An unbeatable lineup of blockbuster attractions will debut at Walt Disney World Resort this year starting with the April 4 launch of a new live stage show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. On Earth Day, April 22, a sweeping immersive, animal-themed theatrical production, ‘Rivers of Light,’ will premiere as the first-ever nightly show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
An epic array of shows and attractions will continue to open throughout summer, creating exciting new guest experiences across all Disney theme parks and entertainment venues. A new Magic Kingdom castle show will bring favorite characters from Tangled and Princess and the Frog for the first time to the grandest stage in Walt Disney World. Stars of the runaway Disney hit, Frozen, will take a bow in multiple Disney parks, and the first Frozen-themed attraction will sail into guests’ hearts at Epcot. Even more Star Wars-themed original entertainment, nighttime Animal Kingdom experiences and Disney Springs openings will set the stage for endless summertime fun.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
The magic of nature after dark takes center stage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom when the all-new Rivers Of Light waterside show premieres April 22, Earth Day — marking the Walt Disney World theme park’s thrilling transformation from a day-into-nighttime experience.
- ‘Rivers of Light,’ an immersive nighttime extravaganza blending performers, floating lanterns, special effects and stunning theatrical imagery projected upon giant water screens, will premiere in a new Discovery River waterside theater.
After the sun sets, guests will gather waterside for the majestic nighttime jewel, “Rivers of Light.” This illuminating musical experience celebrates the magic of animals and humans and the natural world with a blend of performers, floating lanterns and theatrical animal imagery.
On the natural stage of Discovery River, guests will marvel as a timeless custom comes to life before their eyes in a stirring performance. The ceremony begins with the arrival of a pair of mystical hosts, two complimentary forces who come to the river bearing gifts of light. They set out from the shore on elaborate lantern vessels, engaging in a dramatic dance of water and light to summon the animal spirits. With these storytellers as guides, the wonders of “Rivers of Light” unfold, building to a magnificent finale with bursts of light as animal images soar to the heavens– signifying the ancient belief that when animals passed from one world to another they danced in the sky and became beautiful rivers of light, according to Michael Jung, Creative Portfolio Director, Walt Disney Imagineering.
To create ‘Rivers of Light,’ Imagineers and Disney Creative Entertainment partnered with experts including award-winning master designer Michael Curry, whose Disney Parks contributions include ‘Finding Nemo: The Musical’ and ‘Disney Festival of Fantasy parade.’ Film composer Don L. Harper created the soaring musical score for the nighttime show which also includes an original song by noted composer Mark Mancina. Disney also collaborated with the award-winning filmmakers at Disneynature to bring never-before-seen footage, telling dramatic and compelling stories from the animal world to the show.
- The park’s iconic Tree of Life will awaken each night amid a lively celebration of Discovery Island music and dance. Through stunning visuals, animal spirits appear and enchanted fireflies reveal stories of wonder as the tree morphs to showcase the magic of nature. Nearby on Discovery Island the area will come alive each night with a celebration filled with music and dance. The theme park’s iconic Tree of Life will undergo extraordinary ‘awakenings’ throughout the evening as the animal spirits are brought to life by magical fireflies that open a window into the body of the tree, revealing colorful stories of wonder and enchantment.
- Kilimanjaro Safaris transitions to a new nighttime adventure. Each evening, the popular Kilimanjaro Safaris daytime experience is artfully bathed in the look of sunset with special lighting allowing guests to explore and enjoy this attraction well into the night.
- For the first time, hyenas and African wild dogs join the safari trail creature feature.
- Hungry adventurers can have lunch or dinner at the new Tiffins signature restaurant, opening later this summer on Discovery Island. Guests seated in the restaurant’s travel-themed dining rooms or on the waterfront patio can sip libations and savor dishes featuring African, Asian and South American flavors.
Anna, Elsa and other beloved characters from the blockbuster film, Frozen, will give the summer season a warm hug at Epcot and several other Disney parks. Meanwhile ‘Turtle Talk with Crush’ makes fun waves and Soarin’ takes guests to new heights.
- Anna, Elsa and their latest-generation Audio-Animatronics co-stars will welcome guests aboard the new Frozen Ever After boat ride that sails into a Frozen world at the Norway pavilion. Passengers on their way to Arendelle’s Winter in Summer Celebration for Queen Elsa visit the ice palace and hear beloved film tunes plus new lyrics by Oscar-winning ‘Let It Go’ songwriters Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson.
- Also at Norway pavilion, Anna and Elsa will greet guests in the new Royal Sommerhus, modeled after a traditional Norwegian cabin.
- In Future World, guests will celebrate the U.S. debut of the new Soarin’ Around the World attraction at The Land pavilion this summer. Now with a third Epcot theater, plus new digital screens and projection systems, the expanded attraction takes guests on an exhilarating ‘flight’ above spectacular global landscapes and man-made wonders.
- Guests will also find new additions at ‘Turtle Talk with Crush’ beginning in early-May with characters from Disney/Pixar’s Finding Dory. When Crush the sea turtle swims up to the ‘Human Tank’ at Epcot, he’ll be joined by Dory and some of her new friends that guests will get to know when Finding Dory swims into theaters on June 17, 2016.
Classic Disney characters will join contemporary animated film stars this June in a new extravaganza on the grand Cinderella Castle stage
- For the first time, modern Disney characters Tiana of Princess and the Frog, and Rapunzel of Tangled, co-star with Anna and Elsa of Frozen, and a host of classic characters in the new Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire. Performed on the grandest stage in the kingdom, the star-studded tale of friendship presents Mickey Mouse and his troupe of Merry Makers — Minnie Mouse, Donald, Daisy and Goofy – who invite 10 new friends from different animated worlds to join the celebration. This ‘timeless fairytale’ of a show combines grand dance, fireworks and stunts with memorable music, an original song and special effects.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
In the galactic wake of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, new Star-Wars-themed experiences shift into light speed.
- The next generation of Star Wars-themed fireworks shows, ‘Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular,’ will premiere this summer with new themed fireworks, lasers, special effects and video projections of characters and scenes from the complete saga, all set to the iconic score of the film series.
- The live stage show ‘Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away’ will debut April 4, celebrating iconic moments from the Star Wars saga with live vignettes featuring popular characters such as BB-8, Kylo Ren, Chewbacca, Darth Vader and Darth Maul.
- The March of the First Order Stormtrooper procession led by Captain Phasma from the Star Wars Launch Bay to the park’s Center Stage adds menace to the entertainment. The just-opened Star Wars Launch Bay showcases large-scale artifacts and encounters with characters including Kylo Ren. The re-imagined Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple experience also features new characters. And at Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, guests buckle up for an enhanced high-speed journey with new Force Awakens characters and a visit to Jakku.
- In the park’s Hyperion Theater, the Royal Historians of Arendelle host a jolly sing-along tale of their Frozen kingdom with special appearances by Anna, Elsa and Kristoff. And at Celebrity Spotlight, guests can meet Olaf and give him a warm hug.
Disney Springs and Water Parks Make a Splash
Disney guests will spend their first summer at Disney Springs as it continues its transformation. The charming waterfront town, comprising The Landing, Marketplace and West Side, expands to debut its fourth neighborhood, Town Center, adding more shops, restaurants and architectural detail than ever.
- New high-profile tenants are coming onboard at Disney Springs, including Anthropologie, Under Armour, kate spade, Sephora and Lucky Brand, among others. Other new shops opening in 2016 include: Zara, Tommy Bahama, Lilly Pulitzer, UNIQLO, PANDORA, UGG, L’Occitane en Provence and Edward Beiner.
- A total of 32 new tenants will be coming to Disney Springs this summer, including 29 retail shops and three new dining venues.
- Morimoto Asia recently celebrated its grand opening and more new eateries are firing up the scene in 2016 including the upscale STK steakhouse with the only rooftop dining in Disney Springs; The Edison, a lavish, “industrial Gothic”-style restaurant, bar and nighttime destination; Sprinkles, the world’s first cupcake bakery; Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza, a modern-day “pizza joint” with artisanal pies; and the reimagined, star-themed Planet Hollywood with new outdoor terrace and live entertainment.
- Celebrity Chef Rick Bayless and renowned Chef Wolfgang Puck join master Chef Masaharu Morimoto in a growing collection of James Beard Award winning chefs at Disney Springs.
- At Cirque du Soleil’s ‘La Nouba,’ the new B-Boys hip-hop, breakdancing threesome showcase a rare mix of rhythm, strength and ‘how-did-they-do-that?’ moves. As part of the show’s ongoing evolution, the masterful Aerial Bamboo act joins recent additions of madcap clowns and a breathtaking rolla bolla juggling act.
- At Blizzard Beach, Olaf from Disney’s animated hit Frozen, will be living his ‘In Summer’ dream as he and Kristoff host The Frozen Games at Blizzard Beach of friendly, fun competitions.