Denise's Corner

Review: Rivers of Light Opens at Disney’s Animal Kingdom; Review w/Photos & Dining Package Tips

Hi everyone!

Rivers of Light is now open at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park! Originally scheduled to open April 22nd, 2016 (Earth Day), it took over nine more months to debut to guests. We were there for the first preview day, a week before the actual February 17th opening. Here is a look at photos and video from the show, with thoughts on the dining packages and more. We also have a look at the merchandise at the end of the article.

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Rivers of Light runs a relatively brief 15 minutes, cut down from 20+ minutes when it was shown to Cast Members late last year. For comparison, Jungle Book: Alive with Magic – a show that ran last summer in the new 5000 seat amphitheater – clocked in at about 25 minutes. Rivers of Light does offer dining packages, and those seem to work the same way as when we dined at Tiffins last year on the Jungle Book: Alive with Magic package. Rivers of Light will begin by running on “select nights” – currently it looks like Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays until April 8th with one show per night, and then many nights I spot-checked only have one showing available after that. Disney can certainly add more shows if it proves popular (and did on opening weekend). On nights that it shows only once, a dinner package may be your best bet if you don’t have Fastpass (and if you really want to see the show). Personally, I think Tiffins is a much better value on the dining package if paying cash and ordering more expensive items. If using Disney Dining Plan entitlements, my preference would be to go with Tusker House lunch or dinner for just one table service credit.

The Rivers of Light Dining Package with the Tusker House buffet costs $39.00 for adults, and $24.00 for children ages 3 to 9 not including tax and gratuity.

The Rivers of Light Dining Package with the Tusker House lunch or dinner buffet costs $52.00 for adults, and $32.00 for children ages 3 to 9 not including tax and gratuity.

If dining at Tiffins on the Rivers of Light Dining Package, it includes an appetizer, entree, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage at $67.00 for adults, and $26.00 for children ages 3 to 9 not including tax and gratuity.

Here is a look at the show and our thoughts.

I’ve been visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom park since just before it opened in 1998, and am glad to see it offering more nighttime experiences.

There are signs for Fastpass upon arriving to Rivers of Light.

I believe one side of the amphitheater is mostly for Fastpass and the other includes dining packages. But on the first preview day, there was no standby line nor dining packages sold, so our experience was atypical.

This is another of the Fastpass entrance signs.

As Annual Passholders, we could get a wristband. A Cast Member at Guest Relations said they were out of them when we arrived to the park, but there were plenty of the wristbands in some locations. This put us in the dining package location.

The lotus flowers can be seen here with Expedition Everest in view.

This was our view for the show. Guests are told to arrive at 6:30 p.m. or so, but really you want to be earlier than that if you want your choice of seats – and I recommend arriving early for any other similar events, including dessert parties. Arriving at the stated time in the app can put you in the back of a line. In this case, we were let into the theater at 6:00 p.m. for the 7:15 p.m. show. It isn’t the most comfortable show seating, but at least it’s not humid currently – so that helps. Everyone is pretty close together once the theater fills.

The lighting is gorgeous, and that starts before the show.

The theater was continuing to be filled in as the sun set.

The dining package section has walls in the back of the theater, and that is where we sat (we also sat here for our dining package showing of Jungle Book: Alive with Magic). For photos and video, it is a great location because it’s okay to stand. Plus it’s nice having a place to rest my back while sitting and waiting.

For about 15 minutes prior to the show, there are lighting effects and animal sounds.

This really does set the mood of the evening.

Animals can be seen in shadow form on the trees.

The four lotus flowers float out onto the river.

The lotus flowers are utilized throughout the show.

There are storytellers (shamans) on the boats, I’m not really sure much what they do as the boats were pretty far away.

Here are some highlights of the show in our video, it has an alternate soundtrack because the music is banned from being played in most countries on YouTube.

This is a photo with a decent length lens. I thought the shadows were very interesting. The storytellers don’t say anything but apparently are doing some sort of live performance (but it’s not as overt as the Jungle Book: Alive with Magic show, which was concentrated on live performances).

Here is our Mousesteps Weekly show #217, we talk about Rivers of Light and other topics from the week (keep reading for more photos and information!)

The water screens were a little tricky for me to photograph, the screens show animals – at least some of the footage is in conjunction with Disneynature.

Disney says of the show, “Featuring evocative, never-before-seen footage from Disneynature, live performances and floating set pieces set to a soaring original musical score—this nighttime show employs a host of magical devices to create an immersive experience that’s unique to anything else on the planet”.

There are 4 animal floats that are comprised of owls, turtles, elephants and tigers.

Here are the turtles.

These particular floats are not out for the entire show. They are very impressive and change colors.

The tigers and elephants were mainly on the other side of the theater.

The lotus flowers become fountains.

The music in the show fits well, with the song “We Are One” a memorable one that could easily slide into a show like Epcot’s Illuminations. However, don’t mistake Rivers of Light for anything resembling Illuminations. It is a much quieter nightcap to the evening, a nice show that I’d rate a 5 or 6 on a scale of 1 to Illuminations (which is a solid 10 to me). Rivers of Light was not a particularly emotional experience for me, as other Disney shows usually are. However, I went into Rivers of Light with low expectations and those were exceeded. Hopefully Disney will continue to tweak the show to make it even better.

The lotus flowers change colors.

Here is some of the “swirling imagery” that was promised.

Rivers of Light doesn’t have any real discernable story, but most guests aren’t aware of stories within other shows – so I don’t think that is an issue at all.

Rivers of Light is not show with Disney characters. What you see here is what you get – animal imagery on water screens, fountains, fire, along with a lovely soundtrack.

Animal images move on one of the lantern boat sails.

A peacock forms in a water screen.

Here are some images of animals on the water screens.

The ending includes fountains and fire. There are no fireworks because they would disturb the animals in the park.

Fire shoots out of the top of this fountain. The following photos show the finale.

After the show, the storytellers posed for the crowd.

We plan to go back to Rivers of Light to watch it without photographing. It’s worth seeing if you are in the park, but it isn’t a replacement for shows like Illuminations or Wishes (which will be ending soon for the new Happily Ever After show on May 12th). But it is a relaxing and enjoyable way to spend 15 minutes.

There is quite a bit of Rivers of Light merchandise available, including shirts, a pin, a mug, and other items.

Here is a our merchandise video:

This is one of the shirts.

Rivers of Light towel.

Rivers of Light fleece throw.

Rivers of Light mug and toothpick holder.

This “Made with Magic” item glows with show.

Rivers of Light shirt.

Rivers of Light magnet.

Rivers of Light pen.

Rivers of Light sweatshirt.

Rivers of Light shirts.

Rivers of Light fans that feature moving animals while spinning.

This is a light-up ornament.

Here is a closer look at the mug.

There is also a light-up necklace.

And this is the pin. I was surprised at how much merchandise is available.

Rivers of Light was a pleasant surprise, and I look forward to seeing it again soon.