The new Adventureland Treehouse inspired by Walt Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson opens on November 10, 2023–the same day that the Christmas season starts! This post shares a full video walk-through, new storyline details from Imagineering, concept art, and our commentary on this upcoming addition to Disneyland. (Updated November 3, 2023.)
Paying tribute to the original treehouse that Walt Disney and his Imagineers built in 1962 for the hit movie, Swiss Family Robinson, the Adventureland Treehouse will return in a fresh, new way at Disneyland. Prior to this, it was Tarzan’s Treehouse, which was itself a reimagining of the original Swiss Family Treehouse back in 1999.
The Adventureland Treehouse will showcase wonderous new environments created amongst the branches of a giant tree on the shores of the Jungle River, where guests will once again enter by the giant waterwheel and follow the wood rope stairways up, up, up into the boughs.
With the new Adventureland Treehouse, there’s a fresh story that Imagineering has introduced for the next generation of Disneyland fans to experience and enjoy. As the story goes, the family fashioned an oasis among the trees inspired by nature and using objects found around them. Here, they can collaborate together while also pursuing their own individual skills, talents, passions and interests.
Among the tree’s massive boughs, you’ll find the mother’s music den, the sons’ nature room and the daughter’s astronomer’s loft. Firm on the ground will be a kitchen and dining room, plus the father’s art studio that will display hand-drawn sketches and paintings of each room.
Adjacent to the stairwell is the home’s iconic waterwheel, which is powered by a small brook that babbles nearby. The family created a pulley system to deliver water from the stream high up into the tree, generating the energy needed to activate many of their gadgets and inventions.
Proud of what they’ve accomplished and eager to share their way of life with visitors from around the world, the family has rolled out the metaphorical welcome mat, inviting guests to climb up the stone stairway and explore their treetop abode.
Nestled in the highest part of the home, you will find the daughter’s room, as she has illustrated it here in her own abstract style. An admirer of celestial bodies and their magnitudes, motions and magic, her room provides a clear view of the beautiful night sky.
It is here where she spends her time tracking stars, planets and comets with her many telescopes, no doubt making new discoveries which she logs in her notebooks, sketches and artistic recreations.
In the mother’s room, you’ll find musical instruments including a harp, lute, guitar and organ, which she plays to fill the home with cheerful melodies.
The twin brothers have packed their room with an impossibly large collection of plants and animals, all living in harmony with one another. Filled with gadgets, appliances and devices of his own invention, the father’s studio reflects the whole family’s affinity for exploring the unknown and designing the unimaginable.
Here’s a full video tour of Adventureland Treehouse at night to orient you on all of the above:
Not to get ahead of ourselves, but this looks fantastic. It’s nice to see that the treehouse looks so great at night, with moody lighting and a totally different atmosphere than during the day.
We also love that it leans heavily into nature. As discussed below, the family is filled with naturalists who love plants and animals. Both are present here, including lizards, birds, an ostrich, and MONKEYS. We had hoped that the Adventureland Treehouse would continue the legacy of ‘monkey mayhem’ started by the reimagined Jungle Cruise, and it delivers in that regard!
Of course, we’ll withhold final judgment until walking through Adventureland Treehouse ourselves, but first impressions are very positive. Imagineering didn’t have to put so much effort into this, but they did anyway. A great example of Disneyland underpromising and overdelivering, even if it’s on a little thing. (I’d argue that it being a “little thing” is precisely why it’s so great to see!)
What’s not to love about this?! Seriously. This is exactly the type of thing fans have been wanting, a restoration of a Walt Disney-era classic attraction, removing the very 1990s Tarzan overlay. It pays tribute to the past while moving the attraction forward and ensuring its enduring legacy for at least a couple more decades.
Aside from how long it’s taken, it’s hard to see any negatives here. Even the timeline may not be Disney’s fault. Maybe it is, but construction projects in California–especially retrofits and remodeling that needs to be carefully permitted–are infamous for red tape and delays.
Personally, I’m really pleased to see a low-profile attraction getting love. I’m also looking forward to doing the walk-through, trying to spot all of the Easter Eggs and nods to the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. We’re expecting the Adventureland Treehouse to be weaved into the S.E.A. international storyline, and also tied into Jungle Cruise, somehow. Those are two theme park IPs that Imagineering really loves, and a walk-through is the perfect environment for convoluted story. And who knows, maybe they’ll have leftover monkeys from the Jungle Cruise project and add some of those here, too!
Suffice to say, we’re fully on board with this and are really looking forward to the Adventureland Treehouse. Obviously, this is more a diversion-tier experience rather than an E-Ticket attraction–no one is going to plan a cross-country vacation for the grand opening of Adventureland Treehouse. But that’s sort of the point. Disneyland is directing time and money towards something that won’t really move the needle all that much, which is great to see! Speaking of which…
One of my all-time favorite Imagineering stories actually relates to the Adventureland Treehouse, as told by Tony Baxter on a podcast I heard over a decade ago. (Apologies, but I don’t remember which one. I’ll happily add a link to the source if anyone else recalls where/when he told this story!)
To the best of my recollection, Swiss Family Treehouse was slated for removal during the infamous Paul Pressler era and was to be replaced by (unsurprisingly) a retail location. A group of Imagineers led by Baxter made an impassioned pitch to save the walk-through attraction with a Tarzan overlay. The team promised to be able to do it on both a tight budget and turnaround time in order to tie-into the animated movie’s release date. That was enough for Eisner to greenlight the project, thereby saving the Treehouse from removal.
Tarzan’s Treehouse proved to have enough marketing appeal to draw Annual Passholders, locals, and other guests into the park–spending money on food & beverages, souvenirs, etc–that the attendance boost that directly resulted from the overlay more than paid for its cost.
In short, Tarzan’s Treehouse was viewed as a financial success (better than a gift shop) by the company, was a short-term win with fans, and helped save an iconic attraction…albeit in altered form. (The specifics on this story might vary, but the salient points are all correct.)
For me, this anecdote demonstrates a few things. The biggest is that overlays are a matter of perspective. If you asked most Disneyland diehards their opinion of Tarzan’s Treehouse as of today, it would not be positive. There would likely be complaints about it being a half-baked overlay, cash grab, or something of that sort. And to be sure, I was no fan of Tarzan’s Treehouse.
But the decision wasn’t between Tarzan’s Treehouse and keeping the old Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. That’s a false choice. It was actually between Tarzan’s Treehouse and a gift shop. I don’t think anyone, even the harshest critics of Tarzan’s Treehouse, would’ve preferred the walk-through converted into yet another retail location. (Okay, maybe if it were a POG store that sold rare Treasure Planet slammers!)
This type of thing happens more than you might think. Imagineering or others within the company fight for ‘passion projects’ (of sorts) that are less than ideal, but unquestionably superior to the actual alternative. Diehard fans are nevertheless outraged, operating under the erroneous assumption that the status quo or a romanticized concept that exists in their head would’ve been better, plausible outcomes. Heck, I can give you a specific example of this that’s happening right now: Country Bear ‘Musical’ Jamboree in 2024. (If only you all realized how much of a hard fought win this is!)
None of this is to say you should shut up or withhold criticism of decisions you don’t like. Disney (thankfully) does not share its internal machinations and politics leading to these decisions (for the most part), so all guests can evaluate is the end result. Nevertheless, it’s gotta be a little disheartening to fight so hard to make lemonade out of lemons…only to hear fans complain that it’s not a lemon-flavored Dole Whip. But that’s the nature of the beast, I suppose.
In this case, Tony Baxter’s story actually comes full circle. If Swiss Family Treehouse were replaced by a gift shop back in the late 1990s instead of Tarzan’s Treehouse, we would not be getting Adventureland Treehouse inspired by Walt Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson in 2023. Not just because there’s no way Disney would spend the money to build this from scratch, although they wouldn’t. But also because they literally couldn’t. The only reason this project is viable today in its existing form is because its grandfathered-in and doesn’t need to meet contemporary accessibility requirements as a result.
Anyway, the moral of the story is that the ‘bones’ of something historic being preserved or receiving TLC from Imagineering should be viewed as a good thing. Even if the end result leaves something to be desired, saving it from complete destruction is a net positive and leaves the door open down the road. Just something to keep in mind!
What do you think about Adventureland Treehouse inspired by Walt Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson? Pleased to see this replacing Tarzan’s Treehouse? Thoughts on the ‘lemonade out of lemons’ and internal machinations of Disney commentary? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments of this project? Any questions? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!