Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World has begun to offer nighttime entertainment, kicking off all their new offerings over the Memorial Day Holiday weekend.
Now expected to remain open until 11pm throughout the summer, this marks the first time that Animal Kingdom has offered any sort of nighttime-specific entertainment; let alone remain open during much of the evening hours of the day.
One of the most anticipated shows that debuted was the “The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic”. Featuring live singers, dancers, musicians and fire performers – it brings the story of The Jungle Book “to life”. The limited-engagement nighttime show is held in the park’s new outdoor 5,000-seat Discovery River amphitheater.
Featuring John Debney’s “The Jungle Book” film score, the show’s live music is arranged in Indian styles that feature the sitar and tabla drums for beloved tunes including “The Bare Necessities,” “Trust in Me,” and “I Wan’na Be Like You.”
So far, the show has been receiving mixed reactions (mostly leaning to the negative) throughout social media, forums, and other sites. While the performers do a fantastic job of interpretive dancing the movie/story, the overall flow of the show is pretty slow and fails to captivate the audience during during some scenes. It’s only until the finale where the audience’s interest starts to really pique, and rightfully so. The finale features fire projections, fire, a booming score, and the performers giving their all to close out the show.
The theater is themed nicely, but definitely will be problematic during busier nights. Half of the theater was split for FP and the other for Stand-by; so if you did not secure a FastPass and you’re not in the first 2,500 of waiting, you’re out of luck. People began queueing for the 10:30pm show around 9pm so try to your best to get that FastPass.
During our visit, we stopped by Tiffins and the Nomad Lounge, the new restaurant and lounge that opened over the weekend. Based on the Imagineer’s trips and experiences while researching how to theme Animal Kingdom during construction in the 1990’s. While Tiffins was themed beautifully, we spent our time enjoying the balcony of Nomad Lounge. Featuring 55 seats inside, and 46 seats in a covered outdoor area, Nomad Lounge offers a half-dozen small bites and handcrafted cocktails. The balcony is a really great spot to relax, and will be much better once Avatar construction is complete (some of the views are obstructed due to construction walls).
While sitting on the balcony, we enjoyed 4 of their new beverages – the Annapurna Zing, Snow Leopard Salvation, Lamu Libation, and their own special brew, the Kungaloosh Spiced Excursion Ale.
The Kungaloosh is specficially brewed for Nomad/Tiffins and was done by Concrete Beach Brewery in Miami. It’s a nice beer, but some people may not like the “spiced” flavor during the hot months. The 3 other beverages were their mixed drinks and we found all 3 to be great; with the Snow Leopard Salvation tasting like the offspring of a Mojito and Mule, and the Zing to be like a Fruity Moscow Mule.
We also sampled 2 of their appetizers, the Summer Rolls and Indian Butter Chicken Wings. They tasted great, but the price may be hard to swallow for some, especially with the quantity offered. At $10, we expected to get more than just 3 wings, especially considering other similar locales offer more wings for around the same price.
The addition that really seemed to steal the show this weekend was the Tree of Life Awakens projection show. The iconic Tree of Life “undergoes an awakening” throughout each evening as the animal spirits are brought to life by magical fireflies that reveal colorful stories of wonder and enchantment.
Using projection technology, the show features scenes highlighting Avatar, Finding Nemo, The Lion King, and other animal species found throughout the park. The 5 min show is beautifully done, and features Disney’s best use of projection technology to date. During the show, you can’t help but have a smile on your face. Throughout the night, there was always a good-sized crowd but there isn’t a bad spot to watch it. There are 4 different shows that are featured, each with a different storyline and visuals.
Kilimanjaro Safari at night also began over the weekend. New special lighting allows guests to explore this attraction well into the night. Two new species were also added to the Safari; African wild dogs and hyenas. We were able to check out the Safari at dusk, so the artificial sunset blended in nicely with the sky. Most of the animals were out, including most of the lions so it made for an entertaining experience.
Overall, the new nighttime offerings at Animal Kingdom is a welcome addition as the park was always stunningly beautiful at night, even more-so now. With Avatar opening next year, Animal Kingdom will be a park that offers a separate experience when the sun goes down.