This week at Walt Disney World, a number of small updates are confirmed for Disney’s Animal Kingdom as the park readies itself for its full day transformation next year, plus a surprising decision to cut back the hours for this year’s Osborne Lights display at Disney's Hollywood Studios is confirmed.
Unfortunately, there was not a lot of news out of Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando or any of the other central Florida parks this week, but fear not, we’ll get back to the parks outside Walt Disney World next week. But for now, let's start with a confusing just-confirmed development...
1. Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights reduced on weekends
Though this year’s edition of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights has been attracting record crowds, closing down the parking lot at Disney’s Hollywood Studios regularly, Disney has opted to slash the hours for this year’s final iteration of this holiday celebration, at least on the weekends. Because the new Star Wars Symphony in the Stars show will be kicking off next weekend, the Osborne Lights will be powering down early at 10PM on nights when this fireworks show is performed.
This is a bit of a curious decision, as the final year for the lights has been an incredible draw, and Disney has been trying to give guests every opportunity to view the lights during this event's final year. However, it looks like Disney is once again prioritizing Star Wars, which is a shame for those trying to squeeze every moment possible out of this event's final days.
2. Kali River Rapids to go down for short refurbishment early next year
Kali River Rapids at Disney's Animal Kingdom is now scheduled to close for just over a month in early 2016 to complete its annual maintenance refurbishment. The attraction is set to close on January 5th, and will remained shuttered through February 11th, reopening to guests on February 12th, 2016.
3. Rafiki’s Planet Watch begins testing animal training show
Cast Members at Rafiki’s Planet Watch are now testing an animal agility mini-show in the Affection Section area of this remote part of the park. During demonstrations, animal keepers will accompany one of the petting zoo animals in an enclosure, and guide him or her through a series of agility exercises that include climbing a rock, running through a tunnel and more. It is unknown whether this new experience will be a permanent addition to this remote corner of the park, but cast members are actively asking guests for feedback during performances.
4. Riverside Depot opens at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Earlier this week a brand new store at Disney’s Animal Kingdom quietly opened its doors at the front of Discovery Island. The Riverside Depot is a massive 4000 square foot extension of the Disney Outfitters building and contains a wide assortment of Disney parks merchandise. Items for sale include apparel, MagicBands, toys, housewares and more. Essentially, it’s like MouseGears or the Main Street Emporium, but at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and with more park-specific items.
It actually looks like this large new merchandise location is opening just in time, as the nearby Disney Outfitters store will be closing for it’s own refurbishment early next month. Some of the merchandise from this location will be moving over to the Riverside Depot while construction is ongoing, and then after a few weeks the two locations will be separated again.