A visual tree structure as specified by a program is constructed and maintained by a visual system's user interface thread. As needed, the tree structure is traversed on the UI thread, with changes compiled into change queues. A secondary rendering thread that handles animation and graphical composition takes the content from the change queues, to construct and maintain a condensed visual tree. Static visual subtrees are collapsed, leaving a condensed tree with only animated attributes such as transforms as parent nodes, such that animation data is managed on the secondary thread, with references into the visual tree. When run, the rendering thread processes the change queues, applies changes to the condensed trees, and updates the structure of the animation list as necessary by resampling animated values at their new times. Content in the condensed visual tree is then rendered and composed. Animation and a composition communication protocol are also provided.