Last updated: 09:00 AM ET, Wed May 04 2016

Animal Kingdom's New Nighttime Schedule Brings the Disney Magic

Destination & Tourism | Michael Schottey | May 04, 2016

Animal Kingdom's New Nighttime Schedule Brings the Disney Magic

PHOTO: the Rivers of Light nighttime spectacular. (photo courtesy of Walt Disney World)

In nature, the night doesn’t bring rest. It brings a cacophony of sound, the uncertainty of shadow and uneasiness. But for humans at the top of the food chain who are visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom during its new nighttime hours, terror is replaced by sheer delight.

When the sun sets, Animal Kingdom’s fun is just beginning. It’s not the same park opened longer, it’s an entirely new adventure centered on new experiences and re-energized enchantment.

One of the biggest changes for longtime fans of the park will be with “The Tree of Life,” which will come alive after dark with a light show put on by magical fireflies which inhabit the tree.

READ MORE: Central Florida as Walt Knew It: A New Adventures By Disney 2017 Itinerary

From an all new mini-movie featuring a young doe who may quickly become one of Disney’s more beloved minor characters to a sequence featuring animals that are reminiscent of some of Disney’s favorites, these short, three-minute movies not only create a new level of brilliance to the already-fantastic centerpiece of the park, but stir emotions in some viewers (including this one) who may never have thought a simple tree could muster.

Only a short walk from that light show, guests will find a whole new level of spectacle with the upcoming “Rivers of Light.” More fireflies, this time leading a procession of lanterns across the river reminiscent of Eastern tradition as well as “Tangled.” From there, centered on floating lotus blossoms, life-giving light joins with life-giving water in a celebration of that very life awakening with the dusk.

Executives at the park showcased about 10 percent of the show for assembled media before its public release, and amazement doesn’t begin to describe where this show is headed.

Intrinsically linked with the idea of nature coming to life is the wildlife safari — long a feature of the park in the day, made new to feature what seems like an entirely different set of animals at night. Lions become even more active out of the heat of the day. Hippos crowd the banks rather than sit in the cooling water. Gorillas may not be as seen, but are heard loud and clear throughout the trees. A giraffe crossing by headlight? That’s a new experience most would never imagine.

Then, there are the rides!

Animal Kingdom’s “Expedition Everest” roller coaster takes on a whole new life at night. Already one of the most thrilling rides at the four-park resort, the added atmosphere creates even more trepidation to the waiting process as the screams echo throughout the pavilion and to the ride itself as shadow and speed link hand in hand to provide what will almost assuredly be one of the highlights of your trip.

READ MORE: Disney Expanding ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Toy Story’ and ‘Avatar’ Attractions

Even walking between all the attractions becomes an entirely new experience for the park as form meets function and art imitates life as marketplaces come to life when the sun comes down. A “Mombasa Marketplace” becomes a block party, and merchandise makes way for conga lines and dance parties.

In many ways, the nighttime hours for Animal Kingdom demand the same treatment that Disney fans gave the park when it first opened in 1998. It’s worth a special trip now as it was then, and any trip to Orlando deserves some time carved out for a whole new type of magic. 

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