Our morning continues after Part 1, where we rope dropped Avatar Flight of Passage in Pandora and then made our way over to Na’vi River Journey to see how long we’d wait in standby immediately after. Above is a picture of what is now the theater hosting the “UP! A Great Bird Adventure” show, which replaced Flights of Wonder in the Asia section of the Park earlier this year.
While this post focuses on daytime pictures, my last look around Walt Disney World’s most beautiful theme park at night is available here.
Like several other shows at Animal Kingdom, UP! offers FastPass+, though it’s unlikely that you’ll need to use it. The bird show is probably the third lowest priority at Animal Kingdom, above Primeval Whirl and It’s Tough To Be A Bug.
With FastPass+, you’ll be asked to arrive between 15 and 30 minutes before showtime. So for the 1:30pm show, the return time would be 1pm-1:15pm. If you arrive in standby at least 15 minutes before an UP! show is set to begin, you’re going to get into the show. And if by some non-miracle the show is full at that point, you’ve got a lot bigger problems than that given what must be stifling crowds.
Like a boss, I waltzed into the 10:30am show at 10:29am and found a choice seat near the back.
The theater was moderately crowded, but you can see that there’s still plenty of seats in the middle section.
In the main seating section, the rise from row to row is among the shortest of any Disney World theater show, which can make it difficult to see should you have a tall blogger with a large lens sitting directly in front of you. The bleachers in the back are obviously further away from the stage, but they may be a better option with the higher rise and the fact that you can probably situate yourself away from the majority of the other people sitting up there. The downside is that those arriving after the show begins are more likely to sit in the bleachers when the main seating section is full, which can be disturbing.
I really enjoyed Flights of Wonder – it was an understated show that was always funny and unpredictable with a keen educational slant. The natural beauty of the birds was on display and the characters, trainers, and experts helped illuminate the birds’ unique behaviors as Guano Joe became more and more comfortable with his new feathered friends.
UP! is a step back from that, in my opinion.
Flights of Wonder was always the least popular “major” show at Animal Kingdom. There was no hook. Curious folks might mosey in as cast members outside the theater made announcements and put on small demonstrations leading up to showtime. But it’s unlikely that your average tourist that just waited 150 minutes for Flight of Passage from 9:30am to 12pm, and lamented the fact that the wait was longer than the one hour and fifty minutes advertised, is going to be looking to sit down with some snow owls later.
Changing the story to include Russell and Dug, along with adding UP! to the title of the show, are obvious ploys to increase awareness with parents and interest with kids. Your average tourist probably doesn’t care about “the bird show,” but they might be interested in “the Up show.” And at face value, there’s probably nothing wrong with that.
Unfortunately, I don’t think it really works. Russell and Dug’s dialogue is pre-recorded, which eliminates the fun improvisational elements that made each Flights of Wonder show unique. Russell’s mouth doesn’t move, but his booming, childlike voice still emanates loudly from his general vicinity as he overcompensates with flapping arms and a bobbing head. The juxtaposition of Russell and Dug’s stiff performance with the unpredictable nature of the birds makes both stick out as if neither belongs on the same stage.
Furthermore, the fact that the birds rarely behave like they’re supposed to was a big part of the charm of Flights. Guano Joe and the bird experts and trainers in Flights of Wonder were able to poke fun at what was happening on stage. Now, when things don’t go quite as planned, Russell and Dug still talk and act like everything is fine, which can lead to some awkward exchanges. At one point during the current show, about a half dozen chickens are supposed to scamper across the stage and Dug goes on about how much he likes chasing “the chicken birdies.” But the chickens don’t always come out. So you’ve got Dug going on about chicken birdies that never materialize before the cast moves on to the next bit.
Fortunately, there’s still a solid 15 minutes when Russell and Dug disappear into the back and the birds and their trainers take center stage.
Anyone that saw Flights of Wonder probably remembers when a “lucky” member of the audience was asked to hold up a dollar and a bird would fly out, grab it, and return to the stage.
There she goes, dollar bill safely in beak.
That stunt has been replaced with a new one, where those on the ends of the rows stand up and help make a tunnel with their arms.
The bird then flies through the newly-created tunnel to and from the stage.
I’m guessing this was an attempt to get more people to “feel” like they’re involved with the show, but I think the fun and excitement are lost even more than when it was just one person standing. It’s virtually impossible to see what’s going on unless you’re one of the people at the end of the rows. And even then, I think most of us have seen a bird fly through the air before.
But a lot of the same birds appear in the new show, including the singing parrots.
Two singing birds sometimes appear just in case you’re in the mood for the remix.
Disney seems to realize that the show isn’t working and is making some pretty substantial changes to the content.
On a previous visit, two audience members were called to the stage.
They held out their arms and the toucan jumped from perch to perch….slowly. Very………..slowly…………..That seems to have been cut.
At least during my visit last Sunday, Frasier Crane appeared, but didn’t fly from his branch situated behind the audience.
But you’ll still hear the joke, which fewer and fewer people probably get.
The vulture still makes a brief appearance.
The bald eagle.
And the peacock.
A lot more macaws also play a role.
For older kids and adults, I think UP! A Bird Adventure is a step back from Flights of Wonder. The new show eliminates the majority of the spontaneous moments that made Flights of Wonder so funny. The improvisational banter between the characters is replaced by Russell and Dug “saying” the exact same lines every show, whether they’re talking about something that’s actually happening on stage or not.
Fortunately, seeing UP! A Great Bird Adventure for yourself requires a minimum commitment with five shows scheduled daily, currently between 10:30am and 5pm. You don’t need to arrive more than 15 minutes early and the show is just 25 minutes long, meaning you’ll only need to budget about 40 minutes for the experience. If you have some time to kill in between FastPass+ return times or somebody in your party has a particular affinity for the UP! characters, then taking the time to see it is worthwhile. Young kids are also more likely to be entertained. Unfortunately, I think that comes at the expense of more mature audience members.
I used to be of the opinion that Flights of Wonder was a “must do” as people would head in with no expectations whatsoever and frequently come away charmed and entertained. Expectations are probably higher for the UP! show and I don’t think that it’s going to deliver for most people. Among those that have seen both shows, the overwhelming consensus seems to be disappointment in the current offering. Hopefully it will improve.
So far, this is what I’ve accomplished:
- Flight of Passage: 8:38am – 9:05am
- Na’vi River Journey – 9:06am – 9:20am
- TriceraTop Spin: 9:42am – 9:48am
- Expedition Everest with FP+: 9:52am – 10:04am
- Maharajah Jungle Trek: 10:09am – 10:27am
- UP! A Great Bird Adventure: 10:30am – 11am
You might remember that Primeval Whirl and DINOSAUR were down, which is part of why there’s a 20+ minute gap between River Journey and TriceraTop. I like to ride Primeval Whirl after Na’vi River Journey hoping that it will give me a concussion and I’ll forget having ever experienced both.
It’s time to head over to Africa for Kilimanjaro Safaris.
The posted wait is 45 minutes.
Both the standby and FP+ lines were considerably backed up.
I arrived with FastPass+ at 11:11am and wasn’t on-board until 11:27am. That’s eight or nine minutes longer than average, perhaps because some animals had been standing in the path of the trucks earlier or a limited number of vehicles were on the road.
Either way, this ended up being one of the less memorable Safaris that I’ve experienced:
Part of that disappointment was probably due to the driver, who seemed even less enthusiastic about being there than I was to stay at All-Star Sports to rope drop Toy Story Land three days in a row. I arrived back out front to a 65-minute posted wait at 11:56am, for a total experience time of 45 minutes. That’s ten minutes longer than average, even given the relatively low crowds and wait times that we’ve seen so far.
Me at the All-Star Sports trying desperately to sleep in until at least 5:15am as the children run wind sprints down the hallways.
It’s time to head back to Pandora to ride Flight of Passage with FastPass+.
As I passed the theater for Festival of the Lion King at 11:57am, they were announcing that the 12pm show was standing-room only.
The walk into Pandora, through New Harambe, is a relatively scenic one.
During the first hour or two that Animal Kingdom is open, this pathway that connects Pandora and Africa is often closed because the line for Flight of Passage spills back so far in that direction.
That means you’ll need to use the main entrance/exit next to Tiffins.
Here at noon, it’s wide open.
We’ll first walk over to Na’vi River Journey, hoping that the wait is prohibitively long.
Even 5 minutes would be enough to send me back towards Primeval Whirl:
105 minutes is significantly longer. Remember that the wait was under ten minutes between 8:40am and 9:15am.
Here’s a look at River Journey’s recent wait times:
Triple digit waits here aren’t at all uncommon and it’s an average of 60+ minutes from 9:45am – 9pm.
One interesting thing is how much shorter waits are in July so far. June’s average wait was 84 minutes compared to just 65 minutes so far in July. That’s a 22.6% drop. I’ll update the post with our recent look at overall Animal Kingdom wait times next month to see if that trend continues. But if you can’t ride early, the second best time is, of course, the last hour that the Park is open. Actual waits should be under 20 minutes during the last half hour of operation. You might get in line for Na’vi River Journey around 9:50pm and then get in line for Flight of Passage immediately after here with the 10:30pm summertime closes.
Even given triple digit waits, Pandora itself remains calm with plenty of available space to immediately fill.
Over at Flight of Passage, the posted wait is 140 minutes at 12:15pm. That’s two hours and twenty minutes, rather than the one hour and forty minutes that you’ll often hear quoted if you stand in front of the wait time sign and enjoy the sob stories of people that don’t actually have FastPass+. “What do you mean we have It’s Tough To Be A Bug for 4:45pm! I could have sworn it was for this! Right now!”
Flight of Passage’s standby line was backed up almost to the entrance, which means the 2+ hour wait is probably about accurate.
Disney recently released hundreds of FastPass+ experiences for Flight of Passage for most days in July and August. That’s how I was able to obtain this particular FP+ myself. Similarly, I’d expect Disney to continue tinkering with the FastPass+ ratios over at Toy Story Land, occasionally releasing batches of Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers FP+ over the next year. Stay vigilant.
Those additional experiences don’t seem to be affecting FP+ waits.
I got in line at 12:16pm and was past the merge point with standby just three minutes later. That’s about as long as it takes to walk the queue and take a picture every five steps.
Six minutes later, I was back in the pre-show.
And I was back out front at 12:46pm for a total experience time of 30 minutes, which is right around average.
Here’s a look at wait times over the last month:
As we learned in Part 1, it only makes sense to rope drop Flight of Passage if you can arrive 60-75 minutes before official Park open and have the ability to hurry to the attraction entrance. Waits are longest in the late morning as people invariably show up at 9:30am, think they’ve arrived plenty early, and get in line for the one thing that they’ll be able to accomplish before suffering through lunch at Pizzafari. If you absolutely can’t do Flight of Passage during the early morning and have no hope of visiting last thing at night, then getting in line between 1pm and 2pm is smart. Waits begin to drop inside Pandora and they’re peaking everywhere else. Otherwise, the later you go in the afternoon/evening, the shorter you’ll wait. While the posted wait at the end of the night averages 100 minutes, actual waits are typically 40 to 60 minutes, which is somewhat reasonable when you consider what it takes to ride first thing or the 150+ minute peak morning waits.
Na’vi has dropped to 60 minutes, which is only 59 minutes longer than I’m willing to wait. Very sad indeed.
In Part 3, we’ll join the tourists at Pizzafari, revisit DinoLand for Donald’s Dino-Bash, check out some animals, and catch up on a couple of odds and ends.