Think you know your Disney trivia?  Disney’s Animal Kingdom is full of secrets and little-known facts.  The Tree of Life and the 4D It’s Tough to Be a Bug show that plays in the theater beneath its roots are two Disney attractions that may surprise you with their unique history.

Animal Kingdom Tree of Life Cover

Photo credit: Leslie Harvey / Frequent Flyer TravelingMom

If you’ve been to Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World, you probably know and recognize the Tree of Life in the Discovery Island section of the park. The Tree of Life is the centerpiece of Animal Kingdom. Most travelers use it as the backdrop for a family photo opportunity, just like Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom or Spaceship Earth in Epcot.

After a quick photo at the Tree of Life, many Disney visitors move along to other areas of the Animal Kingdom. If you are busy seeking thrills at Expedition Everest or on Kali River Rapids, however, you may have missed a few fascinating details about the Tree of Life and the show that plays in the theater beneath its roots, It’s Tough to Be a Bug. Here are a few fun facts about the Tree of Life and its bug-inspired theatrical show.

Tree of Life Fun Facts

While I’ve always admired the Tree of Life, I had no idea how much of a construction and engineering marvel it was TMOM Travel Disclosureuntil recently. Walt Disney’s Imagineers knew that building such a structure would be a challenge. Anything they built would have to withstand Florida’s notoriously strong winds during hurricanes.

Animal Kingdom Tree of Life Carving

One of the many carvings in the roots of the Tree of Life.
Photo credit: Leslie Harvey / Frequent Flyer TravelingMom

Eventually, Imagineers settled on using the base of an oil rig to form the structure of the Tree of Life. The rig provided necessary strength while also leave spacing underneath it for an attraction. The stability enabled Disney to build a tree with a base of 50 feet wide that stands approximately 145 feet tall. The tree has thousands of branches and over 100,000 man-made leaves on it and took 18 months to complete.

One of its most impressive features is the hundreds of animal carvings on the Tree of Life’s trunk. Some inquisitive and curious Disney visitors spend hours examining and investigating them all.

It’s Tough to Be a Bug Fun Facts

Animal Kingdom Tough to Be a Bug

Photo credit: Leslie Harvey / Frequent Flyer TravelingMom

Remember that space that Imagineers left for an attraction underneath the Tree of Life? Since Animal Kingdom’s opening on April 22, 1998, the theater beneath the roots of the Tree of Life has hosted the 4D show It’s Tough to be a Bug. The movie features many of the same characters from the original Pixar movie A Bug’s Life, including Flik the ant.

The debut of It’s Tough to Be a Bug was a bit unusual for Disney. While Disney often waits to create attractions based on movies after they are certified hits, It’s Tough to Be a Bug is a rare attraction based on a movie that actually debuted before the movie was released. Pixar’s A Bug’s Life didn’t premiere until seven months after the attraction’s opening in November 1998.

Additionally, if you remember your Disney history, you might also realize that, in 1998, Pixar was not yet owned by Disney. The companies had a close partnership but it would not be until 2006 that Disney acquired Pixar.

Animal Kingdom Tough to be a Bug Eyes

TravelingMoms don the bug eye glasses to see the show.
Photo credit: Leslie Harvey / Frequent Flyer TravelingMom

It’s Tough to Be a Bug offers all sorts of little visual gems if you look carefully.  To get to the theater, Disney guests first walk through several long tunnels that weave throughout the Tree of Life’s root structure. You can spot quite a few animal carvings along the way. At the entrance to the theater, guests are given 3D bug eye glasses to watch the show.  While you wait for the theater to open, look around a little. The waiting area is full of chuckle-inducing Broadway posters parodying theatrical productions (starring bugs, of course). You’ll spot Beauty and the Bees (“Bee Our Guest!”), A Cockroach Line, and Antie. The show is about eight minutes long, so there is little waiting and rarely much of a line to see it. The show offers Fastpass+ reservation times, but it probably isn’t a good use of your precious Fastpasses (guests are limited to 3 advanced reservations per day but can reserve and redeem more after using their 3 allotted passes).

Seeing the show is also the perfect way to escape the heat on a humid summer day in Florida. The air conditioned theater was much welcomed and enjoyed by our group. Just don’t get too comfortable in your seats because It’s Tough to Be a Bug may have a few “4D” in-seat surprises for you.

The show is kid-friendly but those with sensitive little ones should be aware that younger children may be frightened at moments. There are some evil bugs in the show and the surprise of the 4D effects could scare some children (and even some adults).

Disney Animal Kingdom Tree of Life

Photo credit: Leslie Harvey / Frequent Flyer TravelingMom

Looking for more activities around the Tree of Life in Discovery Island in Animal Kingdom?  Check out these articles on this section of the park: