Rivers of Light Initial Thoughts and Pictures

Disney previewed Rivers of Light, Animal Kingdom’s new nighttime spectacular, to the public for the first time on the evening of February 10, 2017.

The show’s official debut is February 17th with shows just about every other day from then through the end of March before shows are most nights in April and then on 99% of nights in May and June.

Showtimes aren’t available for dates past then, but the show will assuredly be scheduled at least once nightly in June and August before perhaps going back to an intermittent schedule in September, though Avatar should continue to boost crowds enough that Rivers could feasibly be scheduled every day.

For the time being, my advice is to do what you can to see the show. FastPass+ is available though they are very limited in number and should be booked as part of your initial three selections. The number of day-of Rivers of Light FastPass+ cancellations remains to be seen, but the capacity is far less than Fantasmic and the demand for Animal Kingdom’s other attractions is far lower than at Epcot or Hollywood Studios, which means people are less likely to cancel Rivers of Light for another attraction elsewhere in the Park. In other words, if you have IllumiNations FastPass+ booked but Soarin’, Test Track, or Frozen becomes available, then you may cancel IllumiNations in favor of the ride, thus opening up IllumiNations for someone else to take. At Animal Kingdom, it’s currently unlikely anyone with Rivers of Light is going to cancel their FP+ in favor of Everest or Safaris, let alone Primeval Whirl or DINOSAUR.

Rivers of Light Dining Packages are also available for meals at Tusker House and Tiffins, with details available here: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/animal-kingdom/rivers-of-light-dining-package/. The Dining Package guarantees a seat in the reserved section on the DinoLand side for the show. At Tusker House, the Dining Package is $7 more per adult and $5 more per child than simply booking a meal without the reserved seat. In a lot of situations, seven bucks seems like it would be worth the peace of mind in knowing that you’ll have seats. That would also open your FastPass+ selections up so you could book three early and then make subsequent selections throughout the afternoon and early evening. Since Rivers of Light is typically scheduled around close, it would be difficult or impossible to make another FastPass+ selection after the show should it be the third of your initial selections.

I have more thoughts on the Tiffins Dining Package as part of this Avatar announcement post, but basically, you can get your money’s worth fairly easily or even come out ahead if you’re planning on ordering the more expensive items as you can choose any appetizer, entree, dessert, and non-alcoholic drink for the $67/adult price. The Wagyu Striploin alone costs $53, so it’s easy to spend another $14 across the other three items included with the fixed price meal.

While Rivers has not yet debuted, it’s hard to imagine that seeing the show in standby will be a viable alternative with what should be 80% of the theater’s capacity given to FastPass+ and Dining Packages. If you’re interested in the show, pay the money to save hours in line at Tiffins or Tusker House or book the FastPass+.

As far as the show itself is concerned…it’s not without its issues…and how much those perceived problems affect your enjoyment of the overall production is a matter of personal tolerance.

But the first eight minutes of the 15-minute show in particular are mesmerizing – after that…you might argue that it peters out a bit…

But I think these images speak for themselves. The show is so beautiful. So vibrant. So full of life…

That it’s only marginally important that the show lacks a coherent storyline or lacks the crescendo towards a suitable climax and finale. At least until the temperatures heat up and the evenings remain comfortable, I would only skip Rivers of Light if you have something considerably better to do. You never know what you might like.

A few more pictures:

I’ll have more concrete advice next weekend after the show officially debuts.


  1. Melisendepf says

    The quality of your night photos is fantastic. Crystal clear and great colors. I can’t get that at all with the cappy Samsung tablet I have.

      • josh says

        The pictures turn out better if you hold it up in the air and in front of the face of the person sitting behind you though. Besides tilt, that’s the most important thing.

        • Dee says

          Aside from Josh, I wish people would just put the phones away and enjoy the moment. It really is inconsiderate to the people seated behind them. You keep bringing us these great photos Josh! They are gorgeous!

          • Heather says

            Enjoy the moment is right! Not every minute needs documentation. It’s nice to get great shots & clips but we sometimes get a bit excessive; it’s a distraction from the live experience.

          • Sarah says

            Totally agree. For most of the Disney shows, there are already videos online that probably do a much better job of filming this stuff than I ever could. Watch one of them if you want to experience it again.

  2. dusty cheatham says

    advice from a 20 years passholder. if you can wait for at least a month for them to get the kinks out of the show.i remember fantasmic when it 1st launched. lots of problems . canceled shows. maybe it wont happen with this show just a word of caution.

  3. Ashley says

    If you book a dining/show package at Tusker house is the dining still a character experience? Or is it different because it’s now tied to the show?

    • Dawn says

      Yes, Ashley it would be the ‘normal’ experience…the characters are at Tusker House for every meal. The only difference to your experience would be that you will receive your ROL voucher at the end of your meal.

      • Sarah says

        Exactly. And a package at Tiffins that has the potential to save some money on what I hear is an excellent dining experience, if a small upcharge at TH is unappealing. Though I must say I’m glad our trip will be with RoL but before Pandora opens, so we can use a FP+ without missing much else. Once Pandora opens, I might lean toward a dining package so I could be sure to have enough FP+ to experience everything.

  4. Dawn says

    My God! Josh! your photo’s are astounding!! SUPERB!! they literally took my breath! You are not only blogger extraordinaire but a professional photographer as well…simply amazing. Oh, and thanks for the advise on the ROL show., it really looks fun!

  5. mlm says

    Any idea if the current AP 20% discount at Tiffins is still honored for the dinner + show reservation? Didn’t see that on the WDW www site.

    • josh says

      Typically there are no discounts on Dining Packages – Annual Passholder or Tables in Wonderland. Which is one thing that can make the packages seem less attractive.

  6. Tom says

    Hey Josh,

    Is the lack of story line due to changing the show around to accommodate the tech issues they were having? Meaning, was the originally imaged show more coherent? Or is this one of the unknowables?

    • Jon says

      Tiffins is two credits without the package too though, its a signature restaurant no matter what.

      At least with the RoL package you get three courses, your standard dining credits only get entree and dessert.

  7. Mike says

    Looks beautiful and crowded. It’ll be interesting to see how people value this experience. Even with FP or a dinner rez, it seems like it would be a pain to get in and out of the area for such a short show.

  8. Melissa says

    Have they scaled this back? I recall this being billed as BETTER than World of Color at DCA in CAlifornia. I am not getting that vibe at all….Lovely pictures!

      • melissa says

        Well the comment was made WAY BACK before the show even opened with the other crazy show that was in it’s place before it became Rivers of Light. I can’t remember the name but my point is – a while back it was commented that Rivers of Light would be better than WOC, which I love….so I was excited for ROL…but hmm 15 minutes? Maybe not so much….

  9. Tina says

    I’ve seen videos on YouTube of the show and while it looked amazing and I’m definitely set on seeing it, the projections on the water screens seemed pretty tough to see clearly. Was wondering for anyone who saw it in person if that was your take or was it clear to you?

    • Daisy says

      I just saw it on Tuesday and I’d say you’re correct in that the water screens are hard to see clearly. If you can mentally frame it as more ‘dreamlike’ or something then maybe the water screens work for you. Personally, they’re not my cup of tea.

  10. says

    Your photos are amazing! Josh any advice on when to line up with a FP? I was able to get one on our next trip and I’m hoping to not have to get there to terribly early. I’ll of course be on the look out for your upcoming post with more advice.

  11. Heather says

    We visited AK with my MIL who hadn’t been to WDW in 40 yrs. Watching Fantasmic with her let me feel that magic of first time experience again. She absolutely was mesmerized. All disappointment with dates (etc) aside, does anyone think ROL is on par with F! ?


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