It’s Tough to be a Bug!

It’s Tough to be a Bug!

HUMANS BEWARE!  It’s Tough to be a Bug! is a theatrical journey into a bug’s world that features images of insects, loud noises, dense fog and things that creep and crawl in the dark. This attraction may be frightening for young children.

So reads the sign located just outside of the Tree of Life for those contemplating becoming an honorary bug.  As we will discover today, this warning should be heeded by any in doubt.  This 4-D show is so immersive and the effects so realistic that it is either very frightening or extremely fun!  So, do you have what it takes to stand up to the likes of Hopper?  Well, it is time to find out. 

While Disney’s Animal Kingdom was being it constructed, it was clear that the Tree of Life would be the park’s centerpiece.  When you are building a 500 acre park that will hold the record for largest Disney park in the world, you need a pretty big centerpiece.  So, the massive artificial tree stands 145 feet tall and 50 feet wide.  After you pass through the Oasis, you can immediately see this larger-than-life creation.  From a distance it is a very realistic looking tree.  As you get closer and closer, you discover there are actually intricate carvings of over 400 different animals on the tree.  Each animal is a work of art!  There is much more to this tree than just massive size.  In fact, this tree comes complete with its own underground theater! 

The queue of It’s Tough to be a Bug! is one of the best in Walt Disney World at setting the mood for the experience you are about to have.  Once you enter the line you begin a gradual winding decent as the earth around you grows taller and taller.  The further in you go the more detail you can find in the layers of dirt and rock as the scale of your world changes.  Before you know it, the world as you knew it is high above your head.  Suddenly you feel very ant-like, and it isn’t from mindlessly standing in a line with thousands of others.

As you go underground, you gradually begin to hear the sound of crickets and bugs come to life.  Next, you will see posters for famous bugs and acts, like Weevil Kneevil and the Dung Brothers.  From there the entrance to the Tree of Life Theater awaits.  It is here that you will receive your Bug Eyes.  These 3-D glasses will allow you to see what a bug sees once the show begins.  Don’t worry about getting the right size, these glasses are One Size Fits All Bugs.  Also, don’t put these bug eyes on too early or you might miss the great parodies of some famous human broadway musicals.  I guess from our perspective these are bug parodies, but maybe from the bug’s perspective their shows came first.  Are we parodying them?   Deep thoughts here on the WDW Ride Guide…  In any case, you can hear the bees buzzing to the melody of “Beauty and the Bees”, and listen to the sound of “I Feel Pretty” from Web Side Story.  These and other greats are a good way to get into a bug’s mindset as you wait for the next show to begin. 

Once the theater doors open you will be asked to make your way all the way down a row to fill in the wooden benches.  A little tip here:  Don’t rush to be the first bug through the door.  Shoot for the middle of the colony and you will have a good shot at a center bench spot.  There really isn’t a bad seat in the tree though so don’t sweat it too much.  When you are comfortably seated, use the next few moments to take in the theater before it gets too dark.  This is not like any theater you have been in before.  The walls, the ceiling, the floor, everything around you has been imagineered to perfection.  Nothing here looks like it was made by human hands, but rather the work of some industrious ants.  Speaking of ants, it is time to put on those bug eyes you can see everyone’s favorite ant, Flick! 

If by some chance you haven’t seen Flick before, I highly recommend checking out his movie, A Bug’s Life, before arriving at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  It’s Tough to be a Bug! is pretty unique as it was developed at the same time as the Pixar movie in anticipation of the park opening.  A Bug’s Life opened on November 25, 1998, which means the ride had actually been open for over 6 months before the movie premiered.   During those first few months of operation, the park’s visitors got a sneak peek into the world of Flick and Hopper before they made their big screen debut!  Still, I think most riders will enjoy It’s Tough to be a Bug! more if they are familiar with Flick and Hopper from viewing the movie first. 

Now that I think about it, there is an ideal order for experiencing this attraction.  Step 1- watch A Bug’s Life, Step 2 – See It’s Tough to be a Bug!, Step 3 – Take a slightly skittish loved one who has never been to the show before and watch them watch it.  I say this because the show will elicit some hilarious sounds and screams from first time viewers.  You see, the show is a 4-D experience, meaning the 3-D glasses bring the images to life, while the theater’s special effects and animatronics make the experience real to all your senses.  When you don’t know what to expect the sensations of the ride are very powerful. 

That also brings us to the fright factor, and this is a tricky one.  It’s Tough to be a Bug! is designed to be a light-hearted show.  Flick is a great host as he graciously welcomes humans to the bug world.  In Flick’s mind we are all friends.  Of course, true to Flick’s nature, the show gets away from him a little and the consequences are cause for a good laugh.  However, once Hopper arrives and discovers Flick hosting a room of humans, he is less than pleased.  From Hopper’s perspective, we are the enemy.  Hopper presents the evidence of how poorly humans have treated bugs over the years, and honestly I have to say he makes a compelling case.  We don’t come off looking very rosy.  With an eye-for-an-eye mentality, Hopper spends the next few minutes trying to exterminate you the viewer. 

As I said before, the joy of seeing someone’s reaction to the shows’ effects can be priceless, so I don’t want to spoil too much.  I also know that one of my 5 year old nephews was not a fan of the surprises the show had in store.  With that in mind, I will strongly caution taking very small children, or anyone with a fear of spiders, creepy crawlies, or loud dark spaces.  Now, you can diminish the shows’ effects somewhat by sitting near the rear of the theater, or by placing small children in your lap.  Still, there are several moments that are inescapable, which may make this ride very frightening.  For those with less active imaginations, the fright factor may be as low as zero.  With such a potentially wide range, I am rating this a 3 out of 5 overall. 

I don’t find the ride scary at all, instead, I find it hilarious.  I love watching my wife every time we get to experience this ride.  Even knowing what is coming she still chooses to sit forward in her seat and close her eyes at times during the show.  I don’t recommend this method of viewing, as there really is a lot of fun stuff going on.  Every time we go back I am reminded of just how inventive, funny, and exciting the world of bugs can be.  This is a ride I never miss when at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. 

Like the overall goal of the park, the show was originally designed to convey a message of conservation and a love for nature.  I believe it is very successful and does so in a way only Disney can.  I can’t say for sure how much this show has affected me, but I have taken my role of honorary bug more seriously since my first viewing.  I now know that humans are outnumbered 200 million to 1.  I don’t really worry that they will join forces and launch an assault on humanity, but the numbers are pretty sobering.  The show also helps young ones understand the unique role some of the animal kingdom’s tiniest crew members perform.   It is really fascinating to think about what goes on below our feet when we take a walk outside.  With that knowledge, I never intentionally step on an ant when our paths meet on the sidewalk.  Of course, I can’t credit It’s Tough to be a Bug! for being the sole reason I try to have a more bug-friendly world view.  Still, it does fit in perfectly with the overall message of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. 

If you choose to ride It’s Tough to be a Bug!, I wouldn’t worry about using a Fastpass +.  The theater holds up to 430 guests and with each show only lasting 9 minutes you can move a lot of riders through in a short amount of time.  If the wait times are ever very long, just come back a little later.  With the ride located at the very center of the park, you should pass by here multiple times. 

I hope today has given you a good idea of what awaits you under the Tree of Life.  It’s Tough to be a Bug! can be scary for some, but I believe most will find it fun for the whole family.  At the very least it gives you the best opportunity to see the amazing carvings on the Tree of Life up close.  Also, you get a nice, cool sitting break while inside the theater.  If you have been on the ride before and have any tips or advice I would love to hear from you.  Send me an e-mail at or leave a comment below. 

Thank you so much for joining me this week.  I hope today has been as much fun for you as it has been for me!  Until next time, make each day a ride worth taking!

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