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Florida Guide > Disney Parks

The Tree of Life, Animal Kingdom

The Tree of Life, the iconic structure in the centre of Walt Disney’s Animal Kingdom, is one of the most frequently photographed structures in Walt Disney World and with good reason too. Next time you visit the park, spend some time having a closer look. It is a fantastically intricate piece of work and is a marvel to look at and it looks just like the real thing.

The tree, which is 145 feet tall with branches measure which 165 feet across, is constructed from plaster poured over a structure built along the same lines as an oil platform. It has been cleverly engineered with an expansion joint so that it will actually sway in the wind in the same way as a real tree. The trunk is 50 feet wide and there are over one hundred and two thousand leaves on it, each being over one foot long, slightly transparent and in fives shades of green. The mighty trunk, sturdy branches and twisting, gnarled, spreading roots are carved with 325 creatures, each in perfect detail – from the strong and mighty lion to the small and delicate seahorse with many birds, insects, animals and fish in between. Ten artists and three Disney imagineers worked full time to create the animal carvings and many, many other people worked on the construction which took 18 months to complete. When the sculptors were working on the animals they had between six and ten hours to work before the plaster hardened, so there wasn’t much room for error! Sometimes the whole animal has been sculpted and sometimes it is just the head.

The tree looks different at different times of the day. Depending on where the sun is in the sky, and how the shadows fall, it is possible to make out some animals at one time of the day and other animals later on, so plan to have a look at it several times during your day at the park.

As you wander along the pathways which meander around the roots you will come across the entrance to the ‘It’s Tough to be a Bug’ 3D film. Yes, under the roots of the tree there is a 430 seat theatre showing a humorous special effects film which introduces some of our lesser known wild creatures, but from a bug’s point of view. As you follow the path into the theatre you can get a view of the Tree of Life from many angles, and often very close up. Look out for an armadillo, a chimp, an elephant and a camel.

If you want to spend a quiet 15 minutes, send the children on a ‘treasure’ hunt with a list of animals to spot. The one who finds the most gets to choose the next ride. Happy hunting!

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Page added on: 30 May 2009
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