My Disney Top 5 -Things to Love About It's Tough to be a Bug at Disney's Animal Kingdomby Chris Barry, contributing writer
Welcome back to another Disney Top 5. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. We had a low key but peaceful long weekend. It was certainly great to have all the kids home from college and spend some real time together. While we were all certainly thankful for all the positive things in our lives, we did all collectively lament the fact that we still haven't made our way back to Walt Disney World. This is the longest stretch for me personally. I haven't been on Disney property since October of 2019! Two years is a long, long time to be away especially when we were yearly visitors for so long.
Truth be told, it's been a little difficult to be a Disney writer and not be at Walt Disney World for so long. There are so many things I miss and so much I'm looking forward to seeing and doing when we ultimately get back – which by the way should be this coming spring, if all goes according to plan. Here on MousePlanet, I've taken a few steps away from my ongoing series delving into the best that each Walt Disney World attraction has to offer. At last count, I had written about 24 different attractions and had just finished up a tour of the few attractions housed in Epcot's World Showcase. So, it's time to keep that series going and head over to the next park on my personal favorite list, Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Just to clarify, I did NOT cover the World Showcase films because, and I'm just being honest here, aside from Canada, I actually haven't seen them. Nobody in my touring group has ever had too much interest in them and, quite frankly, neither have I. So, I've never seen them. Chastise me if you must. I also skipped The American Adventure attraction because, unapologetically, I've only sat through it once. How dare I skip such a Walt Disney World classic you might ask? Same reason I have never been in The Hall of Presidents. It's just not my cup of tea. While I do deeply appreciate the impressive technology inside The American Adventure, once was really enough for me so I made the executive decision to not cover it in this series of articles. Again…chastise me if you must.
I move on to Animal Kingdom because it's so high on my list of favorite places to be when I'm down in Disney. The fourth and largest Walt Disney World theme park still nudges Hollywood Studios down a peg on my list even with the addition of the awesome Galaxy's Edge. I have always been a vocal supporter of all things Animal Kingdom ever since my first visit there in 2003. I've never subscribed to the common online Disney fan complaint that Animal Kingdom was always a half-day park. I could happily walk around Animal Kingdom all day and slowly absorb the incredible beauty that exists around each and every corner. I love the animals. I love the lush landscape. I love the atmosphere, especially now that it's consistently open after dark. As if the beauty of the park wasn't enough, it has my favorite roller coaster anywhere in any park, Expedition Everest. I could go on and on, but it's time to zero in on the first actual attraction that you hit once you're on Discovery Island and that's It's Tough to be a Bug.
Opened with the park on Earth Day, April 22, 1998, It's Tough to be a Bug was a unique attraction in that it opened seven months before the actual film, A Bug's Life, premiered in theaters. It also holds the designation as being the first Pixar based attraction to open in any Disney theme park. The story goes that when the Imagineers decided to include an attraction inside the park's icon, The Tree of Life, it was then-CEO Michael Eisner who suggested the upcoming Pixar film take up residence inside the giant tree. Divisive as he was to Disney fans, he did have a string of good decisions there for a while. I'm glad he chose Flik and friends for the coveted Tree of Life attraction. How so? Let's take a closer look with my Top 5 Things to Love About It's Tough to be a Bug.
Before I get started, I should acknowledge the fact that a large percentage of little ones absolutely hate this attraction. It all seems fine for them at first and then it gets dark and scary. All things considered of course, just like most Disney rides, the scare is over quickly and most of the experience is all in good fun, but my three kids were simply terrified of Hopper and the spiders dropping from the ceiling and it took them a long time to go back into the tree and see this show again.
5 – Beetles, Maggots & Cockaroaches Exiting Safely
It's Tough to be a Bug is, of course, what's referred to as a 4-D experience. There are wind machines, water sprayers, scent sprayers, and a couple of physical effects that affect your actual seat, one of which I'll talk about later. Towards the end of the show, just when you think it's all over, a very official sounding voice comes over the loudspeakers asking all honorary bugs to please remain in their seats.
What comes next is one of my favorite 4D effects as the audience is made to feel like hundreds, if not thousands, of bugs are making their way up from the stage underneath your seat. From what I understand, it's just a wheel mechanism that turns under your seat, but it's very effective. It's a fun moment, even if you know it's coming.
4 – Lobby Posters
Once again, with Disney attractions, it's all about the detail. As soon as you make your way all the way through the queue and you're in the "lobby" of the theater, you get the opportunity to see some classic Disney details in the form of the lobby posters adorning the walls.
Attraction posters have been a staple in the Disney parks since the opening of Disneyland. They're one of the first pieces of Disney detail that you encounter as you enter the Magic Kingdom and walk underneath the train station on your way into the plaza. These, of course, are a bit different. They are all Broadway musical themed: Beauty and the Bees, My Fair Ladybug and Web Side Story, just to name a few. The titles are on par with The Muppets when it comes to puns and I, of course, mean that as a high compliment.
3 – Hopper
As I said above, the Hopper animatronic positively terrified my daughter Samantha and kind of put this attraction off limits for a few years. There's a reason it terrified her: because it's that good of an animated figure. Hopper is one of the best animatronics you'll find in any Disney attraction anywhere.
At the time the attraction opened, Hopper was indeed one of the Imagineers most elaborate creations. He was one of the most fluid moving animatronics to date and, personally, I think he still looks pretty awesome.
2 – The Sting
I was chaperoning a high school chorus trip to Walt Disney World several years ago. The conductor of the choir is my good friend Ed. He is a Disney fan and has been to the parks quite a bit, but for some reason knew nothing about It's Tough to be a Bug. I was pretty surprised and suggested we head in. There's rarely a wait and, as I'll talk about next, it provides some truly amazing up close views of the Tree of Life, so going in was a no brainer. It must be stated that Ed is a laugher. When he laughs, he laughs big and it's infectious. Even though it was dark, I made a point of looking next to me when I knew Ed was going to get stung in the back and I wasn't disappointed. To this day, it's one of my most hysterical Disney moments. When you don't know the effect is coming, it's pretty startling and I'm pretty confident that even total strangers would have gotten a big kick out of Ed's reaction to the sting in the back.
Sure, it petrified my little kids when they first got zapped in the back, but now they love it too. If you've experienced It's Tough to be a Bug as often as I have, make sure to bring someone in there that hasn't and turn to watch their reaction. It's completely worth it, especially if they laugh like Ed.
1 – The Queue
Hands down the best thing about this attraction, for me at least, has to be the way you get to it. The Tree of Life is truly one of Disney's most extraordinary creations, a bona fide work of art. It's incredible to behold from a distance, but it absolutely deserves closer inspection to see just how incredible a job the Imagineers did with this park icon. There are two ways to get up close to the more than 300 animal carvings that make up the tree's trunk.
One is to walk the Discovery Island Trails. This has to be one of the best kept Disney World secrets. Instead of rushing off to Pandora to stand in a huge line, stop and wander in and out of the Discovery Island Trails and you'll see why I have always believed that Animal Kingdom is in no way a half day park. Some of the most stunning views on Disney property are found here. The other way you can get up close and personal with the Tree of Life is by walking through the queue for It's Tough to be a Bug. You can't really describe what it's like to be that close to the amazing carvings on the tree. It's a Disney masterpiece and the queue offers you the opportunity to really appreciate the intricate details and astonishing work that the Imagineers put forth here. I'd say that even if you're not a big fan of the attraction itself, the walk through the queue is totally worth the effort.
Personally, I've always felt that Mickey's Philharmagic is the gold standard of Disney 4D films. It fills me with that Disney magic as soon as I walk into the theater. It's Tough to be a Bug isn't sappy and filled with tender Disney moments, but that doesn't mean that it's still not high on my list of things to love at Walt Disney World. Like most Disney fans, I had my fill of Michael Eisner towards the end of his CEO term, but I'm awfully glad that he suggested going with these Pixar creations inside the Tree of Life. The idea of featuring a show filled with bug characters inside the tree made perfect sense and despite the fact that it's been running consistently for 23 years, I don't really see a need to get rid of these particular pests. I've always felt that A Bug's Life is an underrated Pixar movie and I'm glad that it has a home in the Disney parks somewhere. As far as I'm concerned, It's Tough to be a Bug isn't Peter Pan's Flight or Space Mountain or any of my other beloved classic Disney attractions, but it's a perfect way to see the amazing Tree of Life up close and the effects still hold up. Bottom line, I'm always smiling when I walk out of the theater and I can't ask for much more than that.
That's all for this time. As always, I'd like to hear what you have to say. Click on the link below to let me hear your thoughts on It's Tough to be a Bug. Stay safe and I'll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.