The Animal Kingdom continues to evolve each and every year, gaining new attractions and shows for people to enjoy while at the theme park. Some people were initially skeptical that the park would be anything more than Disney’s spin on a zoo, but it has evolved in the last 20+ years to turn into a great overall option for visitors of all ages.
With that said, the shows at the Animal Kingdom have stayed pretty consistent throughout the years. There are four main shows, including two Broadway-style options. Visitors love not only taking in these well-reviewed shows, but cooling off from the sun or drying off from the rain is an added bonus.
It is doable for visitors to take in all four shows on a single day visit to the Animal Kingdom if they wish. They are spaced out enough around the park, and seating is usually relatively easy to find. Even the busiest days only make it mildly tricky to get in and out of the shows. Our favorite is the Rivers of Light but Up and Lion King are also really good.
Below is an in-depth look at all four shows, allowing people to better understand what to expect before arrival. There is an opportunity to see all four shows in one day if a group wants. However, with so much else to do at the Animal Kingdom, there are tough choices to make on what shows are most important.
- Festival of the Lion King
- Finding Nemo – The Musical
- UP! A Great Bird Adventure
- It Is Tough To Be A Bug!
- Rivers of Light: We Are One
- Tree of Life Awakenings
- Donald’s Dino-Bash!
- Pandora Drummers – Swotu Wayä
- Bollywood Beats
- Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe
- Viva Gaia Street Band!
Festival of the Lion King
Location: Africa, right behind Tusker House
Length: 30 minutes
Festival Of The Lion King What To Expect
It is hard to find a consensus on best overall show in all Disney World parks, but plenty of people who put the Festival of the Lion King at the top. The 30-minute show is based on the wildly successful movie, the Lion King. The time goes by quickly since there is so much going on the entire show, keeping every person in attendance fully engaged.
Seating is separated into four different bleacher sections. It comes off like a sporting event in a way, only the performers are showing off a series of acrobatics, animatronics, dancing, fire displays, singing, and more. Everything is very fast-paced, so parents do not have to worry too much about kids of any age losing interest.
In total, roughly 50 people come onto the stage throughout the show, bringing one of the most famous Disney movies to life in a new way. The Lion King has an opportunity to be a true highlight during the day, and is recommended for first-time visitors to somehow find a way to fit it into the schedule.
Festival Of The Lion King The Best Time To Go
For the smallest crowds and the shortest wait, try to aim for the first or last show of the day. Middle of the day shows fill up quickly, as people love using this opportunity to watch something indoors when it is extremely hot and/or raining in the afternoon. There is still a chance to find seating even during peak hours, but some do not want to run the risk of missing out.
Arriving 20 to 30 minutes before the show should be sufficient for people who want to make sure they get a solid seat choice. There is also the chance to use a Fast Pass+ on this, but most people feel like the value is not there.
Festival of the Lion King Seating
This might be the only true negative about Festival of the Lion King. The seating is bleacher style, with no backs. This is a 30-minute show, so it can be very painful for some older people to watch this without the proper amount of lumbar support.
Most people prefer the higher rows to get a full view of the entire performance. There is a ton going on during the 30 minutes, and it is easy to miss a few things here and there in the first few rows. There is not a particular section to target, as they do a great job of allowing everyone to see the same things.
Festival of the Lion King General Tips And Tricks
Since this is such a popular show, the Fast Pass+ option might be the way to go for some. Just be prepared still to show up as much as half an hour beforehand to ensure a great spot in the audience. A Fast Pass+ ensures entry, but does not guarantee a premium spot.
Strollers are not only banned in the theater, but in the queue area as well. Parents with really young children should try to go to the less crowded showtimes to minimize the waiting time in line.
Finding Nemo – The Musical
Location: right on the walkway that connects Dino land USA to Asia.
Length: 40 minutes
Finding Nemo – The Musical What To Expect
Finding Nemo – The Musical still looks very new, despite being around for over a decade now. It is a very elaborate show that has original songs and visuals families can thoroughly enjoy. There are a decent amount of similarities in the way this musical and the Lion King show are put together, as humans wear costumes and become part of the show instead of just being puppet controllers. If children love watching the Festival of the Lion King, they are very likely to like this show as well. Just try to split them up if watching both on the same day at the park.
The show relies a lot on puppets that can best be described as full range domestic automobiles that allow people to bring the show to life. It is undersold a bit when just framed as a puppet show, so do not initially be turned off by that.
The show receives great reviews for the music, which was put together by Robert and Kristen Lopez. They have picked up additional fame in recent years for co-writing songs for the 2013 film Frozen. Both have multiple Grammy Awards, and the 16 songs featured in the show bring everything together for the audience.
Finding Nemo – The Musical The Best Time To Go
It does not get quite as crowded as The Festival of the Lion King, so it is usually safe to wait until the afternoon. Many parents look at it as a great way to not only see a great performance, but to cool down inside.
Finding Nemo – The Musical Seating
One of the biggest advantages to the show over Festival of the Lion King is that the bleachers have backs, which come in handy for the longest show at Animal Kingdom. Sitting there for 40 minutes can make even younger people a bit restless if there was no backing. The backs could be a little more comfortable, but they do a good enough job for most.
A very large stage means that sitting a little bit further back from the show makes the most sense. However, it is important to understand that seeing over other people in front can be difficult for smaller children. Disney probably could have done a slightly better job of varying the heights as the rows go up, but as it is, people need to be aware of any tall people sitting in front of them.
Very young children sometimes struggle with sitting through the entire 40 minutes, so grabbing seats that are easy to exit from might make sense. The exits are located in the back of the theater, so anything back and at the ends of rows will work best.
Full capacity, it takes a while for 1500 people to exit the show. Keep that in mind if on a very tight schedule. There is a chance that it could take up to 10-15 minutes to get out right after the show, which eats into people trying to get to other areas of the park.
Finding Nemo – The Musical General Tips
Only have time for one show between the Festival of the Lion King a Finding Nemo – The Musical? Pick the show based on the movies. If they were both equally liked, the Festival of the Lion King is generally considered the slightly better show.
Do not freak out if the line looks long. This theater is huge, and it rarely fills up.
UP! A Great Bird Adventure
Ages: 3 and up
Length: 25 minutes
UP! A Great Bird Adventure – What To Expect
After getting some mixed reviews on the former Flights of Wonder show, Disney reworked things a bit before releasing UP! A Great Bird Adventure. With senior wilderness explorers Russell and Dug leading, people can get a look at roughly 15 different species of birds in a relatively short amount of time. Due to the reliance on real animals, not all birds will make an appearance in each show, but they do their best to showcase as many as possible.
This is a show geared more towards younger children in the 3-12 range, especially with the tone of the fan interaction. If it is an older group, this might be the show to skip. Featuring 15 different types of birds is fun, but some people would like a lot more out of the show in Asia.
The show does get a lot of props for being one of the more educational spots in all of Disney. Learning about Bald Eagles, Amazon Parrots, Toco Toucans, and more is something most visitors never get the opportunity to do elsewhere.
For even more of an up-close look, stay after the show for the opportunity to go on stage. Everyone who works on the show is very friendly and knowledgable about the birds. This is one of the closest experiences to visiting a traditional zoo while at Disney.
UP! A Great Bird Adventure The Best Time To Go
Any showtime is fine, because the crowds are never becoming overwhelming. There is an opportunity to use Fast Pass+, but it is not worth it.
UP! A Great Bird Adventure Seating
UP! A Great Bird Adventure is the only show that does not take place indoors, but Disney does everything possible to ensure that the crowd stays as cool as possible. The seating does have backs, and it is fully covered to shield spectators from the sun or rain.
Try to get a spot up near the front of the stage for the closest views of the birds. There is not a bad seat in the house, but there are some people who show up early to get a spot near the front. If it is really important, consider using a Fast Pass+ to ensure a premium spot.
UP! A Great Bird Adventure – General Tips And Tricks
What is confusing to some people is that they tried to put together a show very similar to the previous Flights of Wonder, only mixed with Russell and Dug from UP!. These characters are not nearly as well-known as countless other Disney characters, so it is a bit of a disconnect for a show to be so largely based around.
Bird enthusiast need to make sure that they put this show on their list during the day, but others might not be as willing to waste more than half an hour on waiting and seeing the show. The good news is that lines are very short for the most part, so last-minute decisions are fairly easy to make.
Sitting in the floor area means dealing with birds flying very close overhead. Be prepared for this, and sit in the bleachers if this is too uncomfortable.
Make sure that young kids follow the rules during the show, and specifically, on the stage after the show. This is one area of the Animal Kingdom where all rules are strictly enforced, for obvious reasons.
It Is Tough To Be A Bug!
Location: Inside the roots of the Tree of Life. The entrance is right across from Flame Tree Barbecue.
Ages: Older kids and Adults
Length: 10 minutes
It Is Tough To Be A Bug! What To Expect
First-time viewers are often shocked by just how intense the show is from beginning to end. The theater is very dark upon entrance, and it gets loud with several special effects during the show. Be prepared for the likes of smoke in the room, a subtle sting from the back of each seat, bugs feeling like they are running around on the floor, and even insects falling from the ceiling.
Disney does not try to make the insects too realistic, so there is a playful factor that will not end up scaring everyone. For people who get scared easily, it is essential to realize that there will be some mild scares during the show.
Even though technology has come quite a ways over the years, this show still holds up pretty well with effects. They probably could use a slight update sooner rather than later, but people of all ages will appreciate the detail that goes into the show in such a short amount of run time.
It Is Tough To Be A Bug! Seating
Since this is a shorter show, a person does not have to worry that much about long-term comfort. That is good news, because the bleacher-style seating with backs is not crazy comfortable. All seating is the same, so it comes down to finding the right row.
The 3-D effects are a little tougher to see in the first few rows, and the same goes for being too far on the left or right of the theater. That is why it is recommended to aim for the middle sections, and towards the back if possible. It takes a little bit of strategy to get those spots, as people are instructed to file down to the end of a row. This is one show where it might be worth showing up a little later and not getting in the front of the line. The area is small enough that even the back row will still be easy to see everything.
The exit of It is Tough to be a Bug! is on the opposite side of the entrance. If there are any worries about someone in the party being scared, it might make sense to aim for a spot near there. This will make it much easier to slip out if it becomes too much.
It Is Tough To Be A Bug! The Best Time To Go
With a cool, air-conditioned theater, it is best to go taking the show in the middle of the day. It is a way to cool off and see a short show without anybody in the party getting super tired. Disney does a good job of not jamming everybody in together, so even if people in the party are very hot and sweaty, they do not have to feel like they are right up against everyone else.
Some of the other shows get packed during this time of the day, but people should be safe finding a seat at It is Tough to be a Bug! Feel free to space out a bit if the theater does not fill up.
It is Tough to be a Bug! General Tips and Tricks
Plenty of people end up loving this show, but It is tough to be a Bug! is one of the easiest to skip if a family is strapped for time. The show is very short, but a lack of major improvements in quite a while might make some people skip.
Think of it as more of a filler show, and do not waste a Fast Pass opportunity here. Very, very rarely is a Fast Pass needed, and Fast Pass+ will not even give people dedicated seating.
The final tip is for people who do scare easily. If the goal is to avoid the sting and the feeling of bugs underneath the feet, do not sit back in the seat and keep the feet mostly off the ground when that part of the show comes up. The sting is not anything too crazy, but it does make some people feel a little on edge.
Smaller Shows at the Animal Kingdom
The four main shows with a dedicated stage all provide some great entertainment for visitors at the Animal Kingdom. That is not to say there are not plenty of smaller shows to take in as well.
Rivers of Light: We Are One
Length: 17 minutes
This is a show featured on select nights at the Animal Kingdom that can be viewed from multiple locations. It tells a story about the milestones people share during the circle of life. It draws a lot of inspiration from the Lion King, as well as other Disney animated films with animals featured.
Since this nighttime show is at the end of the day, a lot of people will start thinking about spots 30 minutes or so in advance. There used to be a time when it was a little difficult to get a Fast Pass+ to the show, which caused pretty long standby options.
A lot of people love the opportunity to take advantage of the Rivers of Light dining package. Not only does it offer a chance to eat at a great place, but it provides reserved River of Light seating.
Do not expect a closing show quite as spectacular as some of the other parks, and there will be no fireworks due to animals nearby. Still, visitors love this as a grand finale to a day at the Animal Kingdom.
Tree of Life Awakenings
Location: Discovery Island Land
Length: 10 minutes
After dark, the most recognizable spot in the Animal Kingdom lights up with a colorful projection shell to help celebrate the circle of life. It is a short, 10-minute show that does not have dedicated seating, but people stop to take in the sights and sounds. There are multiple performances after dark, so do not feel bad if the initial show is missed.
Location: DinoLand USA
Ages: All (Geared towards younger children)
Most who make a point to check out Donald’s Dino-Bash! are doing so for the photo opportunities and special character greetings. Throughout the day, several prominent Disney characters will be in attendance, and that always brings a smile to the faces of youngsters.
Another draw is the dance party at night, hosted by Chip ‘n’ Dale. There is a DJ spinning music, and it turns into a pretty fun experience and different overall vibe near closing time.
Some believe that this does not qualify as a show, but it is something to check out when in that area. Younger children seem to be the main demographic, but family fun is possible.
Pandora Drummers – Swotu Wayä
Location: Pandora – The World of Avatar
Length: 30 minutes
Some listen for just a short amount of time, while others will stay for the whole shell. The musicians do a great job of filling the air with some memorable music, including the Na’Vi Drum Ceremony. Even if people do not go directly to the show, they are likely to hear the drumming at some point when in the area.
Length: 20 minutes
The group of performers in the show make Indian dance fun and exciting for all. The show is very high energy, and a welcoming way to get a taste of a type of dancing not everyone regularly sees. The musical themes are changed up a lot, as they try to stay as current as possible with a few additional songs all the time.
This allows groups to see the many types of Indian dancing all in one show is certainly spectacular. The show is not at a popularity point that visitors specifically carve out time, but when in the area, it does create some growing crowds. There are a few shows featured each day, so check the schedule to make sure to be in the area during one of those times.
Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe
Length: 30 minutes
This is another very energetic drum and dance performance, but over in Africa. The musicians play with a lot of energy, but what makes them extremely fun is that volunteers can take an opportunity to learn after each performance.
It is a short diversion that goes on throughout the day, starting around noon. There is not a ton of seating, but there are some benches with shade right around the tusker house restaurant where they play.
Viva Gaia Street Band!
Location: Discovery Island Land
Length: 30 minutes
In Discovery Island Land, visitors can get a taste of what a traditional Caribbean street party might feel like. There is a mix of many different types of music styles, and the costumes are always changing as well.
This is another energetic musical performance that people will stop to check out for a little bit of time, or during the entire 30-minute show. The musicians are very nice and friendly afterwards, and people can ask questions if they wish.