Walt Disney World Makes Changes to KiteTails Show

April 5, 2022, 6:44 PM · We're not halfway through Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary celebration, and the resort is already making changes.

Disney has announced that it has shortened the Disney KiteTails at Disney's Animal Kingdom. The show is now playing six times a day, at fifteen minutes past the hour starting at 11:15am and ending with the day's final show at 5:15pm. (No show at 2:15.) Disney is framing this as "shifting the focus of the show so guests will be able to experience “Disney KiteTails” from anywhere around the Discovery River Lagoon."

Disney KiteTails
Photo courtesy Disney

Of all the shows that debuted for Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary last October, Disney KiteTails got the most negative immediate reaction. Over time, it has grown a fanbase among those who accept the show as it is - a visual extra for park visitors in the middle of the day. A shorter, more frequent show better fits that model than a schedule which suggests this kite display is supposed to be anything like a daytime substitute for the Rivers of Light spectacular that formerly played in the Discovery River Amphitheater.

Across the park, the Tumble Monkeys will be returning to the Festival of the Lion King show soon, Disney also announced. It's also interesting that Disney's press release called this production by its pre-pandemic name, Festival of the Lion King, rather than using the prepend "A Celebration of" for the show, which it has had included since the musical production reopened.

The "A Celebration of" designation was to disclaim that the production was not the same one as fans enjoyed before the parks closed, as Disney cut or swapped several elements due to pandemic restrictions and staffing reductions. But with the Tumble Monkeys acrobats and other elements returning to the production, perhaps it soon will be time to start calling the show just "Festival of the Lion King" again.

Disney recently announced that up-close character meet and greets would start returning to its theme parks this month, and Walt Disney World also has announced the launch of a new version of Animal Kingdom's Finding Nemo musical, "Finding Nemo: The Big Blue... and Beyond" later this year. No word yet on a date for that, though.

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Replies (6)

April 6, 2022 at 9:30 AM

Disney has been chasing its (Kite)tails trying to solve this problem for nearly a decade. Creating a landmark show for a theme park that doesn't use fireworks or other massive aerial effects is tricky. It was clear Imagineers were given a cut-rate budget to replace the uneven and problematic Rivers of Light while still utilizing the massive amphitheater created for the nighttime spectacular.

Disney has been doing a lot of recalibrating guest expectations recently (most noticeably in their recent Genie+ promotions now lowering expectations to 2-3 LLs per day), and by reducing Kite Tails to a 15-minute 6-times-per-day show further reduces expectations for a show that was already underwhelming.

The question is, will Imagineers come up with a new show to fill the amphitheater, or will it remain an unused eyesore in the center of the company's most beautiful park? Perhaps it's the difficulties with HarmoniUS that have created pause within WDI in developing a true replacement to RoL, but it's shocking to me that they unveiled Kite Tails as an analog to the original lake show without announcing plans to find a true nighttime replacement. Given the limitations for DAK nighttime shows, it's surprising to me that they didn't immediately get to work on a drone-based show combined with the existing projections and fountain platforms. While finding a drone operations base might be tricky in the center of a park with tons of essential groundcover, it's not an impossible task, especially if designers use smaller squadrons of aircraft scattered around the performance area (what about tree-top bases disguised as native aerial structures?).

The backpedaling here is not surprising given the flop-tacular nature of Kite Tails, but at some point a true mea culpa is in order instead of simply dialing back guest expectations for the disappointing show. A simple acknowledgment that the show didn't meet Disney's standards while announcing plans for a grander replacement would do far more than scheduling the underperforming show out of existence.

April 6, 2022 at 3:15 PM

You buried the lead. The most exciting thing in this article is the Tumble Monkeys are coming back!

Russell, you are correct in saying a drone show is what AK need for a night time show!

Aren’t the drones actually quite far in the distance (like 1/2 mile or more)? I don’t know how far the seating around the lagoon is at AK from the farthest reach of the park, it doesn’t seem like it is more than 1/2 mile. A launch and landing area would likely need some clearing of trees, too (which doesn’t exactly go with the conservation theme of AK). But if Dollywood can do it, why not Disney?

The answer to that is much more expensive to operate and maintain a drone show than to have some paper and plastic due a couple of laps around the lagoon a few times a day.

But, on the bright side, TUMBLE MONKEYS!

April 6, 2022 at 3:29 PM

The drone show at Dollywood had the squadron formations @500 feet behind the viewing area. The base was about 1/4 mile beyond the backstage perimeter (you can see it from the train). If the drones were to base near Flame Tree BBQ and then make their formations over the water adjacent to the bases (west side of the lagoon), that would provide a similar distance from the amphitheater seating as is achieved in Dollywood. The only difference would be that the viewing area at Dollywood is a bit sunken down, while the DAK amphitheater is raised up above the water, which might not be the best angles to view a drone show, especially if combined with projections and effects on the water below.

April 6, 2022 at 5:20 PM

Drone shows work best when the entire audience is looking at the show from one angle. Otherwise, for the show not to look like garbage to some viewers, choreographers have to design the show in 3D space rather a 2D plane, which requires using substantially more drones and increases the cost of the show.

That's why I don't think the Discovery River Amphitheater is the best venue for a drone show, since it's situated facing the middle of the park. I think a World of Color-style water screen show is the better play here for a DAK nighttime spectacular. Just my $.02.

April 7, 2022 at 9:40 AM

That's a good point Robert, but I think there's enough distance from the amphitheater to the back of the show area to create similar-enough viewing angles (at least for seated guests) - though obviously the large rear water projection screens would have to be modified to integrate with low-flying drones.

I think RoL was supposed to be a clone of World of Color, but it never lived up to the high standard Disney has set in water projection shows. However, with all the work that went into RoL and now HarmoniUS, Disney has to come up with something that sets a DAK nighttime show apart from other WDW nighttime shows. That's why I think drones would be an important tool to create that differentiation.

Ultimately, it's depressing to see all the work that went in building the amphitheater and set pieces used for RoL only to have it empty and now the pathetic KiteTails ditching the seating for its performances. The problem here is very much like what happened with DCA, and it will take a massive level of creativity and dedication to renovate this show to come up with something that is successful.

April 7, 2022 at 2:26 PM

The Dollywood drone show had a very small viewing area for sure in Wildwood Grove. It was really the only place that you could see what was happening, and they had to close it off well before sundown to keep it from being overcrowded.

For just viewing from the DRA, the drones would have to be much further back than the 1/4 mile from the viewing area at Dollywood (thanks for the info, Russell). I have read some claims that drones could be seen from up to 4 miles away.

If anyone watched this past season of America's Got Talent Extreme, there was a drone show that really showed the depth required to make what appears to be 2-D designs without the drones crashing together. I believe it was on the first episode.

Whatever is done, that is a large area that is really going to waste. If Disney can't find something of interest to watch, they should just drain the lagoon, fill up the hole, and start from scratch.

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