Nighttime Experiences At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Are Officially Delayed.

In a shocking turn of events, Disney has announced that the official transformation of Animal Kingdom to an after dark park has been delayed. This is especially surprising, as the  key component of the nighttime experience – Rivers of Light – had previously been given a debut date (April 22, 2016) as well as scheduled cast member preview nights before the official opening date.

Here’s the press release from Disney:

With the expansion of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we’re excited to give Guests even more opportunities to celebrate the magic of animals and nature as day turns into night. While we’d hoped to debut these offerings on April 22, unfortunately, they will not open as planned on that date as we give the team more time to bring these innovative experiences to life in a way we know will exceed our guests’ expectations.

We’ll share more information about timing on the Disney Parks Blog by mid- to late May.


There’s no indication indication if the delays are specifically related Rivers of Light, or other after dark components of the park. However, rumors have persisted that Rivers of Light was experiencing technical difficulties. We find it interesting that the wording implies delays with multiple nighttime offerings in that “they will not open as planned”.

Even more perplexing is that this doesn’t appear to be a slight delay, with only a hint more information coming in about 6 weeks, not an actual opening date.

On the bright side, Disney has released some more information about the Tree of Life awakening that will occur on the Tree of Life each night. The show will feature animal spirits who bring the Tree of Life to life in moments of wonder. In the Awakening, the tree is brought to life in the form of fireflies who surround the tree in magical animations that occur.

The Tree of Life will awaken multiple times each evening and it appears that it will not be a scheduled event, but more of a random happening, remaining active throughout the evening once it awakens for the first time that night. The Awakening will include 2-3 minute animal fables, as well as shorter nature and animal scenes.

Also notable, Guests will be able to see the Awakening in the main hub, but they will not be able to see the show from the back of the Tree of Life.

We’ll continue to follow this this story and post updates as they become available. 

Are you ready to begin planning a Walt Disney World Vacation? In order to save you time, stress, and money we recommend using a travel planner who specializes in Disney vacations. To better serve you and start this process immediately, you can connect with us on Facebook, or request a free no obligation WDW vacation quote. Our services are compensated by Disney, so it’s 100% free with no cost to you.