Theme Park Insider

Disney Gets Original with its 'Rivers of Light'

March 8, 2016, 4:12 PM · The unmistakable trend among new attractions at Disney theme parks over the past many years has been toward rides and shows based upon characters and franchises from movies and television series. By basing a new attraction upon existing IP [intellectual property], Disney can take advantage of fans' existing emotional relationship with characters and situations to help drive interest for a new ride or show. Simply put, by starting with existing IP, Disney gets a head start with fans and doesn't have to build a relationship from scratch. (To be fair, Universal does the same.)

Still... many Disney fans have wished to see the company try to do something original in the parks again. They've written online in countless discussion threads that they want to see Disney develop a new attraction that's not based on existing IP. Well, it seems that they're about to get their wish.

With Rivers of Light, the new nighttime spectacular debuting next month at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney appears to be ignoring its catalogue of animated hits to tell an original story that evokes tribal legends and classic myth. Playing on the Discovery River near Expedition Everest, Rivers of Light calls four Animal Spirit Guides — an elephant, owl, a tiger, and a turtle — whose spiritual journeys frame the production, which will feature water screens, physical props, and lighting effects. In this new "making of" video from Walt Disney World, production designer Michael Curry talks about the construction of the spirit guides for the show.

Rivers of Light debuts officially on April 22 — the 18th anniversary of Animal Kingdom's opening.


Replies (19)

March 8, 2016 at 4:18 PM · I believe this is the first nighttime spectacular Disney has done sans Disney characters and "wishes" and "dream dreamy dreams" and other magical gobbledygook since IllumiNations in 2000.
March 8, 2016 at 4:41 PM · So far, this show looks cool. I can't wait. I do have one problem, though, and that's that everything I've read on this show seems to indicate that it will be playing only in one specific area of the river, instead of utilizing the entire river. I know this would be hard with Discovery Island blocking the view of the entire river, but I think they could use this to their advantage. Maybe you could have each one of the four guides on each side of the river, and each one continues the narrative in their own way. This would work especially well if each of the guides is given a distinct, likable personality, which is a department that Disney particularly excels in. But even if they don't do this, for what we're getting, I think the show will be pretty good.
March 8, 2016 at 5:30 PM · Lanterns are natural... just like how money grows on trees.
March 8, 2016 at 6:49 PM · The team creating this show is supposed to be Disney's "B-Team", but from the look of things, they may be ready to challenge the King (Steve Davison). I am super excited to check out this show when I visit WDW in 2017 (God and budget willing, of course).
March 8, 2016 at 8:45 PM · As much as a nighttime show is great and all, I'll hold a small hope for a top flight original ride that can wow the next generation of fans. It'd be great to visit Disney for the future and not just the past.
March 8, 2016 at 8:48 PM · I'm excited to see an original show that celebrates the theme of its park. Kudos to the team and the execs who took a chance on a non-IP show. Next up: a plussing of Illuminations would be nice, too.
March 8, 2016 at 10:22 PM · Looks good!

It also looks like a good, natural way to sneak in a bit of World of Color on the East Coast.

March 9, 2016 at 12:03 AM · Meh
March 9, 2016 at 9:10 AM · This makes me very happy. We have been caught in a synergy vortex for quite some time now. Either attractions are based on movies, or movies are based on attractions.

I wonder how long it will be until Marvel takes the elephant, owl, tiger, and turtle and turns them into crime fighting super hero comic book/movie characters (I'm kidding...I kid). But seriously, somebody start a timer.

March 9, 2016 at 10:03 AM · This really does sound amazing and I cannot wait...but I also flashback to original productions like Tapestry of Dreams at Epcot and March of the Art-imals where no Disney characters were involved and people complained. While I enjoyed Tapestry of Dreams, the masses did not. Granted this production is a completely different style of show rather than a parade and will draw crowds no matter what. But there are those who are so IP heavy, I am sure we will hear grumblings.
March 9, 2016 at 11:29 AM · I'm not excited. I'm afraid it's likeq the castle projection show that is nothing more the a demo reel but has no story. Before you bite my head off just watch the one at the Paris park that actualy has a story.
I also hat Disney representing animals wrongly. I'm sure the owl will be the intelligent one but we all (should) know that they are the dumbest birds in existance. I'm afraid, like the demo reel called Soarin this story is only there to show pretty pictures and preach an eviromental message.
March 9, 2016 at 1:14 PM · "While I enjoyed Tapestry of Dreams, the masses did not" I don't think this is true. I'm sure some people complained, yet the parade ran for 3-1/2 years. No event with operating costs so high would have kept running that long if it weren't well liked. When looking at comments online (hard to find, but there are some still up there), the feedback is mostly positive, as are comments on articles reminiscing about it. The parade ended because of the lingering effects of the recession and the post-9/11 travel drop-off. (It didn't help that the parade clogged the walkways of World Showcase at night.)
March 9, 2016 at 3:58 PM · There’s a new article in Disneyleaks that makes a shocking claim that Disney officials, with the help of Anaheim Police, have been wiretapping all its phones on guests to illegally gather confidential and personal information on its guests for very nefarious purposes since 2014.
March 9, 2016 at 5:07 PM · You're upset that owls are being depicted as being too smart? Really? That's asinine considering that anthropomorphism has been an essential part of Disney since the beginning.
March 10, 2016 at 2:20 AM · Sure Alex, but animal kindom is (as Disney wants you to believe) about real animals, no fantasy crap. It is supposed to be accurat but as always that is a sliding scale at Disney.
March 10, 2016 at 5:05 AM · "I also hate Disney representing animals wrongly."

Clearly you've been sleeping under a rock since 1928, because the concept of applying real-life animal science to anything Disney-related pretty much went out the window the minute they showed us a talking mouse wearing sailor clothes and driving a steamboat. Hell, if someone were to make an entire list of every single scientific inaccuracy involving animals Disney has made since then, that list would be big enough to make War and Peace look like a pamphlet.

March 10, 2016 at 9:41 AM · I am basing my "the masses did not" comment from a backstage tour guide we had a few years back. He said park guests often complained the parade had no IP characters. I kind of liked the fact that it didn't!! ^_^
March 10, 2016 at 11:09 AM · @Rob: I'll begin the timer. I can't imagine Disney will not incorporate their animal characters IP eventually into the show. Zootopia has excellent box office. Dory is coming soon. I expect they will make it into a special edition of the show with Lion King too.

The latest version of World of Color has piled on the Disney IP that it is just Disney advertising. What was originally a good water show with Disney clips has turned into a monstrosity of Disney favorites and Star Wars too.

March 11, 2016 at 2:36 AM · "Sure Alex, but animal kindom [sic] is (as Disney wants you to believe) about real animals, no fantasy crap."

If that's true, how do you explain "It's Tough to be a Bug"?

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