Discovery Island is an island of tropical greenery and whimsical equatorial Africa architecture, executed in vibrant hues of teal, yellow, red, and blue. Connected to the other lands by bridges, the island is the hub from which guests can access the park's various theme areas. A village is arrayed in a crescent around the base of the Animal Kingdom's signature landmark, the Tree of Life. Towering 14 stories above the village, the Tree of Life is this park's version of Cinderella Castle or Spaceship Earth. Flanked by pools, meadows, and exotic gardens populated by a diversity of birds and animals, the Tree of Life houses a theater attraction inspired by the Disney/Pixar film A Bug's Life.
As you enter Discovery Island via the bridge from The Oasis and the park entrance, you will see the Tree of Life directly ahead at the 12 o'clock position. The bridge to Asia is to the right of the tree at the 2 o'clock position, with the bridge to DinoLand U.S.A. at roughly 4 o'clock. The bridge connecting The Oasis to Discovery Island is at the 6 o'clock position; the bridge to Camp Minnie-Mickey is at 8 o'clock; and the bridge to Africa is at 11 o'clock. Discovery Island is the park's central shopping, dining, and services headquarters. It is here that you will find the First Aid and Baby-Care Centers. For the best selection of Disney trademark merchandise, try the Island Mercantile shop. Counter-service food and snacks are available, but there are no full-service restaurants on Discovery Island (the only full-service restaurant in the park is the Rainforest Cafe located to the left of the main entrance).
Discovery Island represents a mythical mash-up of styles the Imagineers describe as "vernacular equatorial architecture meets Hawaiian shirts and Mexican folk art". Notice that every available surface is covered with decoration. That decoration isn't random either. Nature has influenced the designers with each store featuring a theme. For example, the Island Mercantile is decorated with animals that migrate and work. Animals with stripes and spots have taken over Creature Comforts. Over at the Disney Outfitters, this upscale shop features elegant animals from the six directions â€“ north, south, east, west, above, and below. Beastly Bazaar is populated with fresh and seawater animals. On a creepy note, Flame Tree Barbecue's beautiful pavilions are decorated with both predator and prey.
Discovery Island is a land in balance. Nature and humans are work together to create a beautiful and meaningful place. Dominated by the Tree of Life, a primary design objective was to have the tree canopy rise entirely over the roofs of all buildings in the park. The park's design guidelines and building code took into account natural changes to the landscape from the start and state that no building shall be higher than the surrounding foliage. In the rare case where operational demands require something tall, that part of the building is camouflaged with greenery.
Disney Dish with Jim Hill
FOLLOW THAT BIRD
During Animal Kingdom's first few years, so many guests had trouble finding their way back to the parking lot that Disney affixed two enormous, wooden birds over the bridge from Discovery Island to the Oasis pointing the way back to the parking lot.