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Update on Nighttime Experiences at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Thomas Smith

by , Editorial Content Director, Disney Parks

With the expansion of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we’re excited to give Guests even more opportunities to celebrate the magic of animals and nature as day turns into night. While we’d hoped to debut these offerings on April 22, unfortunately, they will not open as planned on that date as we give the team more time to bring these innovative experiences to life in a way we know will exceed our guests’ expectations.

We’ll share more information about timing on the Disney Parks Blog by mid- to late May. We checked in recently during rehearsals of two key elements of the nighttime experience at Disney’s Animal Kingdom: the dramatic water and light show Rivers of Light, and the new nighttime magic at the Tree of Life.

This image from a recent rehearsal of Rivers of Light illustrates a bit of the beauty and complexity of this innovative blend of water, light and original music that brings with it so many firsts.

This video of the iconic Tree of Life shows how the centerpiece of Disney’s Animal Kingdom will truly come alive with swirling animated imagery that tells enchanting stories from nature.

We apologize for any inconvenience and look forward to debuting these new offerings. We hope you agree that they look worth the wait!


  • Bummed that they won’t be happening during our trip but thank you for letting us know.

  • How disappointing, I suppose we should give up hope on seeing it during our mid May trip.

  • this is so disappointing, but I appreciate the information so I don’t have 2 more weeks of not knowing, we planned our vacation for this and won’t be able to go back for a while after this trip, from the teaser video it looks amazing but I guess it’s not in the cards

    Is there any chance of the new night time activities opening before ROL? the park being open after hours with the safari and Everest seem like they could happen without ROL or the tree?

  • Very disappointed since tickets purchased for early May specifically for this show.

  • Does this also effect the soon to be later hours featuring the nighttime safari?

  • Oh, no. Very sad to hear this, but glad to have some confirmation from Disney about it. Can’t wait until it is ready to go!

  • Any update on whether or not this will affect Joe Rohde’s plans to appear in the park that morning?

  • does this mean the Sunset Safari is also delayed?

  • The delay of ROL is a bummer, but that footage of Tree of Life is just breathtaking! Certainly something that will get people to stop in their tracks to watch every time one of the “mini-shows” occurs! Very impressed!

  • Disappointing of course, but I’d rather Disney make sure the show is up to their standards.

  • Big disappointment 🙁

  • I am so bummed that this has been delayed! I will be at the parks April 23-29th and I am really hoping to see it.

  • I am very disappointed. The dates have been advertised for quite some time, plans have been made and expectations set on behalf of the guests. I have a hard time believing that all of the proposed nighttime activities are unable to meet that date. I am disappointed that the decision made is “all or nothing”. There are already significant closures at HS and EPCOT and this addition helped offset some of those losses.

  • Oh no 🙁 I’m going in late May so I really hope I am able to see it!

  • Going Mid-May, so I guess there’s little likelihood of seeing it then? Sad days.

  • Is the rivers of light not happening or the other planned experiences? Will the new resturants be open on the 22nd?

  • This is frustrating since we booked in May because this would be open by then.
    So are they going to have the other experiences open soon? I’m guessing they will push back everything until this opens. So no safari or Tiffins.

  • Thank you for providing an update. It is better to be informed than to be left wondering. I look forward to future updates from DPB.

  • This is such a let down as my Animal Kingdom day is April 22nd. I do however appreciate knowing in advance. Are the other nighttime activities delayed as well? Are there any other special activities planned for Earth Day then?

  • Very sad we planned half our trip around this, staying at Jambo and visiting AK more than usual. Oh well at least we know it will be done right. Thank you for the heads up.

  • To be honest I won’t be to WDW until marathon weekend 2017 but I can appreciate people that were hoping to see it sooner. Will the light show on the tree of life be on all sides? Is there going to be one “best” viewing area? They may need bleacher seats for the crowd. This looks great.

  • WOW! I cannot wait to see this…thank you for this little ‘tease’ of the magic to come!

  • Bummer! Do you know if Animal Kingdom will still be open later starting on April 22? I had changed my dinner reservations to accommodate, so it would be great to know so that I can change them back. Thank you!

  • Awe man 🙁 We were going to be there on the 23rd for my son’s 5th birthday. I’m sad we won’t be able to experience this while we are there. I won’t let this impact our trip and plan on enjoying the park and time with my family.

  • Very upset about this. We are coming from NY and planned our whole trip around the opening of this event. We are paying the extra to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge to be close to the park. We have been following all of the progress, pictures and videos for Rivers of Light and were so excited to take part in the opening of this show. It has been part of our Disney countdown and excitement. We will not be able to go back in May as our annual passes expire and may be a while until we make it back.

  • Hopefully it would be done by September. Thank you for the update

  • Disappointing to say the least. With all of the attractions closed across the parks (either refurbs or new lands) we were really excited something new was going to take place during our trip at the end of this month, sadly this will not happen. While I understand deadlines are not always hit it might have been wise to set a more achievable date and not have to retract information that has been passed along to all of us fans.

  • While I understand the these types of delays can occur, and Disney’s desire to have the new attractions perfect before they debut, I feel that the communication around this new attractions/shows has been inadequate. For weeks, there have been blog posts to hype this new show, with the promise of additional information. While I am glad to finally know, given that I am traveling in late April, I am extremely disappointed, and even more disappointed that I’m not finding this out until 10 days before my departure. I have to imagine that it has been evident for a while that the show would not be ready, if you are indeed not providing information on the timing until May. I do suggest that MDE is updated to reflect this delay, as it currently has a start date of 4/22 and many guests do not follow the blog.

  • Why would you plan an entire trip around something you can’t book or see in my Disney Experience? The park hours weren’t even extended. Anyway, thanks for sharing. My family and I were looking forward to seeing at the end of the month but it in no way decreases our excitement for our trip. I am sure we can find a ton of other things to enjoy at that time!! Thank you.

  • Disappointing.. My DW & I are down 4/21-4/25 and had planned to attend..

    Earth Day and the anniversary of Animal Kingdom’s opening day was the perfect timing for this event..

  • Big disappointment. We planned our recent trip so we could be there for opening day 🙁

  • Thank you for the update. Please release similar updates in regard to Soarin’ and the Frozen attractions at Epcot. Since we’re being encouraged to plan and plan early, letting us know things won’t be open when we thought they could be is a huge help.

  • My husband & I were hoping to catch the show as we’ll be there through April 23rd, so this means Animal Kingdom will most likely be skipped for us this go ’round. Oh well! More time to soak in the Magic Kingdom & Epcot and by the time we’ll be back in November, Animal Kingdom & Hollywood Studios should have more to offer than the current state of affairs. Thanks for the information! Good things take time.

  • Wow! I had heard this might be happening a couple days ago but I had hoped for once I had bad info… I’ve been waiting for Disney to create something for the river area for a long time and we scheduled a last minute trip the end of April to see it finally happen. It was hard enough getting FP+ and meal plans well within the “window” to see the lights but now I don’t know if I can even change them. Sad sad news…

  • I have to point out, you hadn’t ‘hoped’ to debut these attractions on April 22nd. You announced you WOULD debut these attractions on that date. There’s a difference.
    My wife and I will still enjoy our Disney stay in late April, but we’d rather not have had our expectations raised. If you weren’t certain of the date, it would have been better to make it clear that this was only a provisional date. Never mind, we’ll catch it next time.

  • Add this to the long list of delayed Disney openings… Avatar, Shanghai Disney… Something is is broken with the process that they’ve done for decades.

  • Do you know if Joe will still be available on the 22nd to autograph books and art?
    Well, I guess we will just have to plan to come back again when Rivers of Light does officially open… perks of a passholder! Guess we’ll just have to enjoy Flower and Garden… 🙂

  • disappointed si not strong enough to express my feelings about this change. there is a difference between ” officially announced ” and ” hoped ” to start in April .

  • Maybe they should debut the tree of life show and start the nighttime parties on earth day. Give us that at least, rather than leave us completely disappointed.

  • NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! I am deeply upset by this, my family and I were very excited by the fact that we were going to be some of the first people to see this amazing show! It is my families first trip all together and I have had my Disney senses on high alert for every thing Aminal Kingdom and River of Lights, watching the live stream of it and every blog post including the previews and show times and checking my Disney experience app every day to see if fast passes where available yet! I was hoping that this was going to be the start of a beautiful family relationship with Disney and now instead I have a bad taste with the whole thing, I would have thought that an “OFFICIAL” opening date was very official but apparently not! I have to say I’m not quite as excited for my trip today as I was yesterday and the days before!

  • Wow…we have been saving and dreaming of a WDW vacation with the kids for over 5 years. When it was announced that our dream trip would coincide with the opening we were super thrilled. It seems obvious to say, as the others have, but it would have been so much better to not get our hopes up with a specific date. My family may not make it back for a long while so we can’t just say oh well, next time! I know that we will still have a wonderful time at WDW but the kids are going to be sad pandas when I try and explain it to them (after we were watching all the amazing videos and teasers that you guys kept putting out!) Better planning on not stirring up the masses before it is time is def. called for.

  • Forgive me if I cry a river of tears for having to miss the rivers of light because my pass expires on the 25th I was really looking forward to seeing as we will not be renewing our passes for this year. Cya again whenever avatar land, toy story and star wars lands are finished!

  • Appreciate the update, so thank you. However am very, very disappointed as we planned our trip this year accordingly to include seeing the new attractions and night show at Animal Kingdom. Don’t suppose these would be ready by our trip in early May if another update will be coming mid-May; oh well, looking forward to seeing it in the future, another time!

  • Very Disappointed! Though we often visit Disney this is the first time we would have been there for my daughters actual birthday. She was so excited (as were we all) to be able to experience something so special as a new show or new ride opening during that time. Now she is heart broken to find River of Lights and Frozen ride will debut only weeks after our trip. Not to mention the abundance of closures during this time. so sad

  • I am very disappointed and upset. I am going to be there the first week of May for my birthday celebration.
    I specifically purchased tickets for the animal kingdom to see this performance that was scheduled to be debut on April 22nd and now it is not going to happen until most likely in June.
    So much for my birthday surprise…

  • I am very disappointed as we are not coming back. we are spending our 50th anniversary in DW area and was really hoping we could see this new attraction We are to old to try and make another trip. We usually come every 5th year and so we are sorry we will miss this great display or lights and colors. I was hoping this was an April 1 hocks like the other one about Disney Hollywood. but guess not. Forever Disney person.

  • I am so bummed. We arrive on 4/22 and rearranged our whole schedule to go to opening night. Guess I will have to wait for something else to open to mark going to a Disney opening off of my bucket list.

  • This is just so frustrating and disappointing. We planned a trip for May, being told the show would be open for a few weeks at that time. We were already frustrated that we couldn’t really make plans without definitively knowing park hours and therefore when and where to make dining reservations or fast passes, but now it’s even worse. I love Disney, but I’d rather they had said “coming soon” rather than “opens April 22nd”. Once that information and start date is out there, your patrons expect you to adhere to it. We leave on May 11th. Our luck, the show will debut that evening.

  • Wow this is quite a disappointment,
    I could understand perhaps a 1 week delay, but to state that you will reveal more info mid to end MAY while it is early April at the moment shocks me. Please at least open up the park at night even if RoL is pushed back.

  • Very disappointed but sadly not entirely surprised by this news.

    I had really been looking forward to experiencing Animal Kingdom at night. I, rather foolishly as it turns out, thought the nighttime offerings would be a sure thing since they were announced with a firm date so far in advance.

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