I was lucky enough to attend a very special press preview of all of the exciting new stuff coming to Walt Disney World in Florida. While there are amazing things in the works in all four of the parks, Animal Kingdom has the biggest changes happening for this summer!
Animal Kingdom has always seemed to me to be the forgotten park at Disney World. It closed in the late afternoon, so it didn’t have any of the nighttime shows and events that Disney is so great at putting on. But that’s about to change!
Rivers of Light
We got to see a short preview of the new Rivers of Light show, and it was really beautiful. The theme is Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), and the show will be a mixture of live performances, lights, music, and floating flower fountains (I swear, they’ve figured out how to make water move in a way it usually doesn’t). Disney has perfected this really neat thing where they project moving images onto sprays of water, and the effect is pretty amazing. Take a look at the preview we saw.
A huge bonus of this show is that you get to sit down while watching it! A new seating area has been built around the biggest portion of Discovery River. This is great news for people like me who are just exhausted by the end of a day at Disney World. Sitting down for a show is a good thing. The chance to sit down for a while is why I go on The Great Movie Ride and sit through the Hall of Presidents show. Sitting is good.
The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic
We did not get to see a preview of this show, but it’s inspired by The Jungle Book movie – both the live-action one that was in theaters recently, and the classic animated movie.
This fun ride on a Disneyfied safari is fantastic in the day time, I’ve ridden it many times. But there are some animals that just don’t do anything in the daylight. The lions lay around on rocks barely moving, and other animals hide altogether.
After dark, though, the lions were frolicking like the big cats that they are, wildebeests were crossing the road right in front of us, and the hippos–which are usually just lumps sticking out of the water—were up and walking around!
In the dark it was definitely harder to take pictures (no flashes are allowed, and they’re really strict about it). But what you’re seeing is so interesting, you shouldn’t care. If I’d just been there as a regular guest and not as someone covering the ride for my blog, I would have put my camera away and taken it all in.
By the time we reached the lions it was pretty dark, and while we didn’t have any trouble seeing the animals, they didn’t show up all that well on my video, so I lightened that part up quite a bit. It doesn’t look great that way, but it’s the only way I could show you the gorgeous lions!
Disney has done something amazing to keep the safari from going pitch black (we wouldn’t be able to see anything!), without flooding the area with light and messing with the animals’ circadian rhythms. They’ve created a perpetual sunset. Off in the distance you see the sun setting, but it never actually goes down. It’s really beautiful.
So if you want to take pictures, do this ride during the day. If you want to feel more like you’re in Africa and spot some animals you normally wouldn’t see, do this at night. If you can manage it, do it both times. And make sure to look out for the two new species: hyenas and wild dogs.
Day or night, the best views (and best photo opportunities) are from the back row.
Expedition Everest and Kali River Rapids
Since both of these take place outside, experiencing them in the dark will add a whole new feeling to these thrilling rides. I rode Expedition Everest several times late at night, and I can confirm that it’s even more thrilling in the dark! Try to ride it while fireworks are happening in another park, and the view from the top could be even more breathtaking.
Kali River Rapids I’m not so sure about, unless it’s a super hot day (or you brought a change of clothes). Unlike log flumes, where everybody in the car can usually count on getting somewhat wet, the riders on Kali River Rapids just don’t know what they’re in for. The last time I rode it, I wore a poncho and didn’t even need it, while my kids (sitting next to me) chose to go poncho-less, and got soaked to the skin. Drying off in the sun isn’t too bad, but after dark you could be stuck in your wet clothes.
But regardless, I’m sure it will be more exciting in the dark.
Harambe Wildlife Parti
I had a lot of fun watching the dancers who were out in force in Harambe Village, in the African section of the park. There will be a lot of live street entertainment, turning the area into a big party after dark.
Discovery Island Carnivale
Discovery Island, home to the Tree of Life, will host a nightly carnivale parade, which will snake its way from one end of the island to the other.
The Tree of Life Awakens
We were able to see two different shows projected onto the Tree of Life, each lasting a few minutes. Here are some highlights:
A tip I got from a cast member: Watch this from closer to the park entrance, not right up close to the tree. You’ll still be able to see it, and then you won’t have to fight as many crowds heading out of the park when it’s over.
That’s everything, as far as I know! I’m probably not going back to Disney World until October, and I suspect that the park might go back to its early closing time by then, so if any of you visit this summer, please let me know how it is!
Please note that while I was not paid to attend this preview or post about it, my travel expenses were paid for by Disney World.