Located in the heart of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and buried in the very roots of the Tree of Life lays one of the liveliest and most entertaining attractions within the park. It’s Tough to be a Bug! opened with the Animal Kingdom April 22, 1998 and it has been stinging and buzzing its way into the hearts of guests ever since.
When the Animal Kingdom was being developed, the Imagineers searched for a central theme to be conveyed through what was to be the park’s core attraction. They knew they wanted the experience to be located around the Tree of Life, but at first could not agree on what concept to focus in on. It was former CEO Michael Eisner himself who originally proposed the idea that since insects live in trees and underground it only seemed appropriate that the attraction be focused on that very topic. Once this idea was given the green light, the new issue became how to safely construct an enormous tree while encasing a theater large enough to fit 430 guests in its roots. The answer came in the massive steel structure of an oil rig which was used to create the internal structure of the tree, and thus It’s Tough to be a Bug! became a reality!
Personally my favorite part of experiencing It’s Tough to be a Big! is the opportunity to get up close and personal with the fantastic carvings covering the trunk of the Tree of Life. As you wind your way through the queue, take the time to really stop and appreciate these detailed carvings as it definitely worth the time! Right before entering the theater lobby, you’ll notice a larger than life carving of a chimpanzee which presents a great photo opportunity. This carving actually came about after renowned scientist Jane Goodall questioned why there was no chimp featured throughout the Tree of Life. Thus Imagineers added the likeliness of David Graybeard, a chimp that Goodall had long worked with. There is also a plaque located next to the carving commemorating Goodall’s work and citing David Graybeard. It’s a neat little extra Disney detail that many people hurry past on their way into the theater.
Once inside the lobby, be sure to walk around and check out all of the various posters which advertise past and future shows featured in the theater…but all with some interesting and unique twists. It seems that the bugs have twisted some classics into their own interpretations! My favorite poster is advertising “Beauty & The Bees” and if you listen long enough nearby you will hear a swarm of bees buzzing out the tune of the main theme from Beauty & the Beast.
When it’s finally time for the show, slap on those “honorary bug eye” 3D glasses and get ready to meet a cast of billions! Hosted by Flik, the nine minute show aims to teach guests that bugs are not threats, but rather friends to humans through highlighting the various ways in which they help maintain the Earth. As they remind you “if it weren’t for the fact that we like the taste, you’d be out there wallowing in shoulder high waste!” Along the way, you meet some interesting characters including an acid spewing Termitator and the ever dainty stinkbug Claire de Room. Unfortunately, the show is crashed by Hopper and his menacing cronies including spiders and hornets. Hopper is seeking revenge for humans constantly attempting to exterminate all kinds of bugs, and this part of the show can definitely be frightening for young children. It becomes dark, smoky, and very loud. In addition there are some added surprises which can definitely startle an adult, let alone a young child.
Despite Hopper being menacing in the show, the actual audio-animatronic character was the most advanced model ever created when the show opened and is also over nine feet tall! It’s also a really interesting fact that It’s Tough to be a Bug! actually premiered before A Bug’s Life, the movie which features the same characters. At the time of the conceptualization of the attraction, only Flik and Hopper’s characters existed, so they were featured prominently. So here is a great example similar to Pirates of the Caribbean where the attraction went on to further inspire the animated feature film.
After a grand finale number and a few more surprises, you’re released back out into the human world with a new view of how bugs are actually our friends, not enemies. Over the years, It’s Tough to be a Bug has played for countless guests and is a fan favorite. It even went on to be added into Disney’s California Adventure in 2011.
From in depth animal carvings to some fun 3D antics, It’s Tough to be a Bug! is an entertaining and educating experience that shouldn’t be missed while in the Animal Kingdom. So be sure to stop by and visit Flik and then gang…if you don’t you may just get stung!
Do you love It’s Tough to be a Bug? What character is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below, I would love to hear from you!
Caitlin Corsello was born and raised in New York. She graduated from Adelphi University with a Masters in Mental Health Counseling in 2012. Her love for Disney started as an infant and has continued to grow with family vacations to Disney parks almost every year since. She holds a particular interest in WDW’s parks and attractions, never passing up an opportunity to visit. She looks forward to continuing to explore and learn about all things Disney and to share that passion with readers.