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“Rivers of Light” Nighttime Spectacular Coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Shawn Slater

by , Senior Communications Manager, Disney Live Entertainment

As we’ve shared here on Disney Parks Blog, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is about to undergo the largest expansion in the park’s history. Among other exciting projects, the years ahead will see the addition of all-new entertainment experiences, including a new nighttime spectacular.


“Rivers of Light” promises to be an innovative show unlike anything ever seen in Disney Parks, combining live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery. The show will magically come to life on the broad, natural stage of the Discovery River, between Discovery Island and Expedition Everest, delighting our guests and truly capping off a full day of adventures at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

We look forward to sharing more details on the Disney Parks Blog in the future – about “Rivers of Light” and other new entertainment experiences coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.


  • What kind of songs for Rivers of Light and they will seats and this will be awesome in 2016 one year before Avatar!

  • I hope that opens in 2016, because that year expire my visa

  • Epcot & AK are my absolute favorite Disney parks. As a previous poster commented some people really just don’t get it as attendance wise it may be the least favorite of many visitors. My husband and I spent a lovely evening there this past December. It is by far the most ambitious and gorgeously themed park and with all these additions it can only enhance it’s beauty. Very excited to experience the new projects and as with many people, I’m hoping these improvements don’t interfere with the park’s living animals natural cycle.

  • Hi
    Were Coming on our vacation from England ( UK ) on June 4, 2014 for 2 weeks.
    Can you be so kind as to tell me ( if possible ) is there any evening events at the Animal Kingdom that is on during our stay and if so do we need special tickets for it.
    Also is the Expedition Everest going to be open on the dates we are visiting.
    Oh ! Oh also can you be so kind as to confirm if the Disney Snow White Dwarf mine cart ride will be open then, my granddaughter keeps asking day, after day, after day if It is and when it is and all the other buts, ifs and when’s she can throw in during a 2 minute conversations.
    Any help will be very much appreciated.
    Best Wishes from the UK to all

    • Tracy – You and your granddaughter are going to have a wonderful couple of weeks! The only evening activity planned for Disney’s Animal Kingdom at this time is Harambe Nights, a separately ticketed event on Saturdays (more details are available in a separate post here on the Disney Parks Blog). As to your other questions: Yes, Expedition Everest is scheduled to be open during your visit. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opens May 28, so you’ll be able to experience that attraction, as well.

  • Our kids loved the boat ride on the river (Yes. We were there when it first opened.) And when the characters would ride on the boat and glide down the river waving.
    1) Will they be doing that again?
    2) Why did they stop?

    • Sharon – I remember the Discovery River Boats, as well! I’m not aware of any plans for their return, however, but we’re always evaluating our offerings in order to provide a great mix of experiences for our Guests.

  • From the concept art its appears Viva Gaia is slated to be a part of the River of Light concept. Will the Tree of Life be incorporated into the show?

    • MIchael – The elements of “Rivers of Light” and some of the other new entertainment experiences planned for Disney’s Animal Kingdom are still coming together. We’ll have more updates for you in the future.

  • Surprisingly, AK is open quite late on occasion. In 2012 I had the pleasure of enjoying the area well after sunset, and had the thrill of riding Expedition Everest in the dark, and in the glow of a full moon. I must say, the walkway from Dinoland to Africa was quite beautiful, and even a little spooky. Evidently, not a lot of people chose to stay, and there were actually more cast members than guests in the park at that time. I would love the opportunity to do that again.

  • I just love everything about Walt Disney World. Thank you for updating me about the Animal Kingdom. I would stay there if I could afford it. Have a wonderful Disney Day!

  • I don’t think Hollywood Studios is “least popular” Disney park. It is the least attended compared to the other three because it’s the smallest, and it appeals more to adults and teenagers, then to younger children. I enjoy Hollywood Studios more then the Magic Kingdom because I enjoy the more intense rides, the food is better and the fact that you can get an adult beverage anywhere in the park. I loved Magic Kingdom more as a kid, and I still enjoy it from time to time, but know I prefer Epcot, DHS, and AK more.

    • Salvatore – I guess it just goes to show there are great experiences for everyone at the Walt Disney World Resort!

  • I have always loved Animal Kingdom. I think some people just don’t get it but I do. My favorite time of day at AK is at night and this will be such an amazing addition! Between this and Avatar coming I am ready to move to FL and work at AK!!! Beautiful concept art-I greatly look forward to this expansion!

    • Cheryl – The park truly shines at night.

  • Wow–this sounds incredible! I have always loved Animal Kingdom–I never understood when people said it was a half day park. It takes me from park open until 5 to see and do everything I want, and now this will be a reason to stay even later!

    • Elizabeth – I’m so glad to hear you love the park, too. There’s so much to take in and enjoy at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

  • Im so excited, I like this parks, but needed a big show or show like the others parks

    • Jose – It’s going to be awesome!

  • I know a lot of Low level Pyro doesnt disturb the animals like the pyro used in SeaWorld, Not all pyro is loud, it depends on what you get, I am a licensed Pyrotechnician, I have worked with some pyro that doesnt have big bursts like gerbs and comets, so hopefully they will use that stuff. Also I know seaworld uses some specially designed pyro that is safer for the enironment so I bet they will use that with animals in semi close proximity! who knows, I am pretty excited for all these updates announced! I will be moving back in 2 weeks with a job just off disney property so you can bet I will be going a lot in the coming months!!!

  • I also think it would be great if this show was character free. Seems like it could be a moving experience! Back in the day many Disney World and Disneyland shows were character free but more so nowadays there’s less and less of that kind of entertainment! I hope it stays character free and I really look forward to experiencing it!

  • how very exciting for AK! I agree with Kevin- I love what appears to be the transformation scene from Brother Bear! It would be very exciting for Creative Entertainment to fully utilize the idea of “spirit animals” and animal based cultures/worship in a fully immersive production.

    I look forward to and anticipate not only ‘this’ event, but other exciting possibilities for AK in the immediate future!

    • Ryan and Kevin – You may be on to something there! That sequence in “Brother Bear” drew from Inuit legends related to the aurora borealis, a natural phenomenon described by some as “rivers of light in the sky.” 😉

  • Animal kingdom is our family’s favorite park. So excited to see this!

    • Kim – We love it, too! It’s got our favorite shows, one of our favorite rides (Expedition Everest, of course), and the animals are endlessly entertaining.

  • I’m excited that this appears to be a character-free show! What a perfect way to cap off the night after a day of learning about real-world animals and cultures

    I also really like that it appears to pull influences from the Transformation scene in Brother Bear; I’ve long thought it would make a perfect addition to World of Color, so it’s neat to see something similar here

    • Kevin – “Rivers of Light” is definitely going to be a magical way to wrap up a day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

  • What time frame is this coming?

    • Penny – We don’t have a date yet for “Rivers of Light,” but all the new experiences announced for Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be debuting between now and 2017.

  • Thank you, everyone, for your concern for our animals. Throughout the development of “Rivers of Light,” the Creative Entertainment team has been working closely with the experts on Disney’s Animal Programs team to ensure the safety and proper care for all the animals who call Disney’s Animal Kingdom home.

  • Oh this is so exciting! The concept pic is amazing. I can’t wait for all the new stuff at AK

  • Oh My Goodness!! i am super stoked about this happening. i love AK and am always so disappointed that they close so much earlier than the other parks because i feel rushed thru the day so with this nighttime show i will be able to enjoy more of the park at a nice leisurely pace. this show looks amazing and i am sure it will be everything we can imagine and more as Disney knows how to do it right :>

    I am sure they have thought of all the angles regarding the animals on the savannah and how this will affect them as well as the other animals within the park. This show will only to the beauty that is already within this park.

    Jan 2016 marathon weekend cannot get here quick enough :>

    • Melissa – I think you’ll be really impressed with the show, and I’m with you… it will be so nice to spend time exploring Disney’s Animal Kingdom after dark and enjoying everything the park has to offer.

  • When does this anticipated show open?

    • Shelley – We’re still a little ways off and don’t have a date just yet, but we’ll be sure to give you updates here on Disney Parks Blog as soon as we have them.

  • This looks very exciting. Also Animal Kingdom is no longer Disney World’s least popular park. I believe based on some public figures that title goes to Hollywood Studios now.

  • I hope we will be able to see the show all around the lake, instead of just one spot (like World of Colors).

  • But Animal Kingdom isn’t open during evening hours.

    • Tim – As part of the expansion of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, new evening experiences are being added, including a nighttime version of Kilimanjaro Safaris, “Rivers of Light,” and other nighttime entertainment.

  • Too many posters unnecessarily think this will disturb the animals. I don’t think this show will contain many fireworks, but even if it did, there are plenty of other parks and zoos with animals that have fireworks, concerts, and other loud noises. Busch Gardens Tampa and SeaWorld Orlando are nearby examples. Also many Independence Day fireworks displays occur in rural communities around the country without major concerns for native wildlife. Finally, if people, pets, and wildlife can stand fireworks or any other nighttime show, then so can captive animals.

  • Duke,

    The blog announced back at this article that there would be Night Time Safari opening.

    Animal Kingdom is one of my favorites, I’m pumped to hear more details in this park!


  • Yes I am wondering about disturbing the animals also.

  • They just can’t do fireworks. The animals aren’t on the savannah overnight but they are close to the facility

  • It’s awesome for the new Nighttime entertainment for Animal Kingdom! I love it!

    • 🙂

  • This is their least popular park, so they’re doing everything they can to bring more people in. They used to close early for the animals, as well. With Avatarland I think they’re planning on staying open later and letting people experience the park longer. The animals don’t stay on the Savannah at night – I’m 95% sure they get housed somewhere guests don’t see so they can be examined and taken care of. So maybe the River show will happen after they go in for the night.

  • Hooray!! Smells like World of Color… with what could be a fantastic story!

    • Jason – While some elements may be similar to “World of Color” or “Fantasmic,” “Rivers of Light” will be completely original and truly epic. And you can certainly count on a great story being told.

  • I thought night events like this would disturb the animals?
    Is that no longer a worry?

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