Dollywood Wildwood Tree
Growing Wildwood Grove’s Native Flora and Fauna
Nestled into the scenic Smoky Mountains, Dollywood’s new Wildwood Expansion needed a central icon that offered visitors a daytime spectacle, a nighttime show, and the perfect place to meet friends and family. What started as a dream of a Wildwood tree species unique to Dollywood blossomed into a beautiful centerpiece of visitor experience.
The Wildwood Tree needed to be visually stunning, at a height that could be seen throughout the park and with custom, durable leaves that would last for decades. Digital sculpting of the tree proceeded through several iterations, as each possible audience point of view was identified and scrutinized.
Programming the lighted butterflies, however, took the most care to capture the magic of Wildwood Grove. Each wing contained multiple RGB pixels, and each butterfly was carefully positioned in designated spaces around the tree. Full pre-visualization of each show moment was mapped digitally to show the full experience before starting on-site assembly.
What We Built
The construction of the Wildwood Tree was a tightly organized operation. Once the ground first thawed in the Smokies, the tree was shipped on 18 semi trucks from Cincinnati, Ohio to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and LF Studios was there to meet it. Thousands of leaves, cast in a durable, custom-blended resin (Kynar) were placed around the butterflies to fill the tree with unique Wildwood Tree foliage.
After 1 year of methodically digitally designing, sculpting, and programming each detail, our team had 1.5 months to build the entire tree on-site, and the challenge of only 1 week to complete programming for multiple shows that played throughout the day.
In preparation, each butterfly pixel was mapped onto specific butterfly wings and assigned a place in a digital model of the tree. To ensure a perfect show no matter where the visitor stood, the tree was scaled and placed into a digital model of the Wildwood area, so that show producers could view the tree from all visitor vantage points. The tree’s shows were then virtually programmed in the same fashion we programmed the real shows once the tree was built and powered up.
Dollywood has a custom Wildwood Tree leaf mold so the tree can continue to grow over the years, like the Tennessee forest surrounding the park. Its presence is central to visitor experience at Dollywood and has become the central meeting place and photograph location in the park.