All that we knew heading into our first viewing of the The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic was that we were going to see something that we have never seen at Disney’s Animal Kingdom before: a night time show. We had heard mostly negative reviews but we really wanted to stay as open-minded as we could about this new experience. I waited a few days to write this review as I needed some time to let some things sink in before writing. I didn’t want to write a knee jerk reaction as I believe seems to be the case with what I have been seeing. There were several areas in which I believe that Disney proved that they are the best at what they do (entertaining, immersive, storytelling) but unfortunately few of those had to do directly with the show and I believe there are reasons for that. Before I explain what those reasons let me share a little about our experience.
The theater is truly breathtaking. In true Animal Kingdom fashion the theater blends in perfectly with the surroundings and takes absolutely nothing away from the immersive feel of the park. Surrounding the water in three sections the theater sinks into the ground as to not block any of the amazing views we have come to know and love at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It is bench seating so at times you may be making a good friend as you make room for more guests, but for our particular show it was very comfortable and the angle of the seats made it easy to see even though we were in the last row (last row is even raised a few inches to help with that). There are three floating barges in the water and three corresponding stages along the water’s edge for performers as well.
Once the show starts it is a non-stop show of live musician’s, performers, and dancers. The music is from the live action film Disney’s The Jungle Book and has a distinct Indian flair. My wife and I absolutely love the Baliwood style of dancing so this was one of our favorite aspects of the show. Our favorite was the performance of “I Wanna Be Like You”. There are projections on three water screens (one large in the center flanked by two smaller) of segments from The Jungle Book as well as other images to go along with the music and dance. The show last approximately 25 minutes and moves from one song to the next as it summarizes the story line of The Jungle Book. If The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic was just a show that Disney had created as an attraction at the parks, I think it would be well received. However this is the first night time show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the bar has been set pretty high. What follows are completely opinion-based thoughts of what I believe to be the circumstances behind the shows lack of punch and why it is receiving some bad reviews. Also included is why I believe we should cut Disney some slack, enjoy the show, and understand that this show could have an incredible ultimate effect on what is to follow.Rivers of Light, there I said it, was the night time spectacular that we have been promised for quite a while. We were all excited as we were given an opening date for May of 2016. There was no mention of a show called The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic. As we crept closer to the opening date of Rivers of Light it was announced that there were still some things to work on for the show and that the opening had been delayed. Disney having already planned on Animal Kingdom’s night time festivities for the summer had to think of something, enter The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic. I always suspected that this was the case, but once I saw the show I was even more convinced. Not to take away from the amazing performances, and incredible talents of the performers but the show itself seemed thrown together. Only Disney itself could “throw” together such a good production but most extreme Disney fans can tell when something is just not quite right. It think this is exactly why most of the reviews are coming back a bit negative.
I actually applaud Disney for what they are doing. Most companies would either release an inferior show or postpone with nothing in its place. Disney once again has found a way to give the guests an experience while doing what they need to do to test and improve the technology to have an overall greater experience in the end for Rivers of Light. There are definite issues with the water screens. While you can see the projections on the smaller screens, you can barely make out the images on the larger screen. I believe that the difficulty they may be having is the thick Florida air. These water screens work great for World of Color at Disney’s California Adventure park in California and I believe that they were most likely working fine during the winter months here in Florida due to lower humidity. As we crept further into March and April I believe that is when they started to see trouble. Again completely my opinion. It could also be any number of other issues that we know nothing about. Instead of giving Disney a hard time I think we should applaud them for trying new things and, more than that, trying to get them right. I believe that Disney will get the technology fixed and we will have an amazing Rivers of Light show to write rave reviews about and slowly forget The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic. It is, I am afraid, extremely forgettable but enjoyable to watch at the same time.
Would I recommend it? Yes I would. I think that any Disney fan should see the show as we all want to see anything new that comes out at the parks and even more hate to miss out on something that we may be able to complain about for a while. I think the average Disney guest isn’t going to be disappointed either because they are not looking at it through the microscope that a huge parks fan would. It is an entertaining show that can finally cap off a night at Animal Kingdom!
Some things to remember:
Show runs 2 times a night. Show times vary but have been running at 9pm and 10:30pm.
Show is subject to cancellation due to weather. The performers are performing on barges in the water and guests are seated around water so for safety this is one show that cannot be put on during inclement weather.
The theater fills up fast so make sure to grab a FastPass+ reservation or do a Dining Package. Special seating is given to guest who book a dining package at Tusker House or Tiffins at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Walkways become very crowded as some of them are rather narrow to begin with.
FastPass+ entrance is by Expedition Everest entrance and Dining Package and Standby are close to Dinoland USA.
There are viewing areas on the bridge by Expedition Everest as well as a few other places where you can see the show without entering the theater but you will miss many of the components of the show. It is best to view from inside the theater, of course.