The Tree of Life is arguably the most amazing thing that we saw in our four days at Disney World. Sure, Cinderella’s Castle is pretty amazing, I won’t deny that, but The Tree of Life defies everything you’ve seen before. It is massive in stature and the slightly unnatural green of its leaves makes it the eye’s focus no matter where you are in the park. Just being a colossal tree is one thing, but the animals which protrude from its bark are also breathtaking and I could swear that every time you look at it you will see an animal you didn’t see before. The Tree of Life is a spectacle visually but is also pretty impressive by the numbers.
In a strange sense of irony for the centerpiece to a park devoted to conservation, The Tree of Life is built over an oil rig. It was discovered that the size and structure of the rig would be sturdy enough to hold up the tree. Standing at 145 feet tall with branches spanning 165 feet across, the tree certainly fits the bill of massive. It’s 103,000 leaves are comprised of five different shades of translucent green. They also sway in the wind, due to the layout of the branches. The tree can withstand winds of nearly 100 miles per hour. As a side note, both this and the Cinderella Castle are rumored to be able to break down, should there ever be a hurricane. This is completely false. They were built to withstand hurricane winds.
The trunk of the tree is 50 feet wide and as it reaches up to the sky it snakes into 45 secondary branches, which lead to 756 tertiary branches and finally 7,891 end branches. As you can imagine, crafting 7891 completely different branches would rack up a pretty penny very quickly. That’s why the imagineers had the good sense to create only a couple of each branch type and then fit them together at different angles so that they all looked like individuals. The final design of the tree was actually based on a bonsai tree which the team observed at Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival.
This is all pretty impressive but we haven’t even mentioned the animals in the tree. There are 325 of them to be precise and most of them are endangered species. The base of the tree was always intended to house…something. For a long time, it was going to be a restaurant. Then work began on a Lion King show, which eventually was given a home elsewhere in the park. Finally they landed on It’s Tough to Be a Bug, which actually opened before the release of A Bug’s Life, meaning the show played a big part in the marketing of the film.
The next time you hit up Animal Kingdom, take a moment to really take in just how impressive that tree is. I like to think about how each and every piece was built on the ground and then lifted up by a crane and plugged into place. It’s a huge effort to be sure, but it paid off. The Tree of Life is easily my favorite centerpiece in all of the Disney World Parks and captures the imagination from the moment you walk in to that last look before you leave.