My Disney Top 5 - Animal Sculptures in The Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom

by Chris Barry, contributing writer

Welcome back to another My Disney Top 5. One of the things I constantly preach about is that when you visit a Disney park, you really need to slow down and take the time to appreciate the details. When I began to do this, a whole other world of magic opened up to me. It enhanced the experience; which was pretty amazing to begin with. The Imagineers have built more details into their creations than you can possibly imagine and it’s all right there—you just have to stop and look for it. Whether it’s searching for Hidden Mickeys, reading the names on the Main Street windows, or looking for hidden tributes to former attractions; take your pick. There are endless opportunities for you to stop and appreciate how much thought and creativity went into what’s in front of you.

One of my favorite places to do so is at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The newest park in Walt Disney World is overflowing with details. There has been talk out there ever since this park opened that Animal Kingdom is only a half-day park. I couldn’t disagree more. I could spend all day soaking in the atmosphere of this amazing place. There’s detail everywhere. There’s back-story everywhere. There are hidden paths and treasures to discover at every turn. You just have to slow down, stop rushing from attraction to attraction, and really experience the place.

The entrance to Disney's Animal Kingdom. Photo by Samantha Barry.

Perhaps my favorite area to do this in Animal Kingdom is on Discovery Island; the central hub of the park. More specifically, I’m talking about the pathways surrounding the park’s icon The Tree of Life. Home to the Discovery Island Trail and It’s Tough to be a Bug, this section of Discovery Island allows you to get an up close look at a true Disney work of art. The Tree of Life is just that. It’s really a masterpiece of design and sculpture. From a distance, it’s impressive enough. But you really need to get up close to appreciate the amazing detail that’s been put into this massive structure.

The Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Photo by Samantha Barry.

The “root system” of The Tree of Life is home to a series of intertwining paths teeming with waterfalls, lush plant-life and small meadows that are home to lemurs, kangaroos, otters, Galapagos tortoises, and other animals. Make sure to take your time and watch these wonderful creatures in their habitats. You won’t be disappointed.

The Tree of Life Garden sign. Photo by Samantha Barry.

While you’re wandering around The Tree of Life, you can’t miss the amazing sculptures of animals that encompass the tree’s roots and trunk. That brings us to today’s list. There are over 300 animals carved into the Tree of Life and they are an impressive sight to behold. I’ve spent many hours wandering around with my wife and kids trying to spot as many of them as we can.

Some are clustered in groups:

Various animals on The Tree of Life. Photo by Samantha Barry.

Others are massive and pretty much occupy their own space and become the structure:

The massive walrus is more structure than sculpture. Photo by Samantha Barry.

Every type of animal is represented from the mighty lion…

The King of Beasts. Photo by Samantha Barry.

…to the small grey squirrel.

The King of the Backyard. Photo by Samantha Barry.

That said, this is a Top 5 list, and as hard as it may be to choose, I’ve narrowed it down to 5 of the animal carvings that I enjoy coming across the most. They’re not necessarily my favorite animals. They’re just my Top 5 Favorite Animal Sculptures in the amazing, spectacular, breathtaking, Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

5 – The Eagle

A majestic looking eagle. Photo by Samantha Barry.

I’m not 100% sure that this is an eagle. It looks like an eagle, but it could certainly be another kind of raptor. It's high up in the tree. Whatever the bird, the remarkable detail in its feathers always make me stop and look through my camera lens closely.

4 – The Tortoise

A really amazing tortoise. Photo by Samantha Barry.

This tortoise sculpture is down lower and closer to the public. When you get up close you can really appreciate how amazing the detail is, especially in the face.

3 – The Hedgehog

A great hedgehog from The Tree of Life. Photo by Chris Barry.

This may seem like a strange statement, but I’m a sucker for a hedgehog. I've always thought that hedgehogs are very cool looking animals. I love the way this one is off on its own, but is truly one with the branch symbolizing the whole interconnectivity of life on earth that The Tree of Life represents.

2 – The Elephant

Why just have an archway when you can have a standing elephant as your archway? Photo by Samantha Barry.

My daughter loves elephants. She always has. There are several elephants carved into The Tree of Life, but this one standing up and forming an archway has always been my favorite. Maybe I’m biased because there has always been a lot of elephant stuff in our home, thanks to Samantha, but I don’t think that’s quite it. I just think it’s an excellent and impressive piece of sculpture of a regal looking animal.

1 – The Crane

A crane? A flamingo, perhaps? Photo by Samantha Barry.

This is the type of carving that I really love in The Tree of Life—the kind that you have to really look for. This crane (at least I think it’s a crane) is fairly hidden and really blends into the tree's background. Regardless of the animal, it’s a great example of the artistry and creativity of the Imagineers that did this work and is very symbolic of the concept of the whole park. Take your time and seek things out in Disney’s Animal Kingdom and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you may find.

The other fantastic thing about wandering around The Tree of Life is that you can almost guarantee solitude. The pathways almost seem like a complete secret. Considering how many people walk by The Tree of Life on any given day, it’s truly amazing how quiet the Discovery Trail can be. That’s just fine with my family. It’s an escape within the escape that we all enjoy.

My wife and twin boys went into It’s Tough to be a Bug and my daughter and I stayed behind in the queue and ventured around The Tree of Life and on the Discovery Trail to take these photos. We were pretty much alone the entire time and we had a lot of fun looking for the animals and which ones were our favorites. It’s one of those great treasured moments that can only take place in a Disney park and is truly enhanced by something as remarkable as these sculptures in this wonderful, secluded area around The Tree of Life.

Exploring around this park's icon is one of my favorite things to do in all of Walt Disney World. I see new things each time and each time I gain a deeper and deeper appreciation for the amazing level of wonder that exists not only in the animal kingdom but also in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Let me know what your favorite sculptures from The Tree of Life are. With so many to pick from, I'm sure I've missed quite a few.

That's My Disney Top 5 for today. What's yours? Click on the "Discuss this article on MousePad" link below and share your list!



  1. By Little Mitchie

    My biggest problem with looking at the Tree of Life is that I visit during the off seasons. Many of the paths on the way to It's Tough To Be a Bug are roped off and I can't get around to some of the other visual angles of the tree.

  2. By cbarry

    Wow, I haven't run into that problem. That's a shame. There are some excellent views that you can only get on that queue, but the rest of the Trail is open when you're there isn't it?


  3. Discuss this article on MousePad.