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The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic opens to mediocre reviews

May 28, 2016, 3:05 PM · Walt Disney World last night premiered the new nighttime show at Disney's Animal Kingdom, "The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic." The show is playing on the Discovery River this summer as a last-moment replacement for the planning "Rivers of Light," which Disney managers deemed not ready for its previously announced debut last month.

Using the water screens planned for Rivers of Light, as well as a mix of live performances and props, "Alive with Magic" looks to capitalize on the surprise success of Disney's recent live-action The Jungle Book film, which opened to big box office and rave reviews.

The Animal Kingdom show, though... isn't getting anywhere near as warm a reception.

The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic
Photo courtesy Disney

A Theme Park Insider reader commented in our "Frozen - Live at the Hyperion" review, calling Alive with Magic, a "disco lights Bollywood show on water that tries to tie in with Jungle Book."

Dewayne Bevil Orlando Sentinel offer a more diplomatic take: "It's a different sort of cherry-on-top than we are accustomed to at Disney World parks. There is only a spritz of pyro at the end. Familiar characters are not in the forefront. The wow factors aren't necessarily the kind that would appeal to tired kids."

And one Reddit user boiled it down to this: "Meh."

Rivers of Light was planned as the keystone for the expanded evening hours at Disney's Animal Kingdom, which also feature a nighttime version of the Kilimanjaro Safaris ride and a projection mapping light show on the Tree of Life. While fans writing online have been dismissive of the Jungle Book show, reviews have been almost universally positive for the Tree of Life Awakenings show.

So the TL;DR seems to be this: If you're going to enjoy the expanded night hours at Disney's Animal Kingdom (and you should!), be sure to see the Tree of Life show... and don't worry if you end up missing Jungle Book show to catch an extra ride on the Safaris or Expedition Everest.

Replies (22)

May 28, 2016 at 4:09 PM · I'm confused... they are still planning on debuting Rivers of Light at some point? Why add a mediocre stop gap? Why not just delay the main show until it is up to par?
May 28, 2016 at 4:08 PM · I agree the tree of life show looks amazing with all the music and moving animals, though I am very underwhelmed by the jungle book show. It just looks a bit too rushed together. They probably would have been better off playing scenes from the jungle book movie and lion king on the water screen with some water fountains in the forefront.
May 28, 2016 at 4:26 PM · Why not just do the water scenes from World of Color? Nemo would be a better choice.
May 28, 2016 at 4:54 PM · Barry, I think Disney didn't want to lose the summer season with no show in the evening at DAK and it didn't want to cut the hours. RoL wasn't going to be ready, so a stopgap was needed.

Yes, though, it does raise doubts about RoL's future. Will we ever see it?

May 28, 2016 at 5:11 PM · This is unfortunate, but probably the best they could do in a pinch. Any news as to what the problems were with Rivers of Light? We saw the animal floats, do they need to be rebuilt? Or is it something we never saw?
May 28, 2016 at 5:58 PM · Well that's a bummer. Hate to see all the build up end with this. Thanks for the clarification, Robert.
May 28, 2016 at 6:53 PM · The thing that disappoints me is that The Jungle Book Cartoon and Life Action Movies deserve a ride of some kind in the parks and this shows failings will adversely effect that from happening.
May 28, 2016 at 7:05 PM · Even if it is meh, any night show has to be better than nothing, which is what you'd get waiting for Rivers of Light.

On the bright side, having a mediocrely-received show might encourage Disney to keep working on ROL, rather than take their time had the public liked the Jungle Book.

May 28, 2016 at 7:36 PM · Wait Disney World not living up to expectations on new attractions and shows? Who would have thunk?
May 29, 2016 at 8:07 AM · The headline should have been The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic opens to mediocre reviews to no supprise.
May 29, 2016 at 2:31 PM · Well, at least it isn't light magic.
May 29, 2016 at 2:33 PM · We saw it on Saturday and thought it was a good show - different but good. Most of the videos out there, so far, don't do a good job showing all the lighting effects that create the backdrop behind the water screens.
May 29, 2016 at 3:08 PM · This really isn't the first time Disney has made a dud of a show. If you remember, the Jungle Book show was not exactly packing the seats when AK opened.

I would say give it time. If AK has taught us anything, its shows and attractions get better with age.

May 30, 2016 at 4:23 AM · I have to say it was no where near my expectations or the standard for Disney. Jungle book was not only a poor attempt with many malfunctions but a poor marketing decision in that this will kill all energy of any other night show they now attempt. They have created a hurdle I am not sure can be fixed. The safari was ok but if you watched closely you could see that those animals out were only there because they elected to feed them at these hours and food was laid for them. Our driver made fun of it. The tree of life was short with no schedule and once you see it you never need to experience again. We sat to listen to those exiting the park and people were trying to find positive things to say but struggled. Others had nothing nice to say. We found the most fun in the side street celebrations. The kids in my family were highly disappointed in it all.
May 30, 2016 at 6:54 AM · I was there for the first showing of it on 5/27 and thought that it was great. You WILL be disappointed in it if you are looking for traditional Disney with characters and fireworks. This has more
Of a Bollywood feel which is completely appropriate since the story takes place in India.
May 30, 2016 at 10:58 AM · My guess is that ROL will debut next spring/summer, and it will be impressive. As for this show, it looks hastily thrown together because it WAS hastily thrown together.

Of course the ROL delay is disappointing, for families that are visiting now. But I give Disney credit for one thing: they are holding out for quality, rather than present a much-anticipated show when it's not ready for prime time.

May 30, 2016 at 1:16 PM · Not that we have any control over this, but it might help the kid appeal if they added Baloo & King Louie some how since they have the costumes for meet & greets already. And Safari Mickey & Minnie need to show up whether or not it makes sense! I love that AK is celebrating Indian culture as it isn't part of EPCOT. I just wish it was a little more upbeat. It seemed very slow and drawn out - not as fast paced as typical Bollywood numbers, even.
May 30, 2016 at 4:26 PM · Haven't seen it, but based on feedback, I'm thinking this -- If Disney is going to brand this show with "The Jungle Book," then the focus darned well ought to be the characters from "The Jungle Book." If it's "Bollywood Nights," instead, then Disney should have done its guests a favor and branded the show accurately.

This seems like a cynical bait-and-switch. If that's the case, no wonder people are upset. And that's just unfair to the performers who hustled to bring this together, and who by most accounts seem to be doing a fine job. They didn't choose how to brand and market the show.

May 31, 2016 at 6:54 AM · My brother and I went to DAK this past Saturday for their extended night hours. We saw the stand by line to get into the Jungle Book show and decided not to wait and go rides instead. That was probably our best move of the night because as the show was starting they announced they had standing room available and after about 5 minutes we were bored out of our minds. The water projections are cool for a short time with clips from the actual movie but then it cuts to some very dull dancing that left us unimpressed. We ended up ditching the show to go on the rapids and Everest a few more times. Wait times on the app said 20 minutes but we hopped right on each time. The Safari had a posted wait time of 60 minutes so we never attempted to ride. Now I'm wondering if that wait time was a sham as well... Hopefully Rivers of Light will have more of a 'Wow-Factor' that will hold our attention for a longer period of time.
June 1, 2016 at 11:04 AM · I saw this show on the first "official" day. I agree it is not really worth seeing. The performers seemed to be trying really hard to make it work, but it just isn't that good. However, I am VERY glad they have this show AND that it is not worth seeing again. It means that the lines for the rides will be shorter while up to 6000 uninformed people are watching the show twice each night. I am also VERY glad that Animal Kingdom is open nights until 11:00. This park is awesome in the daytime, but absolutely spectacular at night.
June 2, 2016 at 5:09 AM · I saw this show last night. To me, "Jungle Book: Alive with Magic" seems to be having an identity crisis. It has four parts. None of them are that great and they don't all fit together well.

One part is some sort of mystical/spiritual element. The show opens and closes with an incantation. Don't ask me what it's about, because it's spoken too quickly to be intelligible. It doesn't help that multiple voices are saying the text, either.

Another part of the show is a retelling of the movie plot via images on the water screens. I had no issue with the clarity of the images. However, as someone who hasn't seen the movie, I was fairly lost as to who was who. I know we ended up with a happy ending...I just have no clue how we got there.

A third part of the show was the Bollyhood dancers. I don't claim to be an expert on this form of dance. However, the choreography did seem watered down compared to what I've seen elsewhere. The biggest sin was that the movements weren't crisp enough to read back where I was in the cheap seats. (You don't get to choose where you sit, so that's a big issue.)

By far, the most successful portion of the show was the live musicians and singers. Unfortunately, the singers only performed music from the cartoon movie. (I'm assuming "Bare Necessities" isn't in the new live action movie.) Even with the addition of sitars, these songs didn't fit into everything else that was happening in the show. At least with the vocalists, we got a few chills from the high notes.

For me, the best part of "Jungle Book: Alive with Magic" was the lightning storm going off in the background.

June 2, 2016 at 8:57 AM · I don't understand all the negative reviews. I loved it! It is the perfect show for Animal Kingdom, which has always strived for a level of authenticity to culture, especially African and Asian cultures in the Africa and Asia lands. Animal Kingdom has traditionally not been about pure Disney storytelling and fantasy (apart from whatever show has been in Theater in the Wild) like Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios. Take a look at the food, details, architecture, and stories told in the attractions and buildings of Africa and Asia. That is a commitment to authenticity even World Showcase can't match,

Jungle Book Alive with Magic reminds me a lot of Festival of the Lion King, which is universally beloved. Both are not Broadway style retellings of the story, rather they are cultural celebrations of folk stories important to their respective cultures, told through a series of songs from the films, but presented by humans dressed in culture specific costumes and singing in culture specific styles along with acrobats, fire twirlers, drummers, etc. Jungle Book is just a little more culturally authentic than FOLK.

Remember, Rivers of Light won't have any Disney characters at all. While I am excited for that show and it will be visually stunning, I actually think Jungle Book makes more sense for where it is located in Animal Kingdom than Rivers. The presentation of Indian music, dance, and culture was stunning, fit the theme of the land, and it's great to expose people of all ages visiting the park to this very different culture.

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