May 09

Tree of Life


The Tree of Life, the iconic centerpiece of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a wonderful combination of sculpted artistry and the balance of nature in the circle of life.  Standing at an impressive 145 feet high and 50 feet wide, the trunk of the Tree of Life pays homage to nature and some of the earth’s creatures with approximately 325 meticulously carved animals.

imagesThe Discovery Island Trails surrounding the tree offer guests the ability to view all the splendor the trunk of the tree and the roots have to offer.  It is definitely a site to behold and one that is worth taking the time to see.   As you wind around through the Discovery Island Trails, there are also live animal exhibits to enjoy.  Nestled among the roots, you are likely to find lemurs, flamingos, kangaroos and various species of tortoise amongst the landscape of pools, grassy meadows and various fauna.


Although the Tree of Life is the most aesthetic icon and fitting of the conservation of animals for the theme of the park, it was not the first choice for the icon.  Originally, there were talks of utilizing Noah’s Ark as an icon and even a three-leveled carousel attraction that featured animals of the land and the sea, but this was thought of as too “whimsical”.

imagesWhen the Tree of Life was the final decision, engineers had conflicts on how to construct such an icon that would meet the standards of Florida’s volatile weather, especially during hurricane season.  The original idea was to create something similar to the geodesic design of Epcot’s ball, but it was ultimately decided upon to use an “oil rig” design for the base of the tree to withstand not only the weight of the tree itself but so the base could house a theater and the branches could be well supported.  The canopy of the tree is comprised of more than 103,000 translucent, artificial leaves that actually blow in the wind in order to create a real tree effect.

imagesThe base of the Tree of Life was originally designed to house a show themed around the Lion King, but Michael Eisner proposed that the show be based around bugs and insects that would normally inhabit the tree and thus the It’s Tough to Be a Bug 3-D show based on Pixar’s A Bug’s Life would eventually call the base of the tree it’s home.

Somewhere in the sculpted artistry of the trunk and roots of the Tree of Life you will find a Hidden Mickey.   It is especially hard to find, and even with my trained eye of seeking such Hidden Mickey’s, I have not to date been able to find it.  Alas, I have not given up and diligently seek it every time I am there.  Not to worry, I WILL find it one day.  Most of the time I am so caught up in the beauty of the tree itself that I lose my train of thought on looking for the Hidden Mickey.

Holly Wiencek
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Holly Wiencek

Holly Wiencek is the author of Capturing the Magic: A Photographic Journey Through the Walt Disney World Parks. A Florida native and lifelong Disney enthusiast, Holly has been visiting Disney Parks since she was a toddler. With countless visits to both Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort, she has spent a lifetime exploring and learning about the history and legacy Walt Disney left behind and the details created by Disney Imagineering. She spends her spare time making Disney magic in her everyday life and enjoys sharing that magic with her husband and her daughter, Abby.

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Holly Wiencek
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