The Tree of Life

Standing 14 stories high and 50 feet in diameter at its base with more than 325 animal forms carved into the tree

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Theme Park Icon a "Natural," Technological Wonder
The Tree of Life tells stories in sculpture at
Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park

The Tree of Life is the icon of Disney's Animal Kingdom Park. The tree stands 14 stories high and is 50 feet in diameter at its base. There are more than 325 animal forms carved into the tree. The surrounding area of the tree is filled with live animals, such as, otters, flamingos, tamarinds, lemurs, tortoises, colorful ducks, storks, cranes and cockatoos. 
Emerge from the heavily foliaged Oasis -- Before you stands the 145 foot tall Tree of Life. The first time I saw the Tree of Life, I just stood and gaped with my mouth open. It is awesome.
The branches span 165 feet across. There are over 100,000 leaves on the tree and the trunk is 50 feet wide. 20 artists carved into the trunk, branches and roots over 320 animals. Thousands worked on the construction of the Tree of Life which took 18 months to build.
Fish, snakes, animals -- seahorse, deer, eagle, rhino, monkey, pelican, and much much more....
"The Tree of Life is a technological marvel, but it's also a symbol of the beauty and diversity and the grandeur of our animal life on Earth," says Joe Rohde, Walt Disney Imagineering vice president and executive designer for the park. "It's a celebration of our emotions about animals and their habitats."
The Tree of Life roots find their way into the paths surrounding this magnificent Animal Kingdom icon. Surrounding the Tree of Life are the Discovery Island Trails - a quiet area of pools, meadows and trees that are home to flamingoes, otters, lemurs, axis deer, cranes, storks, tortoises and red kangaroos.
As you wind your way through the tree roots, you find yourself at the base of the Tree of Life and the entrance to It's Tough to be a Bug theatre. The 430 seat theatre is home to FLIK and Hopper where you will be entertained with a 3-D film and Audio-Animatronics figures.
View the Tree of Life at different times during the day. As the sun and the shadows move you will see different animals appear.
Don't rush through the tree roots on your way to It's Tough to Be a Bug...this journey provides an excellent up close view of many of the animal sculptures.
Everytime I visit I see different animals! How many you can find?
Today, the Tree of Life is made up of 45 secondary branches leading to 756 tertiary branches leading to 7,891 end branches with 102,583 green leaves (each more than one foot long).
The story goes that Jane Goodall visited Animal Kingdom during the construction and wondered if there was a chimp on the Tree of Life. In short order, one of her most famous subjects, David Graybeard was carved and now resides in the roots near the Tough to Be a Bug entrance.
For more on the Tree of Life, read gardenia's pre-opening report.
If you have comments or tips to share with others about touring Animal Kingdom, please email me. Thank you.

It is a tree like none other, rising 14 graceful stories into the sky, its leafy canopy spreading 160 feet across the landscape. Its upraised branches beckon: Come take a closer look.
It is impossible to resist a closer look at the Tree of Life, which stands 145 feet tall at the heart of Safari Village in Disney's Animal Kingdom, the newest theme park at Walt Disney World Resort. True, the lofty icon is made by humans. But its story is the awe-inspiring tale of all the Earth's animals and the interconnected nature of every living thing.
Carved into the tree's gnarled roots, mighty trunk and sturdy branches is a rich tapestry of more than 300 animals -- from the mighty lion to the playful dolphin. Its leaves -- of many colors and four shapes and sizes, all attached by hand to more than 8,000 of the tree's end branches -- number more than 103,000. Its trunk is 50 feet wide and spreads to 170 feet in diameter at its sprawling root base. Building the tree's support structure required an engineering plan not unlike those used in building offshore oil rigs.
And because it wouldn't be a tree without being able to sway in the wind, a giant expansion joint encircles the tree at each branch unit. "The Tree of Life is a technological marvel, but it's also a symbol of the beauty and diversity and the grandeur of our animal life on Earth," says Joe Rohde, Disney Imagineering vice-president and executive designer for the park. "It's a celebration of our emotions about animals and their habitat."
Disney's Animal Kingdom guests first encounter the Tree of Life after they stroll through The Oasis, a lush garden setting alive with streams, flowering glades, waterfalls and animals that include iguanas, sloths, macaws and other fascinating creatures. As they continue past the animals and walk through a series of grottoes, guests are treated to their first incredible view of the Tree of Life.
"We want you to look up at it, to regard it with awe and wonder and to translate those feelings to the real animal world," Rohde says. Where the Tree of Life's giant roots twist over and into the earth, they meld with a quiet landscape of pools, meadows and trees that becomes the natural habitat for flamingoes, otters, lemurs, axis deer, cranes, storks, tortoises and even red kangaroo. Guests can watch from several viewing locations without disturbing the animals as they go about their lives. Invisible barriers exist between animals and guests which appear to be part of the natural terrain.
After guests meander along a pathway through the extensive maze of roots, they discover entry inside the massive trunk to a 430-seat theater. A humorous special effects experience introduces them to the world of some of our planet's lesser-known wild creatures -- insects -- from the bug's point of view. "It's Tough to be a Bug!" spins an amusing yarn using 3-D film, Audio-Animatronics figures and other in-theater special effects.
While following the pathway that leads to the show, guests can view the Tree of Life from every angle. They see a waterfall rushing from the tree into one of the feeding pools. They spot a dinosaur sculpting formed by the "dead" wood around the tree's base. They continue to discover sculptings that include an armadillo, an elephant, a camel, a baboon and hundreds of others. "We want our visitors to wander up to the tree, to recognize animals and seek out others," says Zsolt Hormay, Tree of Life chief sculptor and senior production designer. "Some are more recognizable, some are less so. It's a constant discovery and rediscovery."
The artistry of the tree, from the carvings to every detail of its composition, required 20 artists led by Hormay, all faced with the challenge of creating a work of art that was at once both natural and fantastic. "That was probably the most difficult part of sculpting the tree, to create the 350 animal figures that appear to be formed of bark and wood -- finding the balance between the animal forms and the wood textures was a great challenge," says Hormay, who hails from Budapest and whose team included three Native American artists, plus artists from France, Ireland, Indianapolis and Central Florida. In all, it took more than 18 months and a crew of thousands to complete exterior construction of the Tree of Life.
"This is the most impressive artistic and engineering feat that we have achieved since the original Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland," Rohde says. To maintain fluidity of the tree's carvings, the trunk portion was assembled outside the park with 52 rockwork cages from which the animal sculptures were carved. The trunk then was cut into a dozen giant segments and flown to a construction site near the park. There, the segments were joined in pairs. Finally, the completed six trunk segments were transported by crane to the tree's location, where the final pieces of the trunk puzzle were reunited. The Tree of Life is located in the heart of Safari Village, the island hub from which Disney's Animal Kingdom guests can explore further adventures including the Kilimanjaro Safaris, Camp Minnie-Mickey, DinoLand U.S.A. and a tour of Conservation Station.

The TREE OF LIFE is the newest icon of the Disney World Theme parks. It's 145 feet tall with translucent leaves.
It celebrates all creatures in their place in the circle of life. Worked into gnarled roots, enormous trunk and spreading branches of the TREE OF LIFE are carved over 350 animals.
The dynamic animals seem to emerge magically from within the tree rather then having been carved.
Surrounding the base of the tree is The Tree of Life Gardens
Look for Jane Goodall's Chimps carved into the roots of the Tree. Legend has it that those who rub the Chimpanzee's nose, will receive GOOD LUCK!
Surrounding the base of the Tree of Life is a soft landscape of greenery, pools, and meadows populated with animals (Colorful ducks, cranes, cockatoos, flamingos, otters and many more). Check back again as we Will be visiting the Park on March 21st to get more pictures of this area.

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