We’ll stop by Disney’s Animal Kingdom to take advantage of some of the lowest crowds of the year in early October to check out some changes around the Park. We’ll be able to use what we see as a sort of barometer for later in the month, when crowds should rise.
Entertainment is an important part of place-making and the wealth of acts that you’ll see around Harambe are a big piece of what makes the area “feel” alive.
Burudika, the popular band that has played in the middle of Harambe for years, performed for the last time earlier this month.
I’ll miss grabbing a freshly-made cocktail at Dawa Bar and then hanging out in the area sipping it during one of the band’s 20 minute sets, particularly in the fall when temperatures are a little cooler. Fortunately, Africa should still offer the Tam Tam Drummers, Kora Tinga Tinga, and the Village Acrobats. Hopefully we’ll see Burudika back, or a similar act replace them, in the near future. While the timing is a little suspect, with a large number of similar acts being cut across property, it’s possible that the band, which goes by Wassalou outside of Disney World, wants to move on to do other things. You can listen to their “Live in the Village” album for free on Spotify, here.
This is a 10-minute wait for Kilimanjaro Safaris at 4:46pm, or more than four hours before the Park was scheduled to close.
These signs announcing the closing time for Kilimanjaro Safaris have popped back up after a hiatus of a few years. I’m guessing some number of people were arriving back here later in the evening expecting to ride, only for the attraction to be closed. As long as you’re in line before the stated last departure time, you’ll be able to ride. That departure time should be an hour before the rest of the Park officially closes.
We’ve seen different versions of this sign over the years.
While the Safari now closes earlier than it has over the last couple of years, with Disney’s push to keep people here into the evening, 8pm is still late enough that you can experience the attraction after dark with the sunset around 7pm at the moment.
We’ll cruise back over here around the sunset to see if we can catch dinnertime on the savanna.
Along with some pinks, oranges, and purples in the sky.
I’m heading over to the last UP! Bird Adventure show of the day.
The show saw yet another rewrite last month.
That makes this the fifth or sixth iteration of a show that replaced Flights of Wonder less than two years ago.
Current showtimes are 10:30am, 12pm, 1:30pm, 3:30pm, and 5pm.
Five minutes before showtime, the crowd is somewhat sparse, though the few sections closest to the entrance are largely filled. In some number of years of experiencing shows at various Disney Parks, I’ve found that the experience is best away from the other people, even if that means being further away from the stage.
The current version of the show replaces some of the old mystical elements with this confused Wilderness Explorers troop leader.
Fortunately, the birds still steal the show, here as an audience member throws a grape into the air, only for it to be snatched right out of the sky. It’s not unlike me zooming in on other people’s food in my vlogs before pointing the camera around to review it while I pretend to chew with my mouth open.
The singing bird hits all of the high notes.
The same Frasier Crane joke that we’ve all heard before returns. Perhaps Ichabod Crane could be part of a holiday overlay. Or we could try to crane our heads around the corner to catch another show.
You’ll also see the bald eagle to close out the show.
I was always a big fan of Flights of Wonder, an understated, fun show that caught most guests by surprise in that it was genuinely funny and informative. A big part of that show’s success was the ad libbing and the presenters reacting to how the birds behaved on stage. That was largely eliminated with the injection of the Up characters. Originally, Russell and Dug were the ones pushing the story forward with a lot of dialogue that “felt” unnatural when it’s coming from a character with a plastic face and whose mouth doesn’t move. The new version of the show cuts their dialogue down tremendously, which both helps and hinders the show as the emphasis is now on the Wilderness Explorers troop leader.
The troop leader’s shtick “feels” lazy and relies on the audience laughing at how dumb the character and her actions are throughout the show. In Flights of Wonder, the tour guide was not a genius, but it legitimately felt like he was just slightly out of his element. There is no element where the troop leader would thrive and nothing she says is clever or interesting, which bogs down the 25-minute show.
Fortunately, the barrier to entry is very low for UP! A Bird Adventure. For a seat in the front, you’re going to want to arrive 15 to 20 minutes before showtime, but for a seat off to the right, you can safely arrive five or ten minutes before showtime. And for a seat in the very back bleachers, where you may have a better view because each row is significantly higher than the one in front of it, you can arrive just a minute or two before showtime. On the plus side, the kids probably enjoy seeing the Up characters a lot more than the tour guide from Flights of Wonder. The current show is certainly attended better than Flights of Wonder.
In Asia, just about exactly across from the UP! theater, you’ll see Bollywood Beats continuing to perform, currently at 12:30pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 5:30pm, and 6:30pm.
The 15-minute show is easy enough to see at your leisure.
I’m not sure that I would go out of my way to see it, but it’s certainly a fun little aside should you time it right. You may want to grab a drink and hang out for a minute while enjoying the music and dancing.
Early October crowds were even lower than I would have expected. At 5:38pm, Kali River Rapids is an absolute walk-on with most rafts leaving with empty seats. Temperatures are still nearing 90 degrees most days.
You’ll want to keep an eye on the time if you’re interested in visiting Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail or Maharajah Jungle Trek through the end of the year. Both currently close at 5pm with Gorilla Falls opening at 8:15am and Maharajah at 10am.
Rivers of Light: We Are One, an updated version of the original show, continues to play twice most nights, currently at 7:45pm and 9pm with the Park closing at 9pm. Occasionally, only one show is presented.
Saying that reviews of Rivers of Light are “mixed” may be generous.
The current version isn’t a major departure from the previous show. We now see some animated clips from Disney movies projected onto the sails of the two boats.
The scenes make the show “feel” even more disjointed. There’s no reason that we should be seeing Pocahontas on a sail for three seconds.
The low quality of the projections, particularly on the water screens, doesn’t help. These are monkeys or meerkats…probably.
Originally, the show featured two live actors on each of the large boats, which not only added a human element, but also helped move the story along.
Those live actors were pulled years ago now in a move that probably had a lot to do with cost reductions. If your options were to run one show with live actors or two shows without them, then you might choose the latter.
Whether you want to see the show depends a bit on who is in your party and what else you want to do with your evening. The shows distribute a couple thousand FastPass+ experiences each, so it’s relatively easy to secure FP+ for the first or second show as a 4th or subsequent FP+ at some point during the day. The second show, typically scheduled right at Park close, is typically much less crowded than the first. But wait times at the very end of the night are also at some of their lowest points of the day, and that may be something that you want to take advantage of as well.
As we know from several visits, most recently chronicled here, waits for Flight of Passage are typically under an hour for those who get in line last thing at night. The wait for Na’vi River Journey at the end of the night should be under 15 minutes, with any other attraction seeing an actual wait of fewer than five minutes. If you’re looking to take advantage of those short waits, then I’d use FP+ for the first Rivers of Light and arrive at the theater ten to fifteen minutes before showtime.
You may find yourself seated in the far corner, but the view from over there is nearly or exactly the same as front and center. And if you have more space to spread out, then you may be doing better than those squished up in the middle anyway. The experience is always better away from the people. By arriving about ten minutes early, your total investment will be about a half hour, considering the show is officially 17 minutes long. Even if you don’t love it, that’s not a substantial amount of time. If you have little interest in getting in line for an attraction last thing, then you may want to see the second show instead. The standby sections are unlikely to fill and FastPass+ is even easier to acquire than for the first show.
Personally, I’d see the first show with a 4th or subsequent FP+ and then take advantage of short waits at a couple of attractions after.
After, you can always stay at the Shangri-La Trekkers Inn and then refresh easywdw.com at the Internet Cafe.
We pick things up at Expedition Everest at 5:41pm, when the ride is posting a 10-minute wait.
I had booked FastPass+ in advance.
Priority access won’t prove to be particularly useful in this instance.
But there’s nothing outside of Pandora that is currently posting a wait of more than ten minutes, so my FP+ isn’t very useful elsewhere, either.
My ride took fewer than ten minutes, which is three or four minutes below average. The Park doesn’t close for another 3+ hours.
We’ll head to Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama, where there is not a whole lot going on these days.
The Dance Party that went along with the Dino-Bash was quietly cancelled.
Chip and Dale now greet guests underneath the “Welcome Center” sign. Donald meets here before 4:30pm.
Primeval Whirl is officially “seasonal,” with the ride opening occasionally for testing for an hour or two at a time. We may not see it open all day until Thanksgiving or Christmas. I wouldn’t bet on the ride operating during your visit otherwise.
Just after 6pm, DINOSAUR’s wait is posted at 20 minutes. Considering how few people I’ve seen around, my guess is that it will be much lower.
And that turned out to be true as there was “literally” nobody in line in front of me. This is a pretty solid photo here from the iPhone 11 I would say.
After the pre-show, there was basically nobody waiting down below.
These vehicles are leaving empty with nobody present to board:
My total experience time was fewer than 15 minutes, which is about five minutes below average. The posted wait has dropped to 15 minutes, but they could probably lower it to one minute and it would still be longer than the actual wait.
Part of that inflation could be to let people know that the experience is going to take 15 to 20 minutes with the pre-show.
Otherwise, you might have people telling others in the group that they’ll be out in about five minutes given the ride’s duration.
I could certainly get right back in line if I wanted.
TriceraTop Spin was…spinning with half of its dinosaurs empty. A sad sight indeed.
During the day, Pluto meets in The Boneyard, so this stand outside the entrance to the playground now features some of his merchandise in lieu of more dinosaur stuff.
In other character news, you’ll find Timon and Rafiki in the Character Landing. This was previously where Winnie the Pooh and friends met, before Pocahontas replaced them.
In the next Part, we’ll continue our visit to Animal Kingdom by heading to Pandora and then back to Africa for a late night Safari.