Walt Disney World’s Most Exciting New Attraction is Nearly Ready. Here’s When it Might Open

It’s no secret that updates have been sparse since the Rivers of Light nighttime spectacular in development for Disney’s Animal Kingdom was first delayed this past spring. However, Disney has not been sitting idly by in recent months, and has been working quickly to make appropriate changes to this show and running small-scale tests after hours to ensure that when Rivers of Light finally does debut, it’s going to be as amazing as we’re all expecting.
However, while we’ve known for some time that Disney was hoping to get the show ready for guests before the end of the year, reports have surfaced that the nighttime spectacular has recently taken a huge leap towards its park debut, and could see its first performances in just a few weeks. Here’s everything you need to know not only about what is currently happening with Rivers of Light, but also when Animal Kingdom’s new headliner could potentially welcome its first viewers!
According to several sources, Walt Disney Imagineering has officially completed development on Rivers of Light, and has now handed the finished project over to the operations department of Disney’s Animal Kingdom park for the finishing touches.
Essentially, this means that all of the floats, barges, effects and costumes for the show are all ready to go, and now the operations team will need to work on training Cast Members (both onstage and off) in order to bring everything to life.
This is an excellent sign, and though we’re sure there will be a lengthy training period while Disney’s Animal Kingdom gets Rivers of Light ready for guests, this is essentially confirmation that the problems that plagued this show (and resulted in a nearly six-month delay) have finally been solved, and the job of development and construction has officially been completed. However, some questions still remain…
When could we see Rivers of Light actually open?
We noted earlier this month that Disney’s official operations calendar now shows a draw down in operating hours throughout the fall at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. And while Disney’s official schedule was the first place we thought to look for a hint about when Rivers of Light might debut (with two or three performances a night, the park would need to return to 11:00PM closings), the schedule is still unfortunately unchanged, continuing to show shorter hours through the fall and 6:00PM closings in November.
However, even though Disney’s schedule doesn’t offer any clues about when Rivers of Light might open, there are some indications that Disney is targeting a mid-to-late fall opening date for this new nighttime spectacular. First of all, performers who were slated to be a part of this show before it was delayed have been informed recently that rehearsals are starting up again very soon. And while we’re sure there are likely a few new moves to learn, these performers already should have some experience working this show, which implies a short rehearsal time, and could mean that an opening is in the very near future. And perhaps even more tellingly, Disney conducted extensive lighting and sound effects testing after Disney’s Animal Kingdom closed last night, despite work just wrapping up on the show just a few days earlier.
Based on these developments, it seems very likely that Rivers of Light will debut sometime this October, possibly as soon as the middle of the month. This would actually be some pretty good timing for a new show to begin performances, as the Main Street Electrical Parade at the Magic Kingdom will be closing on October 9, leaving Walt Disney World without one of its most popular nighttime entertainment offerings right before the busy holiday season. Fortunately, if Rivers of Light is there to pick up the slack, it could help spread crowds out during this busy travel period, which will definitely be a good thing for guests planning a visit to Walt Disney World in November and December.
Now that it is all but certain that Rivers of Light will indeed be debuting before the end of the year, one thing that fans have wondered ever since this show’s delay was first announced was if any of this show’s more technical elements would be watered down or even cut in response to the issues Rivers of Light encountered early on.
While there’s no way to know about specific elements of Rivers of Light until it actually debuts, insiders report that the floats and fountains that were showcased in the concept art for this show will indeed be seen in the final Rivers of Light show that premieres this fall, and many of the special effects that have been testing are among those that we have been anticipating. Even if some of this show’s original technical elements end up on the cutting room floor (or at the bottom of the Discovery River), Rivers of Light should still be a very impressive spectacular, and will certainly be a far cry from the slapped-together Jungle Book: Alive With Magic temporary show that underwhelmed guests this past summer.
It has been a long time coming, but it looks like Rivers of Light is finally almost ready to begin performances at Disney’s Animal Kingdom later this fall. However, there’s still a lot we don’t know, including the exact date on which this show will have its first performance, how many shows will be offered nightly (originally three shows were scheduled per night, but plans may have changed since April) and whether dining packages will be offered (we’d guess they will).

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