Home to the iconic Tree of Life, as well as a few other attractions that call Discovery Island home, the fit and finish of this land comes from an amalgamation of styles and cultures found around the world. More specifically, the styles come from the equatorial inhabitants from such locations as: Bali, the South Seas Islands, the Caribbean and Africa.
These architectural stylings combine to form an organic expression of harmony with the natural world. Integration of stylized animal and plant motifs is core to the architectural designs; this motifs are just not plastered onto the buildings but core components of the buildings’ architecture.
The height of the buildings is also closely regarded to the surrounding features. Keeping a balance between the natural landscaping and the man-made buildings is key to create a welcoming sense on the island.
Each building is is themed to a particular genre. For example, Island Mercantile features animals that migrate. From whales to wildebeest, you can find migratory examples in the architectural details. Another store, Disney Outfitters, features animals from: North, South, East, West as well as above the land and below the sea. While Creature Comforts showcases spots and stripes in their homage to the animal world.
The Imagineers have a legendary reputation for attention to the smallest details and this tradition continued unabated in the development of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. For example, they discovered an artisan hours outside of Oaxaca, Mexico up on a mountain accessible only by a dirt road. This man, Rojelio Blas and his family, created hundreds of the fantastically carved and painted creatures that festoon Pizzafari.
Every park has an icon but Disney’s Animal Kingdom is different in that its icon, the Tree of Life, is modeled after a living entity. The final look of the the Tree of Life was actually based on a bonsai tree discovered, in all places, at Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Show. Early concepts for the tree had either: guests ascending to the top of the tree to view the park as well as dining in a restaurant at the base.
Disney has famously used landscaping as an important architectural element in the design of its parks dating back to Disneyland. Using natural foliage and landscape architecture allows the Imagineers to clearly and subtly delineate their designs. As a nod to their heritage, there is a stand of bamboo near Pizzafari that is actually taken from a cutting of bamboo at the Magic Kingdom. That cutting had been taken from bamboo originally planted by Disney Legend Bill Evans at Disneyland.
Some of the fun things you can find at the parks are hidden Mickeys; subtly inserted representations of Mickey Mouse comprised of three circles. A real hidden Mickey is purposefully intended to be missed on initial viewing and later “discovered” by the guest. So be on the lookout throughout Disney’s Animal Kingdom; and remember, you never know where you may find one since there is no official count of the number of hidden Mickeys at the parks.