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.
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.
Our favorite nighttime change to DAK is the Tree of Life Awakenings. Fireflies transform the tree and animals move pic.twitter.com/Oshilbz2fz— Park Journey (@Park_Journey) May 28, 2016
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.Tweet
Yes, though, it does raise doubts about RoL's future. Will we ever see it?
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.
I would say give it time. If AK has taught us anything, its shows and attractions get better with age.
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.
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.
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.
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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