Disney's Animal Kingdom to light up the night with new show

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Rivers of Light will take place on Discovery River in the Asia section of Animal Kingdom.
Rivers of Light will take place on Discovery River in the Asia section of Animal Kingdom. Photo Credit: Disney Parks

Rivers of Light, a nighttime show at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom theme park in Orlando, will debut on April 22.

The show is one of several after-dark activities that will come to the park this summer, including a sunset safari and several parties featuring live music and dance.

Walt Disney Imagineering’s Joe Rohde, senior vice president and portfolio creative executive, said the park will be “remarkably transformed” after dark, offering guests a totally different experience in the park than they would have during the day.

Rivers of Light will take place on Discovery River in the Asia section of the park. Djuan Rivers, vice president of Animal Kingdom, said it will begin about 15 to 20 minutes after sunset.

The show, which will include storyteller guides, projections, lights and music, revolves around the belief that animals passing from one world to another became rivers of light in the sky, according to Michael Jung, vice president and creative portfolio director with Walt Disney Imagineering.

The musical score for the show was composed by Don L. Harper, and includes an original song by composer Mark Mancina. Designer Michael Curry, who has worked on Disney Parks’ “Finding Nemo: The Musical” and “Disney Festival of Fantasy parade,” also worked on the project.

In addition to Rivers of Light, the park’s Tree of Life in the Discover Island area will be transformed at night. The scores of animals carved into the tree will “physically awaken,” Jung said, utilizing colorful lighting and what Disney has coined “magical fireflies.”

Kilamanjaro Safaris, an attraction in which guests are driven around live animal habitats, will also receive its own nighttime incarnation. Rohde said Disney is “extending the sunset” into the night, enabling ride vehicles to continue their tours. Two new species are being added to the ride, as well: African wild dogs, which typically hunt and travel at night, and hyenas, which are primarily nocturnal.

Also new are the Harambe Wildlife Parti and the Discovery Island Carnivale, nightly events featuring live music and dance in the Africa and Discovery Island areas of the park, respectively.

Tiffins, a lunch and dinner restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, will open this summer.

Rivers said Animal Kingdom will be open as late as 11:30 p.m. in the future.

According to Disney, the nighttime activities at Animal Kingdom are the first phase of the park’s largest expansion to date. A new land, Pandora — The World of Avatar, is expected to open next year.

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