life, this show is a must do in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
3. Inspired By Nature
After deciding on the structure of the Tree of Life itself and the situation of the theater inside of the roots, Imagineers looked to the exterior design and found inspiration from another tree that was going to be prominently featured in the park. The structure of the Tree of Life was directly inspired by the baobob tree which can be found on the savannahs of Africa. This unique tree often appears to be dead since it is leafless, but it can actually store massive amounts of water inside making it a survivor. The Tree of Life’s exterior design and shape were inspired by the baobob tree with the addition of many leaves.
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4. Hundreds of Carvings
What makes the Tree of Life absolutely stunning to guests in Disney’s Animal Kingdom are the hundreds of intricate carvings that cover the trunk, roots, and branches. Many artists worked long hours carving and sculpting over three hundred animals and insects and guests who take the time to enjoy the tree from all angles can spot these amazing creations. What me the process of carving the animals even more impressive was that artists only had limited windows of time to carve before the materials would set!
5. Hundreds of Thousands of Leaves
In addition to the beautiful carvings, part of what makes the Tree of Life so vibrant and lifelike are the bright green leaves on the upper branches of the structure. These synthetic leaves are a bright green to draw guests’ eye upwards and they were designed to be able to move slightly giving them the appearance of truly blowing in the wind each day. With over one hundred thousand of these beautiful leaves atop the Tree of Life, it is no wonder why it makes the perfect backdrop for thousands of photos each day!
6. Hidden Mickeys
The Tree of Life is also home to many intricate details that guests often don’t get to enjoy unless they either get up close to the structure or pause and take the time to truly look at it. Amongst the carvings of the animals and insects are several Hidden Mickeys including a popular one that can be spotted from the pathway between Africa and Asia. Guests who locate the carving of the hippo should look just above his eye to spot an upside down Hidden Mickey.
7. Jane Goodall
Before the official opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, renowned scientist Jane Goodall was invited to tour the park and see the amazing things that were being constructed. After observing the Tree of Life, Goodall noted that there was no chimpanzee carved on the trunk, prompting Imagineers to make a special addition. Just before entering into the lobby of the Tree of Life Repertory Theater, guests can spot an amazing carving of David Greybeard and a plaque that describes Jane Goodall’s amazing work.
8. Tree of Life Awakenings
The final thing that guests should notice or enjoy concerning the Tree of Life is a special form of entertainment that occurs each night in the park. The Tree of Life Awakenings use state of the art technology and projections to brings carvings from the tree itself to life in addition to other vignettes that tell beautiful stories of nature. Guests can enjoy watching these projections while also listening to beautiful music and taking in the magic of the Tree of Life coming to life.