Disney has had quite a few ups and downs with Rivers of Light. Originally they announced it would debut in 2016, but then it got pushed back to 2017 due to various technical difficulties. Thanks to #DisneySMMC, I got a chance to preview the full show last night. Below are my impressions, though obviously spoilers abound. I generally like to go into new experiences knowing nothing and that was the case with Rivers of Light. I basically knew that it involved some rivers and some lights…
Rivers of Light is something bold and altogether different
I think what I enjoyed most about Rivers of Light is how ambitious it is. First, it’s ambitious because it doesn’t use fireworks at all. Considering the other three parks close down with fireworks every night, this seems a bold decision.
Secondly the show has a lot of moving parts. When everything works in unison it looks spectacular. Think a combination of the Bellagio Fountains with the projection technology used on the castle and the Tree of Life. Some of the projections look amazing. My 4 year old daughter was very into the different animals being projected at different times. So was I!
Rivers of Light fits in well at the Animal Kingdom
My second thought was about Rivers of Light’s place at the Animal Kingdom. Fireworks kind of wouldn’t fit in with the theme of the park (even though I still am surprised). But the show is a bit more understated and quieter due to the wildlife and earth-y themes, which fits in very well with the park.
I also think the show fits in well physically at the Animal Kingdom. When I visited around this time last year, the amphitheater hadn’t started being used yet. But I appreciate how it surrounds the entire show and the fact that there will be seating for the show. This makes much more sense then the standing needed for fireworks.
Rivers of Light also feels very risky
To be clear, I enjoyed the show. But I enjoyed it more on a technical level (wow, how did they pull that off?) and less at an emotional level. I think a lot of that has to do with the music, which is good, but nothing “iconic” Disney. For example, if they used similar tech with the Circle of Life…heart strings.
Rivers of Light also feels risky because it really has so. many. moving. parts. You have lotus flowers floating around that then shoot fountains, boats, more fountains shooting around like they do for inaugural flights, projections, more projections, and who knows what else. All these different elements are bobbing and weaving throughout the performance like a college marching band at a football game.
I can understand why this show was delayed, to get the show perfect you have to make sure a lot of things go right. So when it does, it can look amazing, but what if there is a lot of wind? I feel like stuff like that could derail the whole show but maybe I’m wrong about that. I’m also curious how the projections look from an angle (we were sitting where the FastPass+ users would go).
Overall, I really enjoyed Rivers of Light. More importantly, my daughter absolutely loved it. “Can we come see this again next year?” I’m hoping that Disney has worked out all the technical glitches and can fulfill the bold ambition they have for the show. My guess is they probably have, those Imagineers are pretty darn smart.
Everything fired on all cylinders tonight and the result was pretty great. Some more emotionally affecting music might have even put it in the Pantheon. Still, it’s a lovely show and one that would probably make me close down Animal Kingdom one night. My hats off to Imagineering for their continued work. Hopefully the public will be able to see and judge for themselves soon! With Pandora opening and this show on the horizon, things are looking up for the Animal Kingdom!