Is There Any Hope for Rivers of Light in 2016? Here’s What We Know…

Originally published in Theme Park Tourist  

2016 was certainly a big year for Walt Disney World. It saw the opening of new restaurants like PizzeRizzo and Tiffins, plus the debut of over a dozen new attractions, including Frozen Ever After, Soarin’ Around the World, Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular, and The Muppets Present Great Moments in American History, just to name a few.

However, even though there have been plenty of exciting things going on around the Walt Disney World resort in 2016, there was one unfortunate development this year that we’re still seeing fallout from as the year draws to a close: the delay of Rivers of Light. Even though Disney promised an update on this project after it missed its April 2016 opening date, nothing has been said since that time, causing intense speculation in fan communities, with many wondering if the technical issues that have plagued the show have resulted in an extreme downsizing (or perhaps even cancelling) of this much-anticipated show.

Image: Disney

Unfortunately, Disney has been completely silent on the current status of Rivers of Light, which has only led to further fueling of online chatter about what is really going on with this show. However, in the absence of anything official regarding when this show may (or may not) debut, we thought we’d quickly go over everything we know right now about the current status (and potential future prospects) of Rivers of Light at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

1. Cast Previews are continuing to take place this week

Image: Disney

Late last month news broke that Disney’s Animal Kingdom Cast Members were able to take part in special previews of Rivers of Light after the park closed to regular guests. Though this type of technical rehearsal also happened earlier this year before Rivers of Light was supposed to open the first time, many were confident that these previews were a signal that an official opening of Rivers of Light could be imminent. However, as has been the case with this show since the beginning, things might be a bit more complex than they seem….

2. Early reviews have been mixed thus far

Image: Disney

Though Cast Members were not allowed to take photos or video of the performance, many took to social media after the conclusion of their preview to share their thoughts on the new show. And while the technical aspects of the show were almost universally praised, some criticized the show for not having a “story” akin to Fantasmic or a clear central theme like Illuminations or Wishes.

And unfortunately, these criticisms have not fallen on deaf ears, with insiders suggesting that top Disney officials are also not pleased with the show in its current form either, which is rumored to be truncated from the original pre-delay concept for Rivers of Light.

Though there’s no way to know exactly how development has been on this attraction, the most important question on most fans’ minds is when they can experience this attraction for themselves…

3. A 2016 debut is still possible, but increasingly unlikely

Rivers of Light

Image: Disney

Right now, another Cast Member preview is set to take place this week, which is another good sign for this show. And while we could see another round of mixed reviews, Disney is likely impatient to get this show out before the busy holiday period kicks off in just a few weeks. While we must stress again that Disney has not said one word via official channels about a release date, we have to assume that with all of these previews taking place, Disney has to at least be hoping to get this show in good enough shape to debut before the end of the year.

Then again, if Disney feels that the show still isn’t ready for prime time, they could always move it back to another big opening that is coming soon to Disney’s Animal Kingdom…

4. Pandora – The World of Avatar could give Disney a new deadline

Image: Disney

One of the big reasons why Disney wanted to extend the hours at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in the first place is because of the 2017 opening of Pandora – The World of Avatar. The plan for this new land has always been to make it a completely different experience at night, and the idea was that Disney could begin the process of transitioning Disney’s Animal Kingdom into a nighttime park in 2016, so that way in 2017, when this new land opens, guests will be used to spending their evenings inside this park.

Of course, as you already know, this plan didn’t exactly take off, with the re-launch of Disney’s Animal Kingdom as a “full day” park sputtering this summer in part due to the poor reception of the temporary Jungle Book: Alive with Magic show. In recent months, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has almost given up on the idea of nighttime operations, with hours being cut drastically as we head into the holiday season. But Pandora – The World of Avatar could provide a bright spot here.

With this new land opening next summer, Disney could simply wait to launch Rivers of Light alongside Pandora – The World of Avatar, which would (hopefully) give this park quite the boost next year as it would have nearly half a dozen new attractions and a new nighttime spectacular to bring guests back to this park.

Image: Disney

Ultimately, we just don’t know what is happening with Rivers of Light, and Disney’s lack of updates on the status of this project haven’t done much to quell fan speculation in recent months. However, even though its tempting to worry that this show might never debut, we’re confident that if Disney doesn’t elect to debut this show before the close of 2016, it will at least be ready for guests by the time Pandora – The World of Avatar opens next summer.

When do you think this new show will finally make its grand entrance at Walt Disney World? And do you think fans will still care about this show when it finally does debut?

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Don Korta

Tina & Don Korta are parents to 7 children and 4 grandchildren along with being the Owners of "Destinations with Character Travel".

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