Rivers of Light is a nighttime show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and is located in the park’s Discovery River lagoon surrounded by Asia, Dinoland, and Discovery Island. The nighttime spectacular uses music, boats, floats, water screens fountains, and fire to showcase the wide and vast world of animals and nature. The show (including pre-show) lasts about 30 minutes and the stadium seats about 5,000 people per show.
The show begins with actors? dancers? performers? moving throughout the stadium seating filled with guests toward boats that are similar to a Chinese Junk (this takes about 15 minutes). I have to admit that I was a little confused as to what the story was and their purpose. Later I learned that these performers were shamans. (Apparently, I did not do my background research BEFORE I saw the show). The show begins when the Shamans board the boat and begin conjuring up the forces of fire and water to reveal the incredible natural world we live in, which is projected on a huge water screen at the back of the lagoon set to a soundtrack. Lotus flower lantern floats join the boats, along with color changing floats in the shape of an owl, elephant, turtle and tiger. Throughout the show water fountains and fire also help to move the show along.
Last fall, I was was fortunate to be able to see Rivers of Light and here is my take on Rivers of Light…
DISCLAIMER: These are MY opinions! I tell clients that you need to experience things yourself if you are interested, different strokes for different folks. So please see the show if you are interested and form your own opinions.
So what did I think?
Eh…it was enjoyable.
The show is visually mesmerizing and beautiful. Disney has done an excellent job with sound, light, fire, visual effects to offer a much needed evening experience in Animal Kingdom. And I like that this make Animal Kingdom a full day park, wait no I don’t because that means more people. But…
I found the show to be slow and lacking any kind of storyline to move it along. The show seemed all over the place and scenes that did not connect to each other. There is no grand finale, it just seems to end. I have to admit after about 10 minutes I found myself wishing I was riding Expedition Everest behind me. I can’t imagine how antsy a child could get, oh wait I can. I was seated by several children under the age of 5 and they were done about 5 minutes into the preshow and the actual show really did not seem to interest them but for a couple of times (usually when the fire effects were in use).
There is no “Disney” in Rivers of Light. Call me strange, but Disney has so many incredible animal stories that I would think somehow that they could incorporate the music and images from these movies. I know Disney wants Animal Kingdom to be all about conservation and protecting the natural world, but come on you could use familiar animal characters to help tell the story.
There is not much you might call “spectacular” in this nighttime spectacular beyond being visually beautiful. Spectacular to me is something that keeps me on my seat and wanting more…cue Wishes in the Magic Kingdom.
So how do you plan to fit it in your day?
First, DON’T WASTE AN ADVANCED FASTPASS+ (made at 60 days) on the show. Also, don’t use a FastPass+ while you are in Animal Kingdom unless it is the end of the day and nothing else is available. There generally are 2 performances each evening and the Pandora being opened the days of the difficulty in getting to see the show are gone, most guests prefer to experience Pandora at night (you can do both with planning). If you decide to go stand-by, the last performance of the day will be the least crowded. I recommend lining up standby 45-60 minutes prior to showtime during peak crowd times.
The best way (and probably my favorite) is to get a Rivers of Light Dining Package, I loved my meal at Tiffins!. It does not cost you any extra to get a FastPass+ along with your meal, but you must book the package as just eating at the restaurant does not get you a FastPass+. This is the safe choice to make sure that you have a seat for Rivers of Light. And if you go this route, I would opt for the earlier showtime so that you can explore the bioluminescence of Pandora or jump in the standby line for Flight of Passage (if it was not an unreasonable wait time). If you do have a FastPass+ for Rivers of Light, I recommend being seated about 30 minutes prior to showtime. There is a 15 minute pre-show and the area will go dim about this time.
Despite all of this I do think that Rivers of Light is worth seeing, at least once. And you can bring food and drinks in with you…so BEFORE YOU ARE SEATED pick up some cute Lotus Flower light-up food and beverage items sold at nearby stands and BECOME PART of the show.
Have you seen Rivers of Light? What are your thoughts? Please leave your thoughts, reactions and comments.
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