Guide to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Tree of Life

When you think of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, what’s the first thing that comes to mind. For many Disney fans, it might just be one of the most magical and majestic sculptures Disney has ever created, Animal Kingdom’s tree, better known as the Tree of Life.

Nestled in Walt Disney World Resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park in Orlando is a beastly kingdom filled with exotic animals and theme park adventures with thrilling attractions wrapped all into one theme park.

The Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom
Credit: Disney

But what is Disney’s Animal Kingdom Tree of Life all about? Let’s walk down Discovery Island Trail together as we explore one of the most iconic concepts Disney has ever created.

What Disney’s Animal Kingdom Tree of Life is made of

On April 22, 1998, our beloved Disney Park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom introduced The Tree of Life after a long 18-month process!

Inspired by the mythological concept also called The Tree of Life towers over Disney’s Animal Kingdom at 145-foot (44 m). To the naked eye, this may look like a real tree, but it is in fact artificial!

The Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom
Credit: Disney

What materials are used in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Tree of Life?

To make this structure as authentic as possible, Disney Imagineers took their time with every limb and leaf.

The Tree of Life features over 100,000 kynar leaves that were man-made and over 8,000 branches were placed to give this park icon real Disney magic.

The Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom
Credit: Disney

How is the oil platform repurposed to create the structure of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Tree of Life?

To help withstand Florida’s hurricane winds, Disney decided that creating a hollow structure would not work, so instead Disney Imagineers build the Tree of Life out of an upside-down oil rig.

By pouring cement at the base, the Tree of Life was secured around Discovery Island, making sure it could withstand not only the Orlando weather but the thousands of leaves and branches connected to Disney’s tree.

Tree of Life Animal Kingdom
Credit: Disney

How was Disney’s Animal Kingdom Tree of Life fabricated?

With the help of Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde, the dream was to create a symbol much like Spaceship Earth in EPCOT. For Discovery Island, the tree represented a source of life and the inspiration actually came from a Bonsai tree that Disney found at the International Flower and Garden festival!

If you aren’t already aware, located at the base of the Tree of Life is a 428-seat theater that also allows Guests to enjoy a 3-D film attraction based on Disney and Pixar film, a bug’s life called It’s Tough to Be a Bug!

The Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom
Credit: Disney

Animals on the Animal Kingdom Tree of Life

What kinds of animals can you find on the Animal Kingdom Tree of Life?

Did you know that the Tree of Life features 325 animal carvings, extinct and existing? From afar, this massive Baobab tree trunk may look normal, but up close, Guests can spend hours mesmerized by the intricate animal sculptures carved into this tree.

Check out this long list of animals according to Wikipedia:

  • African elephant
  • Alligator
  • Anteater
  • Arachnids (spider, tarantula, scorpion),
  • Baboon
  • Bat
  • Bighorn sheep
  • Birds (songbird, egret, heron, hammerkop, macaw, cockatoo, pelican, vulture, hawk, golden eagle, bald eagle, peacock, ostrich, flamingo, great horned owl)
  • Bison
  • Camel
  • Centipede
  • Cephalopods (Octopus, squid, prehistoric squid)
  • Chameleon
  • Chimp
  • Cougar
  • Crocodile
  • Deer
  • Fish (salmon, bass, catfish, goldfish)
  • Flying squirrel
  • Fox
  • Frilled lizard
  • Frog
  • Gecko
  • Gibbon
  • Gila monster
  • Giraffe
  • Goat
  • Grizzly bear
  • Gulper eel
  • Hammerhead shark
  • Hedgehog
  • Hermit crab
  • Hippo
  • Horse
  • Iguana
  • Impala
  • Indian elephant
  • Insects (ant, beetle, butterfly, moth, bee, wasp, dragonfly, grasshopper)
  • Jellyfish
  • Kangaroo
  • Killer whale
  • Koala
  • Komodo dragon
  • Lion
  • Lobster
  • Lynx
  • Manatee
  • Marlin
  • Moose
  • Pangolin
  • Porcupine
  • Prairie dog
  • Prehistoric animals (Allosaurus, ankylosaurus, trilobite)
  • Python
  • Rabbits
  • Raccoon
  • Rattlesnake
  • Rhino (java & white)
  • Road runner
  • Sable antelope
  • Sea horse
  • Sea otter
  • Seal
  • Shrimp
  • Sloth
  • Spider monkey
  • Squirrel
  • Tapir
  • Tiger
  • Tortoise
  • Turtle (box and snapping)
  • Walrus
  • Wild dog
  • Wildebeest
  • Zebra

Related: Closed Parks: How Are The Disney World Animals?

The Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom
Credit: Disney

What animals have been added to the Animal Kingdom Tree of Life?

The carving of David Greybeard, the famous chimp studied by expert and primatologist Jane Goodall was added to the Tree of Life at her request. After a visit to Animal Kingdom, she noticed there were no chimpanzees, so Disney decided to place one on the bottom of the tree towards the entrance to the Tough To Be A Bug attraction.

Did you know that the Tree of Life also showcases a hidden Mickey? Guests who are facing the Africa and Asia sections of the Park will see a hippo located on the trunk. Take a closer look at the hippo’s eye — there you will find an upside-down grayish-colored iconic Hidden Mickey!

The Tree of Life
Credit: Barbara Seebold on Pinterest

Guests who explore around the base of the Tree of Life will encounter a serene landscape of pools, greenery, and lush trees. The Tree of Life is also home to live animals, including lemurs, flamingos, kangaroos, tortoises, otters, axis deer, cranes, and storks.

Awakening of the Animal Kingdom Tree of Life

What is Tree of Life Awakening?

Like the nighttime projection shows on Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom Park, the Tree of Life shares four animal-inspired stories, Journey, Rendezvous, Gift Giver, and a Disney Medley inspired by classic Disney films including Pocahontas, Bambi, Tarzan, Finding Nemo, The Lion King, and more.

The official Disney World website states:

Flickering fireflies magically appear and stir to life the animal spirits in the tree’s towering trunk—bringing to light a dazzling visual display swarming with color and animated imagery.

Gaze upon a young doe embarking upon a thrilling journey. Behold love blossoming between a pair of hummingbirds. Spy a sly fox spreading gifts of love among the denizens of a wintry forest.

A feast for the eyes, each revelation celebrates the eternal balance and harmony that exists in all living things, big or small, and is sure to inspire and delight your whole family tree.

Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom
Credit: Disney

When does Tree of Life Awakenings take place?

Guests can enjoy this nighttime show as soon as Orlando gets dark and showcases four presentations every 10 minutes until the Park closes. In 2019, Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrated the biggest holiday offering with the Tree of Life Awakenings holiday edition. Check out a sneak peek of the offering below that Disney Parks Blog shared.

Grounds around the Animal Kingdom Tree of Life

What can you find in the vicinity of the Animal Kingdom Tree of Life?

If encountering the Tree Of Life is first on your list during your Disney vacation, don’t fret, you will not miss it. Once you enter the Park, Guests will pass the Oasis and enter Discovery Island, located right in the heart of Animal Kingdom.

While taking it all in, be sure to check showtimes for Animal Encounters: Winged Encounters – The Kingdom Takes Flight where Guests meet six species of South American macaws and watch as they take flight over the Tree of Life.

The Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom
Credit: Disney

Related: Best Outdoor Activities at Animal Kingdom

How do you get to the Animal Kingdom Tree of Life?

Although Disney’s Animal Kingdom features many trails where Guests can interact with animals up close, the Tree of Life has a secret pathway that many Guests miss.

Following this path will allow you to enjoy this majestic structure up close and gives Guests a chance to inspect all the animals carved in the tree without large crowds in their way.

Disney World Cast Members Covid-19 Testing
Credit: Josh D’Amaro Instagram

What is the best way to travel through Disney’s Animal Kingdom?

The best suggestion when tackling Disney’s Animal Kingdom would be to examine the map beforehand. With iconic lands like Pandora – The World of Avatar, Asia, home to Expedition Everest, and Africa, which hosts Kilimanjaro Safari, most Disney fans will know which path to take first.

Personally, I usually circle the entire Park from left to right and still have enough time to relax, eat and enjoy everything Disney’s Animal Kingdom has to offer before the Park closes.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Entrance
Credit: Disney

What is your favorite animal displayed on the Tree of Life? Know any secrets of this iconic piece that we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below! 

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