Wednesday, March 29, 2017
WDW Trip Report: Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom By Night
The past few years have seen Disney's Animal Kingdom become quite lively after the sun goes down. The park used to go to bed with the resident animals, and sights like the Tree of Life lit up were rare treats. Now, Animal Kingdom is a full-day park, in anticipation of Screw-The-Haters-I-Think-It-Looks-Rad-As-Fudge Pandora Landora.
One of the highlights of touring Animal Kingdom in the evening is being able to ride the safari at dusk. A few of the animals had already gone to their sleeping quarters, especially some of the more charismatic megafauna (this isn't the time to ride if you want to see elephants). But we got to see many animals we hadn't seen before, like one of the last Black Rhinos in the world...
...a Thompson's Gazelle and an Eland calf...
...and the lions out in the open like they rule the place.
But the most exciting change to Animal Kingdom was thankfully already (finally, after many many delays) open by the time of our trip. This giant lotus raft is the centerpiece of Rivers of Light, which finally gives Animal Kingdom a nighttime "finale" of its very own.
Now, Rivers of Light has gotten some mixed reviews. I really liked it for what it is. It's as if the Electric Water Pageant, Epcot's Fountain of Nations, the aurora scene from "Brother Bear", the good parts of Fantasmic (if you're wondering, yes, we still have a really long "Pocahontas" interlude), and your Yoga instructor's favorite Pintrest boards all got together and made an awesome baby... somehow. It's short, though. Like, really short. And it is very much best seen from the middle of the stadium, where the mist screen projections actually focus properly.
See, we were way off to the side in the "Moon" section of the stadium, nearest the Finding Nemo theater. We felt like we were out in the boondocks in a way I never felt with Illuminations or Fantasmic. It was hard to tell at times whether the show still had bugs to iron out or if it was just us.
There's certainly plenty to see wherever you're sitting, thankfully. We did like the prologue to the show a lot, with the floating fountains moving around and projections of dancing animal shadows on the opposite shore. The latter might have been my favorite effect in the whole show.
These beautiful boats, representing the moon and sun, housed live performers dancing along to the music. I'm told the ambitious Tapestry of Dreams parade in Epcot, which I never got to see, was rather similar in tone.
The lotuses change into colorful dancing fountains...
...and giant animal floats sail in to join the party. As you can see in my inept night-time photography.
Finally, the river erupts into a grand celebration with the festive elements of water, fire, and light.
Fore some reason, this feels familiar. Ah well.
That wasn't the only nighttime party we experienced during this trip. Our visit coincided with a Disney Vacation Club exclusive after-hours event at the Magic Kingdom. It was nearly identical in practice to the special holiday parties, with free (and free-ish) food and drink, popular (and not) attractions running, and even special fireworks. It was all to remind us DVC members that we are just better than other Disney guests.
Yeah, the whole thing made me a touch uncomfortable.
But being in a nearly-empty Magic Kingdom all lit up at night? I'm not kidding, it was one of the most truly magical times I've ever been there. The crowds earlier that same day at MK were at what I can only describe as "Hell is other people" level with a side order of sweltering heat. Just not fun at all. After-hours, I was able to really take everything in and appreciate the beauty of the new central hub gardens and all.
Now I staked out a spot here for the fireworks expecting maybe some cheesy pop music and a few leftovers from Wishes. Oh, how happy I was to be wrong:
Cheesy pop music, yes. (The soundtrack was all bland pop covers of Disney songs, which... euw. But they did play "Eye 2 Eye" from "A Goofy Movie" and it brought the house down.) Cheesy fireworks hell no! This was a full-on elaborate production using pyrotechnics and effects I've never seen before. If this is what the successor to Wishes might look like, tomorrow looks grand.
Next week: Drawings of animals!
Art of the Day!
Another little impressionistic Epcot landscape. I love the flowers around the lagoon!