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Update on Nighttime Experiences at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Thomas Smith

by , Editorial Content Director, Disney Experiences

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!


  • It’s late May , where the update ?

  • I am coming in November for my daughter’s 7th birthday. We have been 2 times before but this would be a new experience. Will it still be showing in November?

  • So, I’m confused still, will animal kingdom be open at night when I’m there in October?

  • I actually called yesterday and wrote an email to them. They said that since the night experiences start on Memorial Day Weekend the system has not been updated to show the new parks hours. They said that they will be updating the schedule in the coming days/weeks.

    Hope this helps!

  • i’m confused. are the new night features and attractions/shows at animal kingdom only a summer thing? i noticed that animal kingdom is staying open late (11pm) in June as stated in a previous post but then the following month and thereafter until mid-November it is closing at 5pm. Are the new summer attractions just a temporary thing!? If they are saying 2016 still for rivers of light (not the jungle book show in its place) i’m confused unless they will be waiting until late nov or december to open. are they going to just preview the new animal king show, tree, safari ride night option for a month and then close everything down? trying to plan and more specifics from disney would be greatly appreciated. kind of frustrating.

  • “Park Hours” says that Animal Kingdom will be staying open until 11 PM starting Memorial Day weekend!! This sounds like great news for those of us coming the first week of June! What are the chances Rivers of Light will be ready by then? We’re hoping!

  • I have to agree with all the others who are disappointed. I surprised my wife on Valentine’s Day with a trip to Disney World since we never had a proper honeymoon. We are coming from the West Coast just for this trip and we planned it for May so we could see the Rivers of Light show at Animal Kingdom.

    I spent my summers working at an Amusement Park, so I know delays happen, but it’s always a disappointment.

    Oh well…

  • Disappointing. I booked our trip for the second week of May and had high hopes for River of Lights AND the new Frozen ride at Epcot which was supposed to open in early spring. Clearly that’s not happening. This is my family’s first trip so at least they won’t know what they are missing.

  • My heart is broken to see the change in experiencing Disney. My family has driven 12 hours almost every year for ten years now to be at Disney. We have always felt the price, which is expensive, was so worth it. Last year was our first bad experience. I was sure it was just a coincidence. Disney never disappoints. This year, we scheduled our trip around Star Wars Weekend, Opening of River of Light, and the opening of the Frozen ride. Now, all of those are not expected to be open, and many other rides and shows are closed for renovation. I understand renovation is a good thing. However, if you are cutting the things to do while customers are there, I find it rather quaint that you are not also cutting the prices. We will not be returning next year. I am beyond devastated that our family tradition has ended along with the magical experience that Disney has always been!

  • When I began planning this trip, it was for my best friend who has never been to WDW. We were looking through all of the fun things to do so she could get an idea of what she was in for and almost immediately when we pulled up AK I saw this was set to begin on April 22, and we were so excited. I had to break the news to her that now it was likely not going to be up before our trip and she was seriously upset (so am I). I understand that in the entertainment industry it can be difficult to set dates without having drawbacks, especially if things are not working properly, but Disney created a lot of hype around this new feature and now isn’t able to deliver on time. I know this won’t break our trip, but I’ve been going to WDW since I was 2 and I lived in Florida for a time and was able to visit the parks all the time. So much has changed since then that I know I’ll have a lot to explore anyway, but as an animal lover, I love going to AK and was really excited about the new nighttime features. I was really looking forward to going on a nighttime safari and seeing the tree of life light up and the whole shebang. Pretty upset over this, that’s for sure. We are trying to plan a trip for next year, but I don’t know if that will happen, for me at least. I’m glad they aren’t scrapping the project, but really wish they would wait to announce things sometimes. I would rather be surprised than disappointed.

  • I planned our vacation the first week of June with an extra day just to be able to experience Rivers of Light, which we really couldn’t afford but was so excited to see it. Deeply disappointed

  • Please keep us updated on the Rivers of Light for its actual opening, and when park goers can sign up for Fast Passes. Everyone counts on Disney and sets vacation trips on these new experiences. Let’s get this correct as soon as possible. Thanks. We know the Rivers of Light will be worth the wait!

  • Gotta add that I am somewhat disapointed, with the new frozen ride being pushed back, and the rivers of light being pushed back as well, my May trip is not looking as good. Obviously there are still fun things to do…but Epcot will be quite boring with Soaring closed, and the rivers of light would have added a fun touch, when you plan your trip so many months out…it’s a shame that things get cancelled at the last minute

  • I’m sorry this is delayed but I’d rather see it done right. From the video, it puts me in mind of the globe at Illuminations. The graphics simply aren’t big enough to really see the detail because you can’t get close enough. Disney must have spent a lot of money developing that globe, which is a big disappointment because it’s so hard to see. And I guess they have to keep using it to get their money’s worth, but Epcot needs an updated show. Disney, don’t make the same mistake with this show!

  • Sad, sad, sad!!!!!

  • Honestly, I was very, very upset to hear about the delay, almost seriously considered postponing our trip… but I am grateful we will have another opportunity to possibly catch the show this year in October… Others are not as luckily. Our first visit to Animal Kingdom is the first week of May, and an evening of AK was what my husband and I were most excited about for our trip. On a happier note, the video of the tree of life looks absolutely amazing! I am beyond excited to see what is in store for Pandora! Please, please don’t announce an opening until it is completely firm, but please take the time to make it was spectacular as there is potential for it to be! I have a feeling that if Animal Kingdom doesn’t end up being our favorite park immediately, it will be in just a few years, and we will definitely plan our next “big trip” not long after Pandora debuts!

  • Really looking forward to this. Hopefully it will be up and running on July 8th. Can’t Wait!!!

  • Hey you think you will be ready by the second week in July? If so may I PLEASE get a reserved spot or a FastPass for waiting so patiently? PLEASE? That would be soooo magical if you could. lol.

  • Glad to see that Disney wants the show to be right, which is most important. I would rather not have something pushed out when it is not up to Disney standards.

  • For the first time ever in my life I can say I’m very disappointed in Disney. My husband and I have planned our trip around Rivers of Light and the new AK hours. There is no other date we can change our date to (and it’s our last trip for a while since we’re having a baby this year). I understand they have to work everything out but they should have planned extra time in their schedule before announcing a date. Still a huge Disney fan but super bummed and disappointed.

  • We will be at WDW the last week of April. Yes when we booked in December we were not booking it because of RofL but….Disney gave us a concrete date and we have been watching the hype and updates so yes, it became a huge thing for our day at AK. Here’s the thing, those of you saying it’s no big deal appear to be those able to go there quite often. Our first trip was in 2010 and we are going back this year because another grandchild has turned 7. Had there not been a firm date and hype to get us excited that would be different. So yes, now, it’s a big negative. I am hoping that to ease Disney’s public relations nightmare over this delay, they will keep the park open later and at least have the Tree of Life special effects as well as a safari at sundown, etc. Really a disappointing announcement.

  • This show looks so amazing, I can’t wait to see it when it is finished. This means I would rather wait then seeing it when it isn’t working properly.
    I can understand why people with planned trips are disappointed but who knows, maybe some things will do trail runs when you are there. It happens.
    There is only one thing making me mad about this post, that is the amount of angry comments posted by people who visit regularly. It might be disappointing now, but you’ll be back. I’m lucky if I can make it once every 10 years, some people only go once in their lives! Stop complaining and go see the other great stuff you obviously know Disney has to offer. And if seeing new stuff is so important for your trip, maybe you should decide not to go so often.

  • Well, I’m still incredibly excited about all the new offerings at Animal Kingdom! It’s one of our favorite parks, and all these additions will make it even better!

  • Considering that previews were rumored to be starting today only about a week or two ago, I would imagine something significant happened to not only delay opening but delay any updates for at least a month.

    Speculation could abound, but there may have been a mechanical or tech issue, something vital may have been damaged and needs to be replaced, or maybe the full show is adversely affecting the animals. Whatever the case, it is obviously huge if Disney called off a heavily hyped debut.

    My wife and I were looking forward to this and the nighttime experiences, but there’s still plenty for is to do and still plenty of reasons to return for the third time in a year. It was certainly attractive when booking that Animal Kingdom was getting a lot of goodies and that Frozen and Soarin’ may shift up EPCOT enough to check out, but we love Disney and love being here. We could rebook for Fall Break at relatively minimal cost, but at the end of the day, it’s being on property that does it for us. Everyone else’s mileage may vary.

    I’m sympathetic to Disney on the date issue because past practice shows it’s a no-win game. If you give a season or month for opening, people still book trips in the hopes that a new attraction will be ready and are still disappointed when it’s not. Cast members still have to field endless “when does it open” questions without any more specific information. With increasingly advanced attractions, booking around a particular date also runs the risk of technical problems arising that shutter the attraction for the length of the trip because there may be unexpected issues or kinks.

  • So disappointed. Our trip is in early May, our first trip, and we were looking forward to this. I understand these things happen but it still makes me sad. I’ve been waiting for April 22 so I could get the schedule and all the details to put in our plans. Oh well ?

  • Like most who have posted about the river of lights, I to am disappointed, not in Disney, but that I will not get to see the new light show. No matter how many times you go to Disney there is always something new to see and do, no matter how many times you see the shows or parades, they are the same but they are different as well. I remember the story about Disneyland’s opening day, the concrete had not dried in time and women in high heels were getting stuck, they did not have enough food to sell to the large unexpected crowd and there was very little water to use. All that disappointed many people that day but it did not kill them or hurt Disney. We don’t know what is keeping the show from opening in April/May but we all have an excuse to return again in the future.
    My last trip I was disappointed that mine train was not scheduled to be opened until the day after my trip, but much to my delight I did in fact ride it during that trip. A little pixie dust was spread that trip. Maybe Disney has a little more pixie dust to spread. I do believe even though I will not get to see the new light show I will in fact have a great vacation at Disney World.

  • I just want to say that despite many new and upcoming attractions not being ready during our recent Spring Break visit, we had a great time at WDW.

    I totally agree with a previous post about the experience with our family being the key element to our visit.

    I go every year with my now teenage daughter and we have so many special memories.

    Turns out there is plenty to do and then some, even though many things are in the works. Hollywood Studios was fine despite construction. We considered it a farewell tour to many beloved attractions. Star Wars fireworks were great!

    As for Animal Kingdom. We could see the construction and viewing area for Rivers of Light from the patio at Flame Tree BBQ. Beautiful area that overlooks the water with Everest in background. Great photo op.

    Animal Kingdom has been a half day park for us on many trips. This trip we decided to allow more time there and spent the day. We really enjoyed the park.

    I think all of the new things coming will just make it that much more enjoyable and we need to be patient.

    When the park closed at 7pm, we headed to Animal Kingdom Lodge to catch the bus to Disney Springs.

    We thoroughly enjoyed our spring break visit as we always do.

  • Disappointed in December when hours changed without notice (ie I was on the bus in the afternoon) and didn’t get to see Osborne Lights one last time. Disappointed yesterday to learn that I wont be able to see ROL this trip. And AK park hours remain at 6:00. I was hoping to enjoy the park in the evening. Sigh. Maybe, everything will be a go next January when, after an NCL caribbean cruise, we stay for a couple of days at Disney.

  • We were unable to get the dates we wanted in April due to military discounted rooms being sold out at our choice resort. As consolation, we took dates in mid-late May and were really pumped that these new experiences would be ready. Now it looks like that won’t happen. I know we will still have a blast as always, and still have new experiences, but I agree that with all of you that no firm dates should be given and then pulled back so close to that date. Disney planning is an ANNUAL event for us, (meaning we start planning our next trip immediately following our current trip). We are flexible in those plans, (we are military–flexible is our lifestyle) but we absolutely try to plan around special events or openings. It’s sad, but I hope all of you still have a magical time!:)

  • Who plans a trip just to see one show?Disney didn’t have this show and people still had a great time in their trips. So much more to do than one show.

    Embrace the fact that you are lucky enough to go to the happiest place on earth because many will never be able to go.

  • It is good that you are taking the time to make sure that the experience is just right. I’m not sure I agree with the people saying open the other parts early – I think the whole nighttime experience works better as a full package

  • Delays happen people! Get over it. Either way the teaser photo looks great! Can’t wait till it’s all done and perfect!

  • We reserved our May 5 – 11 trip many months ago. And, after your ROL “opening April 22nd” Announcement, I was delighted to search for FastPass availability daily – only to be disappointed daily that no FastPasses were showing up. I would make a point several times a day to check the blog and the FastPass schedules. Please note that we try to plan our vacations well in advance and the time I’ve invested so far to get Rivers of Light in our plans has been such a waste, now that you’ve changed the dates. It would have been much more appropriate to publish an Opening Day date when Disney was SURE that this date would, in fact, be solid! Very disappointed in how this Opening Day schedule has been handled in the last few weeks… and I understand how involved production schedules can get delayed. But, in the future, it would be better to recognize all the time and effort that guests go thru to plan a magical vacation… and make your announcements accordingly. We have always expected the get a bit of “pixie dust” when we come to Disney and this scheduling issue has really disappointed in that department. Thanx very much for letting me express my opinion…

  • Very disappointed in the delay. After cancelling Star Wars weekends this was a happy addition to our already planned trip. I have waited patiently to start planning park times etc as we are flying in 3 weeks and to see this was really sad. I understand delays can not be helped but why release a date if you aren’t sure you can make it? If we could have cancelled our trip we would have in all honesty as we are all feeling really deflated about this trip with the added information regarding the “extra” paid for events in Magic Kingdom and the upcharge parking. I have visited Disney every year for 30 years and found myself today looking at whether we can change our plans and go to other places instead on this trip. I never thought I could feel so disappointed with the Disney company for making so many poor decisions.

  • All these comments are very upsetting. Last I checked, there are still many amazing things that you can experience on your next trip. News flash, things get pushed back and postponed all the time, and not just at WDW.

  • What’s the word on the other evening offerings at Animal Kingdom?

    I realize everything was planned to be rolled out together around Earth Day, but if the night versions of attractions & dance parties are ready, maybe those will still be opened. Guests are looking for experiences to compensate the many recent closures and price increases. Even without RoL, AK at night would rock my world! 😀

  • I have been going to WDW since the early 70’s when I was about 11 years old. After my first visit, I was completely hooked and went back as often as I could. Fast forward many years later and my wife and I and our 3 kids have been fortunate to be able to return to WDW for several visits since 2003. We actually have a trip planned for the end of May 2016 through early June. Like many others going at this time, I was really excited that Rivers of Light would seemingly be open during this trip. Well, apparently it’s not ready and that’s just the way it goes. We didn’t expect it to be open until just recently anyway. I’m not going to allow it’s delayed opening or any other closures or construction to ruin my trip to WDW. To me and my family, WDW is still too “magical” to us for that to happen. Our trips to WDW are more than just any one attraction or experience. Sure we have our favorites and are disappointed if one of them are closed during a trip, but our family time in theses parks are what’s really important and are some of the most cherished times that we have spent together. We look forward to our upcoming trip with great anticipation and plan on having an amazing time. If you are fortunate to be going soon, I suggest you all try to do the same. Have a great day (and try to have a great trip!).

  • Thank you for the update but very disappointed. We just booked our plane tickets for a June trip Knowing the new animal kingdom attractions and frozen stuff would be completed. Considering we already scratched dhs from our plans because nothing is open, it looks like animal and Epcot might be half days too if these new attractions aren’t open. I understand waiting to open in order to produce an amazing show but I wish it was announced more than 2 weeks before opening. We would have held off on our trip and gone at a later date in 2016 or 2017 :/

  • Very sad. Wondering why I received a letter from Disney that Animal Kingdom Lodge is under renovations during my stay with apologies, why didn’t we get the same kind of courtesy about the Animal Kingdom Park?

  • Ugh. My trip literally starts on the 23rd. No Star Wars, no tree of life. What’s the point?!

  • Everyone needs to stop, obviously the show is having problems! Would you rather have it open and not work???

  • Looking forward to the new experiences & trusting it will be worth the wait. More details would be helpful since we are all forced to plan so far in advance. June? July? Should we not plan anything before Labor Day? Is seating fastpass only? How many shows per night? I hope you will be bringing back a jalapeño pretzel cart for the evening festivities!

  • Huge disappointment. You do fans a major disservice when you announce an opening prematurely.

  • Although I understand that delays can and do happen, I am disappointed about all the closures and delays happening at one time right when our trip will be. Frozen Ever After has been pushed back, Rivers of Light has been pushed back, Soarin is closed, and much of Hollywood Studios is also under construction. And, the lack of communication from Disney is perhaps even more frustrating. People are spending a tremendous amount of money, and Disney forces planning to happen months in advance with it’s systems, yet is not planning ahead themselves. I feel like I am wasting my time trying to plan at this point.

  • I’m sorry guys, when we are at Disney we always end up saying Disney know how to do it right, we would much rather wait for the final product, this is why Disney planned some previews with Disney cast members to iron out the kinks. It obviously was somethin serious. Ask yourself this would you rather go to a half baked show and be disappointed or go when it is 100%, they show will be around for many years and if means that much I suspect you will be back, never plan your vacation an opening night, I suspect you were going anyway,

  • From my experiences Disney has pretty much hit most of their target dates on new attraction openings, or have been open early. We have no clue what the delay is, or if its more than one thing. If they opened before it was ready there would be more complaints how Disney was money hungry and opened it before they should have just to bring in more money. Disney did not build their empire by disappointing people on a regular basis.

  • We’re Disney World Annual Passholders for the third year in a row. I think we should have taken this year off. So many disappointments and cut backs from Disney. You can really see and feel them while in the parks. Disney please don’t loose the Disney magic!

  • No wonder the hours for the park never changed for April nor anytime after. Disney has been perhaps too good at coming in very close to when they hope things will open. I bet this puts other opening back a bit too. Nothing is ready util it’s open. At least they posted it. How many times in our cities are building or road constructions months late? Here is hoping Frozen ever after isn’t too late in opening, we are going in the fall and I hope it will be open by then.

  • You must be expecting a lot of backlash. Obviously people have made a lot of plans around this. Understand that we know issues arise and would still like the other activities to go on. Sometimes pleasing the people means not waiting until everything is ready to go. Unfortunately, I don’t think the general public is the first concern here. Concern seems to be focused on image over guest desires. Kiss my plans for my AK day goodbye now.

  • WOW! Originally booked my May vacation thinking it would be for Star Wars Weekend. Obviously that wasn’t happening but kept my plans for May because of Rivers of Light. HUGE disappointment. Disney should really take a step back and think about how they used to be so innovative.

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