Rivers of Light: Cast Preview

Rivers of Light Preview

Last night I was delighted to accept the invitation to see a cast preview of Rivers of Light at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We entered the park around 8:15PM to cast members at the turnstiles checking for the special “Cast Preview” ticket. There are two sides to sit on, Asia and Dinoland. We were seated at Asia.

The event opened at 7:30PM and the preview started at 8:30PM so we had a few minutes to spare. We took our seats which were very close together. I had a woman sitting in front of me and I had to open my legs to avoid hitting her back. I’m 6’1″ with big knees, but they were definitely close. I assume they did this in order to seat more people into the theatre. It can seat 5,000 people which is smaller that Disney’s other nighttime attractions. Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios can handle 6,900 guests.

The show began with a message from the Vice President of DAK, Djuan Rivers. He welcomed us to enjoy the preview but made sure that we did not use photography or video. There were cast members walking up and down the steps to make sure phones were put away.

The lights dimmed and the four pads were floating their way to their marks. Four other floats with with animals on them looking like stain-glass windows floated around the lake too. Then, two boats made their way to the middle of the lake with 2 people on each of them. It had a huge sail on it which I knew would be used for some sort of projection. This is where I said to myself, “This is cool”. They had a projection on the boat itself onto the sail and the two people were using props to cast shadows of animals onto it along with a video. After a minute it stopped and my focus was pulled to the water sprays.

If you have ever seen the Fantasmic! scenes where they spray water up and project video behind it, you have seen Rivers of Light. At this point in the show, two large canons shot loads of water into the air as projectors showed us videos of CGI animals running around. The four small pads had sprayers and projections on them. This made up 90% of the show and my enthusiasm and excitement started to dwindle at this point.

Perhaps I expect too much from Disney, but this show has been postponed since April. The Orlando Sentinel said, “Rivers of Light is a complex production, taking place on the water and featuring floating lanterns, lighting effects, live performers and music.” Insiders say the project has been plagued with technical difficulties.” They quoted an imagineer stating, “It’s a challenging, technical and aesthetic thing to work on,” Joe Rohde, Disney’s Imagineering portfolio creative executive, told the Orlando Sentinel in April. “It has many, many pieces that we’re working to get it perfect.” The only thing I could see in this production that would cause technical difficulties is the water sprayers. I don’t know much about this type of technical work, but it didn’t look like something that would have to be postponed for months.

At the end of the day, the show itself will be good to draw crowds away from other attractions and allow the park to stay open later. However, if I was given the choice between Rivers of Light and Fantasmic!, I would choose the latter.


  1. Thanks for share the info Steve, i can’t wait to see Rivers of Light and the soundtrack to be released.

  2. Thanks for being our eyes on the ground, maybe they’ll add more elements to the stories when they get the kinks worked out.

  3. I’m bummed to hear it didn’t quite live up to expectations. Yes, I think it got really hyped up with the long delays, so we are expecting WOW! I do look forward to seeing it myself! Maybe they will tweak the show a bit over time to better live up to our expectations?

  4. Thanks for the review. I’ve heard similar feedback from others, and have been put off by the hype and delay as well.

  5. I was hoping that things had improved since the last round of cast previews, but it sounds like more of the same. Did they ask for feedback from the people that were there? it sounds like it’s been pretty consistent feedback from everyone that goes :(

    • They did not ask for feedback which I thought was very odd. :surprised:

      • Maybe they’re simply not asking questions they don’t want answers to LOL

  6. Thanks for the review! I think they’ve made things worse for themselves with the delays. The longer it takes the more people expect I think. If it’s a pretty similar set up to Fantasmic, I don’t know why they’ve got that nailed down but are struggling with Rivers of Light. Whenever it’s open I’ll give it a shot. I would love to hear the soundtrack! :note:

  7. Every review I’ve read said that RoL is beautiful, but boring. I don’t understand how Disney can spend so much time and money on this show, only to have the reviews come in so lukewarm. That said, I like that they are finding new ways to improve and extend the experience at this park.

  8. Thanks for that review Steve! It is much appreciated and good to have you there checking things out for D-Cot members. I wish, as I’m sure many do, that there was more of a “wow” factor that you could have reported on.

  9. Thank you for taking the time to post a review! I am sure it was beautiful, but the expectations were so much higher based on the lengthy delays. I am sorry it didn’t live up to those expectations. I am not sure I would spend the time on this show based on reviews, the smaller seating capacity, and the fact it is in my least favorite park of the four. Boo on me, right? :smirk:

  10. Thanks steve! Thats really a bummer. I had high hopes for this show after seeing the projection show on the tree of life. But then again I have high hopes every season for the Jets and I’m dissapointed every year!

    • The projection show on the Tree of Life is gorgeous, how can they nail something that is so simple, but whiff on something much bigger?

  11. my kids weren’t super crazy about Animal Kingdom last time…I’m afraid this does not sound like incentive to visit again. Perhaps i will just wait for Avatar land. :smirk:

  12. Thank you for the review! I hope they make changes so this show is as great as many are wishing it will be!

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