An Insider's tour through Disneyland's new, old-school Treehouse

November 3, 2023, 2:00 PM · Disneyland's Treehouse is back. Tarzan has moved out, but - contrary to what you might have assumed - the Swiss Family Robinson hasn't moved back in, either. Yet Disney's Society of Explorers and Adventurers is on the scene.

Confused? Don't be. We'll explain it all, thanks to a walk-through tour I took this morning with Walt Disney Imagineering's Kim Irvine.

The Adventureland Treehouse inspired by Walt Disney's Swiss Family Robinson opens one week from today, on Friday, November 10. As part of the two-year transformation, Disneyland has removed the path-blocking alternate entrance that it installed for the Tarzan makeover in the 1990s. And the water wheel is back, adding a welcome dynamic element that enlivens this corner of Adventureland.

Disneyland's Adventureland Treehouse
Photos courtesy Disneyland

That water wheel powers the many contraptions and conveniences that a family of five has built into the Treehouse.

"Our story is that everything that the family has created, actually runs off of this mystical water that's running underneath the tree from a springs," Irvine said. "The water wheel brings [that water] up into the rooms and takes it through all the different bamboo pipes to the different cisterns, and that's how they run all of the little pieces of magic in each room."

But who are these new inhabitants?

"We really wanted this to be so anybody, so anyone could imagine that this was them," Irvine said of Treehouse's new inhabitants. "We didn't want to put a name on them, though we do say they are two boys and a girl a mom and dad. [But] they could be anybody."

So we no longer are walking through the home of a shipwrecked family on a previously uninhabited island in Indonesia. Here, we are touring a very creative home in a giant tree in the heart of the little town of Adventureland.

"They are a very adventurous family, and they wanted to be able to create something spectacular," Irvine said. "They found this incredible tree and decided they would put together their innovativeness and build something amazing."

You won't see any members of the Anonymous Adventurers family on a walk through their home, but Imagineers have loaded the treehouse with so many details that you might feel like you have known them for years. (And if you don't believe that it is possible to know people for years without knowing their names, then I am going to assume that you just haven't been to that many PTA meetings.)

On the ground level behind the water wheel, we see the father's kitchen - the first show scene in the new Treehouse.

Dad's kitchen

"He has created all these amazing things," Irvine said. "He's even created an icebox that runs in the middle of the jungle, off of the magical water. The pots stir themselves. The kettle keeps itself - he's made everything automated. So even though he's assigned as being the chef of the family, he's figured out how to make it an easy job."

Next to the father's kitchen is the family's ostrich, named Jane, in honor of the most recent previous inhabitant of the Treehouse. It's a clever little animatronic head and neck that peeps out over a fence to engage Treehouse visitors.

Jane the ostrich

Then it's up the many, many steps, where we discover that the mother is an accomplished musician. She has crafted an automated orchestra in her room, led - of course - by a pedal organ that plays the Treehouse's iconic Swisskapolka, which returns as the re-orchestrated soundtrack for the entire Treehouse.

Mom's music library

The Swiss Family Treehouse was one of the attractions I worked as a Walt Disney World cast member, so it only took a few minutes of walking through this reimagined Treehouse for that earworm to come back to life and continue playing on a loop in my brain all morning. Thanks for that, Disney.

Do try to look for details in each of the rooms. For example, you might find copies of both Johann Wyss' "The Swiss Family Robinson" and Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Tarzan of the Apes" in the mother's library.

And there are some great Easter eggs in the daughter's room - including a book and a letter from the Society of Explorers and Adventurers.

Daughter's observatory

"She is in contact with the astronomer that's in the SEA, and she is learning to become an SEA member," Irvine said. "In fact, on the desk is a little letter from the SEA member who sent her a lens for one of her telescopes."

SEA letter
I couldn't make out the name of the SEA member who wrote that letter to the daughter.

The final room in the house, up at the very top, is the home of the family's twin sons - one who loves to look at the neighborhood's plant life and the other a fan of the local animals.

Twins' menagerie

In this room, we find Rascal, a monkey who's constantly trying to turn the boys' chore clock to "feed the monkey." I also noticed the jumping frog in the boy's amphibian incubator.

"Each space has its own little sound effects mixed in with the music and the mood of the music changes just a little bit in each one," Irvine said.

Adventureland Treehouse is as old school as any new Disney attraction in a long time. It's park-specific, original IP with no Lightning Lane, no virtual queue. Even the Treehouse's water wheel is a cast reproduction of the original that once stood in front of the Robinson's Treehouse home.

"We talked about a lot of other IPs and such, but this just seemed to resonate," Irvine said. "It was very enticing to our executive team to recreate something that was Walt's dream and go back, especially with the anniversaries that we have been having, and make it 'inspired by Walt Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson.'"

Again, the Adventureland Treehouse inspired by Walt Disney's Swiss Family Robinson opens to Disneyland guests on November 10.

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Replies (8)

November 3, 2023 at 1:00 PM

When will WDI learn that most guests don't prefer theme park lands/attractions themed with themselves as characters - i.e. PtWoA or SW:GE - most guests want to be passive observers. While both of those landmark lands are jaw-dropping and have an unmatched level of detail, they leave guests cold because they are devoid of characters and/or relatable/known stories about well-known characters. This refresh that turns guests into characters, instead of using at least peripherally known characters (like Swiss Family Robinson or even the characters from the Jungle Cruise live action film if they didn't want to use Tarzan again) takes this attraction down the same road as those other recent additions. This strategy certainly helps with the longevity of attractions since guests are constantly bringing their own personal stories and experiences with them, but it means the attraction will lack that long-term, memorable connection with guests that pulls them back to visit again and again.

Even Walt knew that IP would eventually grow stale and that attractions would be refreshed with the latest creations from the company (not only as internal promotion but as reliable IP to draw crowds). There's nothing wrong with using current or refreshed IP on attractions, even one with a history like the Treehouse, so it seems really odd that WDI has been so unfocused with the IP presented in this renovation.

November 3, 2023 at 1:37 PM

This looks so much better than Tarzan! Tarzan felt so 90's, but not in a good way. Two years may be a long wait, but well worth it for a good final product.

I'm so delighted to hear there are animatronic animals on this one! I don't remember Tarzan having actual animatronics (mostly just character figures) nor do I remember Swiss Family having animatronics.

Adventureland has really benefited from Project Stardust and all the SEA additions lately- the Tropical Hideaway, Jungle Cruise overhaul, and now the Adventureland Treehouse. Now it would be nice to see Tomorrowland get some very much needed TLC.

November 3, 2023 at 2:44 PM

I think this looks pretty spectacular.

November 4, 2023 at 11:49 AM

I don’t mind that the characters are nameless and are just referred to Father, Mother, Daughter, and the Sons given that the Swiss Family Robinson movie referred to the parents as Father and Mother(Even the married couple referred to themselves as these names).

November 4, 2023 at 3:06 PM

It’s a refreshing change that this is devoid of a specific IP tether.
Unless of course you are counting SEA.

November 4, 2023 at 4:05 PM

True, but at least S.E.A. is an IP created at for the parks, possibly the last original IP at the parks.

November 6, 2023 at 5:12 AM

Love all the west elm furniture lol

November 6, 2023 at 8:35 AM

Russell: "When will WDI learn that most guests don't prefer theme park lands/attractions themed with themselves as characters ..."

Me: Swimmers, waders and divers, sir. And I highly doubt that "most" is correct.

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