Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park has a lot to offer. From being the park that offers a full safari to boasting one of our favorite coasters, there is plenty to keep you busy during a day at this nature-abundant park. With the addition of Pandora and many rides to choose from, it’s not hard to overlook the incredible Animal Kingdom shows performed daily.
Disney's Animal Kingdom is overflowing with talented performers, humans and animals alike, to keep you entertained all day long. I’m here to introduce you to all of our favorite Animal Kingdom shows (or refresh your memory) to inspire a fun agenda for your next trip to the Walt Disney World Resort.
Guide to Disney's Animal Kingdom Shows ... and a Few Tips Too!
Festival of the Lion King
The Festival of the Lion King premiered on Animal Kingdom’s grand opening date in 1998 and is one of the original Animal Kingdom shows. The show was meant to be temporary as part of the park opening festivities, but it was such a hit that it was kept around. The Festival of the Lion King differentiates itself from other Walt Disney World and Animal Kingdom shows in that it simply displays the essence of the film through a variety of entertainment rather than a strict retelling of the story. We think this makes the experience new and fun each time.
Guests are seated in four sections: Lion, Warthog, Giraffe or Elephant, and are hosted by members of Simba’s tribe: Kiume, Nakawa, Kibibi and Zawadi. These hosts are also some of the main entertainers as they perform live renditions of “Hakuna Matata,” “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” “Be Prepared,” “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and “Circle of Life.”
In addition to the singing hosts, Tumble Monkeys fling from the high bar and rings in impressive trapeze fashion for their performance alongside Timon. A fire dancer will wow you with his daring abilities, and acrobats will have you in awe as they soar through the air. In addition to all of this main stage entertainment, you’ll find stilt walkers and dancers throughout the building to keep the crowd alive! I haven’t even mentioned one of the best parts — large animal animatronics (including King Simba himself) sit atop African savannah-themed floats to move and groove along with the celebration.
If you’re headed to any Animal Kingdom shows on your trip to Disney World, the 30-minute Festival of the Lion King is truly a can’t-miss. It has the most diverse and impressive range of entertainment of any show on Disney property. Shows take place hourly beginning at 10 a.m. on most days and the theater has a large capacity, so we don’t advise using a FastPass+ unless you’re visiting during peak season or are on a tight schedule. Simply arrive about 25 minutes ahead of show time to join in on the wild fun!
Finding Nemo – The Musical
Dive into the harrowing adventures of Marlin, Dory and Nemo with Finding Nemo – The Musical. This mind-blowing, large-scale puppet show brings to life the Great Barrier Reef and beyond as Marlin journeys to track down his son, meeting Dory, Crush the turtle, pelican Nigel and even some scary sharks along the way.
In a 40-minute retelling of the film, extraordinary puppets, a virtually underwater set and state-of-the-art lighting will captivate you. Fourteen original songs, including Lily’s favorite, “Just Keep Swimming,” are belted out live by the same performers operating the puppets. Crazy, right? We don’t know how they do it. These fun songs fit perfectly into the story and will have you singing all day long.
With a usual five showings daily and a large capacity theater, there’s no need for a FastPass+ here. Just like Festival of the Lion King, we find getting to the theater 25 minutes ahead of show time to be effective. Luckily, there’s not a bad seat in the house at most Animal Kingdom shows! Finding Nemo – The Musical isn’t a show that we watch every trip just because it’s on the lengthier side, but it’s still one of our favorites that we recommend checking out … especially if you’re looking for a cool, dark place to relax.
Rivers of Light
Rivers of Light is Animal Kingdom’s long-awaited nighttime show that premiered with much anticipation in early 2017. We found it lives up to all of its hype. This spectacular is unlike any other show at Disney World. Rather than being chock full of Disney characters like most other performances, this show highlights the magic of nature through amazing water projections, glowing floats and more.
Be transported to Asian Jungles, African savannahs and North American mountains through the spirit of the Tiger, Turtle, Elephant and Owl. A beautiful score supports engaging visual effects for a truly impactful celebration of Earth
For prime seating, we recommend getting a FastPass+ for this show. We hesitate to do this as it puts using additional FastPasses on hold until the end of the night. If you’d rather not use one, catch the later of the two showings for lower crowds. (Note: Two showings are not guaranteed every night, so check our Disney World crowd calendar for specifics.) FastPass+ entrances can be found near Expedition Everest, while stand-by entrances are near Dino-Land. For stand-by, arrive at least 30 minutes early to get seating.
Quick tip: If the theater fills up, there are some standing-room viewing areas around the lagoon. Our favorite spot is overlooking the ledge behind the merchandise cart across from Thirsty River Bar & Trek Snacks.
In addition to these scheduled, more structured Animal Kingdom shows, the park hosts plenty of lively entertainment you’ll find in passing throughout your adventures. Catch the Discovery Island Carnivale for a fun dance party, visit the Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe and plenty other performers in between. Check out the Tree of Life after nightfall as flickering fireflies awaken the tree about every 10 minutes to glowing projections of animals and wildlife.
Flights of Wonder
For your nature-loving tadpoles, Flights of Wonder is a must. Dreams take flight in Animal Kingdom’s shaded bird sanctuary. Caravan Stage hosts a dazzling array of species including Macaws, Great Horned Owls, Red-Legged Seriema and so many more. Your Guano Joe or Jane host will show you the incredible tricks and talents of their rescued birds, all taught through positive reinforcement.
Birds will soar close over your head throughout the sanctuary, sing songs and perform unbelievable on-stage tricks as part of this performance. There are audience participation opportunities as well, so be sure to raise your hand quickly to be part of the show! As a tip, bring cash for a better chance of being chosen. (I won’t give away the trick, but I promise you’ll get your money back!)
We usually sneak into this show last minute. If you arrive early, there is often a “meet-and-greet” with one of the special birds and a trainer answering your questions. This is an awesome opportunity for your knowledge-addicted tadpoles. Five daily showings of this 25-minute show gives you plenty of opportunity to check these wild species out for yourself.
Flights of Wonder will be flying out of Animal Kingdom permanently at the end of 2017 to make way for a new Up-inspired show, so be sure to check it out before it's gone!
We might argue that Animal Kingdom is the best Disney World park for live entertainment — no matter how many times we see the Animal Kingdom shows, we can’t help but drop our jaws at the level and variety of skill and talent here.
What’s your favorite of the Animal Kingdom shows? Let us know in the comments! Ready to hop to Disney's Animal Kingdom? Follow along on one of our park plans to experience more and spend less time in line. Be sure to check out park hours and show times on our Disney World Crowd Calendar before your next trip.