Rivers of Light - Animal Kingdom's Sunset
This may come off as a bit pedantic, so bear with me.
A sunset tells a story. It wraps up the ongoing tale that is the day that started when it rose. There is no specific plot told as it drops below the horizon but you can view it as the curtain closing on a play that constantly tells a different tale. Such is the story told by Rivers of Light at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
While a hard narrative may be absent, there is no dark energy for Mickey to defeat nor the power of dreams used to topple evil sorceresses, it brings to a close all that one has possibly experienced during their stay in the park. This show is the park's sunset. While you are shown the connection between water and light in visual and metaphorical terms, which in itself is a tale to tell, the larger picture is a farewell to the day's experiences.
Animal Kingdom has always had a very distinct heartbeat in that you get out of it what you put in. Disney parks have always been criticized as "producing" magic in lieu of letting the moments occur on their own. The validity of that accusation is an argument for a different day but Animal Kingdom presents itself as a wholly different world and puts the elements in place for you to have something special happen. It's then based on nature and you can't put nature on a schedule. You may hear a lion roar. You may never see a lion at all. Things of that sort.
Rivers of Light is fully prepped and dictated but what you, as the guest, get out of it is largely dependent on you alone. The mixture of visuals, music, and color may hit you in a very emotional way and remind you of sights that filled your stay. It also may seem like a bland experiment to be improved upon over time. For me, I found it enchanting. All the different elements lend themselves to multiple viewings because so much is going on at once that you can't see it all in one performance. The colors are beautiful without being blinding, the music works as well as all the music in Animal Kindgom, and the projections give the show size. With all of that going on though, it's large without feeling overpowering. It does not feel forced. It simply works as is and puts a bow on the present that is Animal Kingdom.
There is a major consideration to all of this though. Sight lines. After viewing the show twice in three days, I can honestly say I only truly watched it once. The first time, I was seated far right of the theater and was unable to see the main projection that fills the middle third of the production. It was the equivalent of going to the movie theater and having the middle third of the screen blocked off. For this reason, the FastPass + seating is essential. That is also my biggest complaint. In a seating area so large and so wide to then have much of the visual element dependent on being towards the center, it handicaps the show greatly. For me, I will never again sit for the show without having centralized seating.
That technicality aside, Rivers of Light continues the strength of Animal Kingdom in presenting itself as a wholly different experience from the other parks and letting the story be shown instead of the story being told to me. I look forward to seeing it again and again...from the FastPass area.