Rivers of Light Show Extends Disney’s Animal Kingdom Operating Hours

Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park has always closed on the early side, making some families think of it as a “half day park.”  Starting April 22, 2016, the Rivers of Light nighttime spectacular will cap a full day, and on into night experience at the park.  With all the closures and construction occurring at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for Star Wars and Toy Story Lands, the addition of the Rivers of Light show as well as other evening experiences at Disney’s Animal Kingdom were necessary.  Continue reading for more photos, video and details of Rivers of Light and the other nighttime additions to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Update February 9, 2017

After a nearly 10 month delay, the much anticipated Rivers of Light nighttime spectacular at Disney’s Animal Kingdom will open to the public on Friday, February 17.  You can find more details on the Disney Parks Blog.

Rivers of Light

“Rivers of Light” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Photo by Kent Phillips, courtesy Disney Parks.

Update April 5, 2016

The official Disney Parks Blog announced Rivers of Light will not open on April 22, 2016 and is indefinitely delayed.  A temporary show called The Jungle Book: Alive With Magic will take Rivers of Light’s place for the summer.

The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic

“The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic,” photo by Preston Mack, courtesy Walt Disney World Resort


Original post from March 3 follows below…

From Walt Disney World Resort’s Press Release

The magic of nature after dark takes center stage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom when the all-new Rivers Of Light waterside show premieres April 22, Earth Day — marking the Walt Disney World theme park’s thrilling transformation from a day-into-nighttime experience.

“Disney’s Animal Kingdom is such a majestic and beautiful park,” said George A. Kalogridis, President of Walt Disney World Resort, “and to now show our guests original stories that reveal the magic of nature and bring this special park to life like never before — makes nighttime at Disney’s Animal Kingdom a can’t miss experience for Walt Disney World guests this summer.”

Disney’s Animal Kingdom will transition from a day-into-night theme park, aglow with wondrous new nighttime experiences and entertainment celebrating marvels in nature, epic storytelling, innovative effects, and a festive street party. Across the park, guests can experience long-time favorites such as Expedition Everest, DINOSAUR, and Kali River Rapids with more time to enjoy them into the night.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Tree of Life

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the park’s iconic Tree of Life has grown new roots. Featuring new animals that make up the circle of life, from tiny bugs to large crocodiles, the expanded roots also offer a widened walkway for guests. Photo by Todd Anderson, courtesy Walt Disney World Resort

Rivers of Light

After the sun sets, guests will gather waterside for the majestic nighttime jewel, “Rivers of Light.” This illuminating musical experience celebrates the magic of animals and humans and the natural world with a blend of performers, floating lanterns and theatrical animal imagery.

"Rivers of Light" at Disney's Animal Kingdom

“Rivers of Light” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. (Disney Parks)


On the natural stage of Discovery River, guests will marvel as a timeless custom comes to life before their eyes in a stirring performance. The ceremony begins with the arrival of a pair of mystical hosts, two complimentary forces who come to the river bearing gifts of light. They set out from the shore on elaborate lantern vessels, engaging in a dramatic dance of water and light to summon the animal spirits. With these storytellers as guides, the wonders of “Rivers of Light” unfold, building to a magnificent finale with bursts of light as animal images soar to the heavens– signifying the ancient belief that when animals passed from one world to another they danced in the sky and became beautiful rivers of light, according to Michael Jung, Creative Portfolio Director, Walt Disney Imagineering.

Rivers of Light

“Rivers of Light” will be an innovative experience unlike anything ever seen in a Disney park, combining live performances, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery. “Rivers of Light” will come to life as a pair of mystical hosts comes to Discovery River bearing gifts of light. Image courtesy Disney Parks


To create “Rivers of Light,” Imagineers and Disney Creative Entertainment partnered with experts including award-winning master designer Michael Curry, whose Disney Parks contributions include “Finding Nemo: The Musical” and “Disney Festival of Fantasy parade.” Film composer Don L. Harper created the soaring musical score for the nighttime show which also includes an original song by noted composer Mark Mancina. Disney also collaborated with the award-winning filmmakers at Disneynature to bring never-before-seen footage, telling dramatic and compelling stories from the animal world to the show.

The Tree of Life Awakens

Nearby on Discovery Island the area will come alive each night with a celebration filled with music and dance. The theme park’s iconic Tree of Life will undergo extraordinary “awakenings” throughout the evening as the animal spirits are brought to life by magical fireflies that open a window into the body of the tree, revealing colorful stories of wonder and enchantment.

The Tree of Life at DisneyÕs Animal Kingdom -- Nighttime Artist Concept

The iconic Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom will undergo an amazing awakening starting spring 2016 as the animal spirits of the tree are brought to “light” at night by magical fireflies, revealing moments of wonder and enchantment. (Disney Parks)

Kilimanjaro Safaris after Dark

Each evening, the popular Kilimanjaro Safaris daytime experience is artfully bathed in the look of sunset with special lighting allowing guests to explore and enjoy this attraction well into the night. During the expedition guests can now enjoy the wildlife at night, and may discover two new species: African wild dogs and hyenas.

Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, image courtesy Walt Disney World Resort

Harambe Wildlife Parti/Discovery Island Carnivale

When the sun sets, the popular Village of Harambe will become a hot spot with the new Harambe Wildlife Parti. Here, “party animals” can dance alongside local street musicians and entertainers, partake in exotic foods and libations and explore the diverse wares of village artisans and merchants. And the new Discovery Island Carnivale will captivate guests with lively music, spirited dance, vibrant costumes, and tasty culinary creations, spreading from one end of the island to the other.

Harambe Market at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Harambe Market at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, photo by Matt Stroshane, courtesy Walt Disney World Resort

Tiffins Signature Restaurant

In addition to the masterful new entertainment offerings beginning this summer, guests will enjoy Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s newest eatery, Tiffins. Open for both lunch and dinner, this new signature dining experience will celebrate the art of traveling and include waterfront views from both indoor and outdoor seating areas. “Tiffin” is an Indian English word meaning midday meal or type of container used to carry food while traveling.

Tiffins Signature Restaurant Coming to Disney's Animal Kingdom in 2016

Tiffins, a new restaurant set to open at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2016, will celebrate the art of traveling and include waterfront views from both indoor and outdoor seating areas. (Disney Parks)


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About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.