Theme Park Insider

Disney Reveals Details about Animal Kingdom's New 'Rivers of Light' Show

October 29, 2015, 7:21 PM · Walt Disney World has revealed some additional details about its upcoming Rivers of Light nighttime show at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

The reveal came in an audition notice for "Contemporary and Bollywood-Style Dancers" to perform in the show, which will debut at the park next year.


"Rivers of Light," the new immersive nighttime experience coming to Disney's Animal Kingdom in spring 2016, will combine live performances with beautiful floating lanterns, water screens and grand theatrical imagery, in a celebration of animals and nature. The event begins with the arrival of a pair of Shamans, two complimentary forces who come to the river bearing gifts of light. Along with their Acolytes, or assistants, the Shamans set out from the shore on elaborate lantern vessels, engaging in a dramatic dance of water and light to summon the animal spirits.

Long a daytime-only park, Disney's Animal Kingdom will expand its operating hours later into the evening next year with the opening of Rivers of Light, in anticipation of larger crowds in the park when Pandora: The World of Avatar opens in 2017.

Replies (18)

October 29, 2015 at 8:27 PM · So it's going to involve actors? Isn't that the reason Fantasmic is only shown a couple nights a week? I hope Rivers of Light doesn't suffer the same way.
October 29, 2015 at 8:40 PM · I thought it would be inspired by Avatar. Bollywood? That's just wrong.
October 29, 2015 at 8:48 PM · I am definitely interested to see how this plays out. I have always enjoyed the relatively character-free productions like Tapestry of Nations and Reflections of Earth. I'd imagine Rivers of Light will have some Disney/Avatar characters and imagery but so far it is sounded more abstract and "artsy" than something like Fantasmic! or Wishes.
October 29, 2015 at 10:18 PM · The more I hear about this, the louder and brighter it sounds. Has Disney ever, anywhere, addressed how this will affect the actual animals in the park? Wasn't the potential stress to the animals part of the reason the park closed early to begin with?
October 30, 2015 at 2:20 AM · A few bollywood dancers is no suprise, as an Indian current in the show, as a fair few of the wildlife and themes of Animal Kingdom are based on the Indian subcontinent. Except some African themeing too.

Not sure why it's a suprise to a few.

October 30, 2015 at 2:33 AM · Whatever happened to: 'We can't have night time performances in Animal Kingdom, because the noise would be stressful for the animals?'
October 30, 2015 at 3:06 AM · I think this show has legs for some real potential. I'm more excited for this than Pandora to be honest.
October 30, 2015 at 5:48 AM · It's opening in 2016?! YES!!! I've been planning on exchanging my Universal ap for a Disney ap for 2016 (not that I hold anything against Universal, just trying to be more diverse) so it's nice to know I'll have more to look forward to than just the new Frozen ride!
October 30, 2015 at 7:03 AM · Fantasmic shows 7 nights a week with one if not 2 shows a night. Disney has to offer something at night to keep guest in the park. Since the guest will probably leave underwhelmed by Avatar, Disney figures a night time show will appeal to them. It's probably going to be cool, however what's going to happen is that Disney is going to be under prepared and run out of capacity for this show. Meaning angry guest and long lines at guest relations. This is just one more thing people are going to hate after they fling their magic bands out the window.
October 30, 2015 at 7:29 AM · The show is witchcraft!
October 30, 2015 at 8:08 AM · The inclusion of Avatar characters in this show never crossed my mind. That world, while soon a part of DAK should be kept separate to maintain it's uniqueness. I also hope there is no appearance from any Disney characters in the show. The reason I think Reflections of Earth is such a powerful show is it stands on its own away from anything else. My biggest disappointing with the new Disneyland fireworks show (which is hands down spectacular) is it's just a platform to parade a bunch of Disney characters and songs across the castle. They do a fantastic job for what it is, but I had anticipated something more to do with the park itself, not a catalog of characters. I am very excited about Rivers of Light and hope it is a completly unique experience and show.
October 30, 2015 at 8:31 AM · With everything that is going on at Animal Kingdom, when it is all said and done, I feel that this might be my favorite park at Disney World. It use to be Epcot, but I feel that the past couple of decades has to just been a continuing downward spiral of that park (yes, I know people have different feeling). Animal Kingdom (because of people like Joe Rhode and company) is really becoming something very unique. The culture within that park is beyond any other park in Florida. I feel as though Animal Kingdom has held to a lot of Epcot's values then Epcot has. DAK has made it very fun to learn while on vacation. It is a park that rewards you if you just slow down and take it in. When "Rivers of Light" opens next year, and Pandora the following year, I think this will become a very well rounded park that will be over the top. NO!!!! I am not just a Disney fan. What they are doing at Universal Orlando is hands down amazing, but I feel that when it comes to flow within a park, Animal Kingdom just works (EXCEPT for the Dinosaur area, that can be redone). Grant ya there are not that many rides, but that's just it, DAK doesn't call for that many rides. It calls for culture, and understanding of man's interactions with nature. Like I said before, I am not a Disney only fan, but I am a fan of the artist/imagineer, Joe Rhode. I look forward to the next two years.
October 30, 2015 at 9:48 AM · Fantasmic at DHS is shown every day and twice a day on weekends. This should be a big help to ease the crushing crowds at MK on non party nights.
October 30, 2015 at 10:55 AM · Nice to see that it won't just be a clone of World of Color, with animals. Don't get me wrong, I love WOC, but I would like something different when I go to Disney's east coast resort.
October 30, 2015 at 11:21 AM · @Rob, that's great news. I didn't realize that Fantasmic went back to showing nightly.
October 30, 2015 at 12:02 PM · James; Yeah, they did that after the recession was over back in 2011 I believe, if my memory serves me right. Plus, last year they added seating to the area.
October 30, 2015 at 4:01 PM · I'm all for adding more culture to this park. Bollywood style dancing is always fun to watch! So glad it's not Avatar based either as that belongs on its own. It's not like the Na'vi would be doing a song and dance for us... and current technology probably can't represent how giant they are compared to us. I don't want 3D glasses and projections like Universal has been forcing lately. I feel like that would be the easy way to have Na'vi doing what the Star Wars characters do at WDW... sing and dance. It just wouldn't fit the Avatar world.
November 3, 2015 at 10:51 AM · I don't see anything in that casting call that says the dancers will have anything to do with Pandora (Avatar land). This casting is for the new night-time spectacular which is being installed all the way over by Expedition Everest, and has nothing to do with Avatar on the other side of the park.

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