Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Night

Disney’s Animal Kingdom … It’s incredibly immersive in the day and just so so so beautiful at night. We’ve covered it before. Here. And here. So I was over the moon when Disney announced new evening experiences in the Park.

And then I heard what those new experiences were.

From the get-go, I was dubious of the sunset safari, which was supposedly going to bathe the entire safari in perpetual sunset for three or four hours each night. Here’s the thing: Animals (all animals–even us!) need sunrise and sunset to set their body clocks. Metabolism relies on it. Without sunrise and sunset, our bodies would become sick, tired, fat … basically, unhealthy. I didn’t understand how Disney could possibly do this to their animals–not legally, not ethically, not morally.

But when Simba One took off, and I experienced “sunset” on Kilimanjaro Safari for myself, I realized that Disney didn’t (couldn’t?) create permanent sunset. In fact, the “sunset” itself was only in one small section of the attraction, and it was laughably bad. Our safari guide didn’t even mention it as we drove by.

The second problem: Since there actually wasn’t a sunset, the light was terribly low. We barely saw any animals because (imagine this …) they avoided the spotlights. The highlight of the whole safari was hearing the lioness roar. Which was, admittedly, completely incredible and not something I’ve ever heard during the day. But overall, the attraction was a boring mess.

Afterward, we headed to Asia to see one of the final performances of The Jungle Book: Alive With Magic. For starters, I was impressed by the stadium–it looks great (although I wish the benches had backs) and feels pretty natural. But that was pretty much the end of me feeling impressed.

The individual performances were great. The dancers and singers and musicians were amazing but the show itself didn’t add up. I mean, literally: the show was less than the sum of its parts. The water projections weren’t fully working, and the image mapping on the trees behind the water was completely underutilized. It was fun and it was pretty but it was empty. I do hope Rivers of Light is more spectacular.

The best part of Disney’s Animal Kingdom at night was the one thing Disney didn’t over promote: Tree of Life Awakenings.

We caught the tail end of the last show of the night, and it was lovely. But since there wasn’t a schedule of events for the mini-shows, we weren’t able to see them. (I mean, I guess we could have just camped out in front of the Tree, and I am sure that some people do that, but we only had one night in DAK, and we wanted to see as much as possible.)

Next time, we’ll make sure to see more of the Awakenings. And fewer of the “other” stuff. It’s really a shame. A disappointing shame.

Have you experienced Animal Kingdom at Night? Let us know what you thought in the comments below. 

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