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Disney From The Twenty-Something: Swiss Family Treehouse

Caitlin CorselloSoaring above the mysterious and exotic locales of the Magic Kingdom’s® Adventureland® is a tree like no other. The Swiss Family Treehouse® takes guests up to the skies to explore the home made by the Robinson family after their fateful shipwreck. The Robinson’s have gotten pretty creative in their homemaking, and guests will be sure to love every detail of island living.

The attraction opened with the Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971 however it has a long and rich history. The attraction was based upon the 1960 Disney feature film The Swiss Family Robinson which was directed by Kenneth Annakin. The movie was in turn inspired by the 1812 novel The Swiss Family Robinson written by Johann David Wyss who was himself inspired by the novel Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe which was published in April 1719. At the nearby Jungle Cruise, look for crates paying homage in unique ways to both Annakin and Wyss.

While the attraction has a rich history both in literature and cinema, the tree itself is a work of art. When Imagineers began designing it, they looked to banyan trees which are common in South Florida and have roots which grow vertically to support their branches. The tree was dubbed a Disneyodendron Eximus which roughly translates to “Out of the Ordinary Disney Tree.” At the top of the tree, there are over 30,000 leaves which are actually fake and made to withstand the Florida weather and hurricanes. While the leaves are fake, the Spanish moss beautifully decorating the trunk and branches is real. Rising 60 feet into the air, 90 feet wide, with 116 steps and roots that delve 42 feet into the ground, this tree truly is out of the ordinary, but can be found several places in the world.

While Walt Disney World’s version opened in 1971, there was already a preexisting sister attraction in Disneyland. The Swiss Family Treehouse opened November 18, 1962 and operated until March 8, 1999 when it closed and was transformed into its current version titled Tarzan’s Treehouse®. While similar, Disneyland’s® tree has its own scientific name: Disneyodendron Semperflorons Grandis which translates to “Large, Ever-Blooming Disney Tree.” In addition to the United States, Disneyland Paris’®La Cabane des Robinson opened on April 12, 1992 and in Tokyo Disneyland® guests can visit another version of the Swiss Family Treehouse which debuted on July 21, 1993.

The Swiss Family Treehouse is based upon the story of the Robinson family whose ship The Swallow met an unfortunate end, stranding them on a South Seas Island. Needing to get creative in their living arrangements, they set up house in this gigantic tree and utilized items from their shipwreck and the island to create their working home. When approaching the entrance, look for the family crest which features a black cat on a white stripe between two red stripes. Before beginning he climb, check out the massive water wheel crafted to deliver an endless supply of fresh water to their home up above.

Caitlin CorselloAs the ascent begins, the first room guests will encounter is the Living Room which features the family’s organ playing a catchy and uplifting polka. In the Kitchen and Dining Rooms, there are tons of little features but the biggest eye catcher is a massive clam shell sink. One of the most detailed rooms is the Library which features a sign reading: “These good books- the recording of men’s ideas and achievements were salvaged from our ship. We shall never hunger of food for the mind nor soul.” – Franz R.

Along the way guests are also allowed glimpses into the family’s rooms, giving an idea of everyday living and comfort on the island. While each room is unique, it is the view from the Crow’s Nest, or very top of the tree, that steals the show. Offering sweeping views of all of the Magic Kingdom and surrounding area, the view is nothing short of magical with the best time to observe being at sunset.

While descending back towards the ground, continue taking in all of the details that the Robinson’s have created, but also look for a Hidden Mickey. Mickey’s head can be found as a full profile silhouette on the trunk of the tree. It’s big, but can easily be overlooked. See if you can find it!

From a rich history to a rich life full of exotic and clever details, the Robinsons have had quite a journey to their attraction in Adventureland. Next time you are in the Magic Kingdom, be sure to climb up to the top, take in the views, and say hello to the family.

What is your favorite part of the Swiss Family Treehouse? Ever found the Hidden Mickey? Be sure to let me know by leaving a comment below, I would love to hear from you!

(Photos from my personal collection.)