Enchanted Tree, Audio Tour Track #3004
The Enchanted Tree
The Enchanted Tree, located in our museum's Enchanted Realm Gallery. Designed by Claro Creative Studios as an exhibit space for our Mice Habitat roombox collection.
The Enchanted Tree in our Enchanted Realm Gallery has become an icon of our museum, one of the most memorable exhibits for children and adults, alike. Standing at over 12 feet high and just shy of 40 feet in circumference, the tree has an enormous presence, acting as an ambassador to the Enchanted Realm. The Tree is divided into three distinct sides, each side featuring a different season, including Summer, Winter and Fall. Each of these three sides of the Tree has a corresponding face, filling the center of the Tree's trunk, created from the twists and turns of the bark and branches. These three principal faces each welcome visitors to a different aspect of the Enchanted Realm Gallery, which is also loosely divided into three different categories: the haunted mansions of Halloween, the frosty scenes of winter holidays, and the lush, green fantasy world of wizards, dragons, and fairy lore. The Tree is also an exhibit space: tucked into the Tree’s body are eight roombox displays, designed to look like knot holes and protected by a pane of glass. Each one of these knothole displays is a Mouse Habitat, featuring whimsical scenes of mice dressed in human clothes going about their daily business. Each Mouse Habitat is set at a height perfect for children, inviting them to explore the nooks and crannies of the Tree’s surface.
When visitors first enter the Enchanted Realm Gallery, they are greeted by the friendly and playful grin of the Summer side of the Tree. This face has kind wrinkled eyes, rounded cheeks, and a pointy branch nose. The lower lip of the smile is located at 6 ½ feet from the Tree's base, and can be touched by the average adult with his arm outstretched. When touching the bark on this section of the tree you will find it is smoother than the other two sections, with the primary texture coming from the deep grooves that run parallel along the length of the stems, trunk, and roots. Some of the roots at the base of the Tree are wrapped around a large, smooth boulder, located on the left side of this section. The bark on this section of the Tree is colored with a blend of mossy greens and cool, blue-green tones. There are two additional faces hidden in the twisted roots of this section, located at calf height; these are only partial faces, more abstract, as though they are slowly being formed as the Tree grows. There is a Mouse Habitat located near the trunk base, displaying a lady mouse in a bonnet riding a bicycle past another lady mouse out for a walk with her baby in a carriage.
Moving clockwise from the smiling Summer side of the Tree, one will find the spooky Fall side. Note the abrupt change in bark texture to the coarse, thick bark scales, similar to that of an old Oak tree. The color of the bark has changed, too; the trunk is now shaded with muddy reds and yellow-toned browns - the colors of decay. The face on this section is scowling in a frown, the mouth slightly parted and the lower lip pushed out in a pout. The eyes are glowering with turned-down brows, and the branch of the nose is gnarled and crooked. The gaze of this face overlooks a section of our Enchanted Realm Gallery which features Halloween-themed miniatures, filled with witches, vampires, ghosts, werewolves, graveyards and pumpkin patches. There are no other hidden faces in the spooky Fall section of the tree, but there is a partial skull carved into the base at knee-height: you can feel the large, deep eye sockets and the two triangular shapes of the nose cavity. To the right of this skull is another Mouse Habitat, featuring three well-dressed lady mice descending down a yellow banister.
Moving farther along to left, you will find another Mouse Habitat, very close to the ground, featuring a mouse real estate office owned by Stuart Little. Directly to the left you will notice a large outcropping of Tree roots and a large boulder, which visitors can sit upon. This boulder faces a narrow portion of the Tree in between the Fall and Winter sections. There is no face hidden in this portion, but there is a very special magical effect. Located in the center of the trunk is a large, deep knothole, which is one of the many hiding places of our museum's resident fairy, Caitlin. Through a special effect, Caitlin appears in the knothole for a few seconds, reappearing after about one minute. While in the knothole, she appears to be floating and her entire body is a translucent blue. Children like to gather around this side of the Tree, waiting for her to reappear. When she is not in the knothole, she can be seen zooming around the top branches of the Tree in the form of a sparkling ball of light. When she is about to appear in the knothole, a fiber-optic trail of sparkles moves down the bark of the Tree toward the knothole, letting children know she is coming. There are two more Mice Habitats in this section of the Tree, just left of Caitlin’s knothole, one above the other. The topmost habitat features two smartly dressed husband and wife mice speaking to a chap who dressed to play a game of cricket. This room’s walls are lined with matchbook covers advertising establishments from all over the world. The floor mimics this concept, and is imbedded with silver coins from worldly destinations such as Egypt, France, and Ireland. Below this habitat is one featuring a gathering of lady mice enjoying an afternoon of tea, crochet, and pastries served by a friendly baker mouse.
Moving to the left once more, we find the Winter side of the Tree. The bark changes again - it is still rough, but has some smoothness thanks to a painted-on frost effect, which gives the bark an icy-blue hue. There are also large areas of white snow patches, which have a slightly grainy texture due to a glittery effect in the paint. The face on this portion of the Tree has white, snow-covered eyebrows and a moustache and beard made of snow. Touching the beard you will find icicles hanging down in large spikes. There is another outcropping at waist height with a patch of snow, which children can sit on. There is another mouse habitat directly above and to the left of this snowy seat, featuring a bedroom, where a husband and wife mouse couple are snuggled in their bed, him with a good book and her with a cup of hot cocoa. Their maid mouse stands at their bedside, checking to see that they are comfortable. This Winter portion faces the section of the gallery with winter wonderland scenes, including Santa and his elves and a snowy village built into the floor under glass. Moving to the left once more is an area in between the Winter and the Summer, which would be Spring. There is no face in this portion, but there are two more Mice Habitats, including another mouse bedroom, this one featuring a portly mouse fellow with a blue striped night cap and a green hot water bottle headed to bed. Lastly, there is a mouse habitat right at ankle height, featuring a street scene of mice, cars, and the facades of shops and restaurants. These mice are all a much smaller scale than the rest of the mice found throughout the Tree.
The Tree was built by Claro Creative Studios, based out of Glendale, California. One of their designers was a Disney Imagineer for 22 years, which could be why so many visitors remark that the Tree reminds them of Grandmother Willow in Disney's animated film, Pocahontas. The Tree is made of cement and steel, with a carved surface texture similar to styrofoam which has been lacquered and painted. The leaves of the Tree are abstract, represented by several banners hanging from the ceiling, some with images of leaves and flowers and others with images of snowflakes. There are also figures of elves, fairies and gnomes hanging from the rafters and perched in the branches, to show that the Tree is home to many enchanted creatures.
The Tree has its own sound-effects, emanating from hidden speakers near the ceiling. The sound effects include chimes, twinkles, chants, gusts of wind, fluttering, and sleigh bells. To add to the mystical effect of the sounds, there are special lights which focus on the Tree from multiple angles with different colored filters.
The Enchanted Tree is the unifying element of the gallery, drawing all of the fantastical rudiments together into a cohesive, central theme. Not only does the Tree highlight the varied artifacts surrounding it, but it does so without detracting from any one in particular – and it stands alone as a unique exhibit space of its own.