As a blogger, I may be compensated in some way (either pay, product, or experience) for sharing the post below All opinions are my own. ~Heidi
Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are sharing some of our favorite architectural details at the Disney Parks.
Everything I know about architecture I learned by watching Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch. Not much, in other words!
I may not be an architectural genius, but I know enough to know that Disney’s Tree of Life is a pretty amazing structure!
I still remember the first time I laid eyes on it. Amazing! And, after many trips back to the Animal Kingdom, I’m still as amazed by it today as I was then. Each time I look at it, I see something new. That’s because there is just so much to see that it’s impossible to take it all in. It’s a never-ending story!
Tree of Life History
The Tree of Life looms large in the center of Disney’s Animal Kingdom park, making it hard to imagine this park without it. However, it was not part of the original concept for the park. Instead, Imagineers had planned a gigantic carousel for the park’s icon (it was eventually dismissed due to it’s childish nature). Another early idea to was to create a Noah’s Ark type structure. Joe Rhode, the park’s lead Imagineer, wanted something “alive” as the centerpiece for the park. He thought of a 50 foot tree that kids could play on/around; but that wasn’t large enough in comparison to the “weenies” at the other 3 parks. Hence the 145 foot tree we see today.
*While the tree looks incredibly life-like, it is actually entirely man-made. There are, however, over 4 million LIVE plants throughout the Animal Kingdom Park!
The Tree’s backstory:
Once upon a time, no vegetation would grow on Discovery Island. There were no trees, no shrubs, no flowers, nothing. It was a barren piece of land. Then, one day, a tiny ant planted a seed and made a wish. He asked for a tree to grow – a tree large enough to provide shelter for all the animals. Magically, the ant’s wish came true and a tree began to grow — and it kept growing until there was room beneath its limbs for all the animals from A (ants) to Z (zebras). And as the tree continued to reach for the heavens, the images of all the animals that took shelter beneath its shade appeared on its trunk, roots, and branches. (from disney.wikia.com)
The Tree of Life is made mostly of concrete, fashioned over a modified oil rig (for strength and stability).
It took approximately 18 months to complete the Tree of Life, with 3 Imagineers and 10 artists working full time on it.
Disney Imagineers consider the Tree of Life to by the single most challenging structure on property!
Tree of Life Facts & Figures
The Tree of Life stands 145 feet tall – just slightly shorter than Cinderella Castle (189 feet) and Tower of Terror (199 feet).
The exterior construction of the Tree of Life took a crew of thousands over a year and a half to create.
The tree contains over 8,000 branches.
The Tree of Life has 102,583 man-made leaves. Each one is over a foot in length. These leaves are so realistic that they actually blow in the wind! Some of them are transparent, while others are one of five different shades of green. The leaves are designed to withstand 100 mph winds.
*At its widest part, the leaves stretch more than 160 feet!
The tree’s trunk contains 325 animals that were carved by 20 artists, led by Chief Sculptor Zsolt Hormay.
*The cement they used to create the sculpted animals hardened as they worked, giving the artists only 6-10 hours to create each animal!
More Tree of Life Fun
Originally there were only 324 animals on the Tree of Life. Disney invited Jane Goodall to inspect the tree and she immediately noticed that there was no chimp! (Goodall is considered the world’s foremost authority on chimpanzees.) Needless to say, Imagineers quickly fixed this by adding a chimp to the tree (bringing the animal total to the current 325).
One of Disney’s 3-D attractions can be found in the caverns underneath the Tree of Life. Featuring characters from A Bug’s Life, It’s Tough to Be a Bug includes audio-animatronics, a 3-D motion picture, and a few surprises!
The Discovery Island Trails around the base of the Tree serve as a great place to get close-up pictures of the animal carvings.
The Tree of Life is one of the most photographed structures in all of Walt Disney World, and for good reason!
There is a Hidden Mickey located on the Tree. Do you know where?
You can even meet some of my favorite characters right near the Tree.
You can even get up close and personal with LIVE animals around the tree:
Nestled amid the burrowing roots at the base of the Tree of Life is a serene landscape of pools, meadows and trees which are home to a variety of live animals, including lemurs, flamingos, kangaroos and tortoises.
And just like the backside of water over on the Jungle Cruise at the Magic Kingdom, the backside of the Tree of Life makes a great photo backdrop, just like the front!
As Animal Kingdom expands its hours, there will be lots of new things to see and do throughout the months to come. Something I’m particularly excited about is the new nighttime spectacular Rivers of Light. From the Disney website:
Watch in wonder as animal spirits within the great tree come alive at night in mesmerizing color and light.
During the evening hours, pay special attention to the Tree of Life at the center of Disney’s Animal Kingdom park. At various times, flickering fireflies magically appear and awaken the wondrous animals spirits carved into the tree’s towering trunk—bringing to light a stunning visual extravaganza swarming with vivid color and animated imagery.
Witness a graceful young doe embark on a thrilling cross-country journey. Behold love blossoming between 2 hummingbirds. See a spry fox spreading gifts of love among the denizens of a wintry forest. A feast for the eyes, each approximately 3-minute-long revelation celebrates the eternal balance and harmony that exists in all living things, big or small, and is sure to inspire and delight the entire family, big and small.
Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Orange | Dealing with Problems at Disney Loop:
- 1st Stop – My Dreams of Disney | Spaceship Earth
- 2nd Stop – Disney Mamas | Main Street, USA
- 3rd Stop – Heidi’s Head | Tree of Life
- 4th Stop – Capturing Magical Memories | Hollywood Studios – Tower of Terror
Special thanks to the following sources for the information contained in this post:
- Lou Mongello’s The Walt Disney World Trivia Book, Volumes 1 & 2
- Walt Disney World website