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While almost every park at Walt Disney World saw decreased attendance this past summer for a variety of reasons, Disney’s Animal Kingdom was unfortunately hit particularly hard by this attendance downturn over the past few months. This development was especially disappointing as this park just began offering regular, nighttime hours starting in May. However, if you didn't get a chance to check out this park after dark over the past few months, we've got some bad news, as unfortunately, the depressed attendance at this park has had a rippling effect at this park, causing some unfortunate side effects that guests will be able to feel in the very near future.  

1. Nighttime hours have been cut at Disney's Animal Kingdom for the foreseeable future

Image: Disney

Once Labor Day weekend is over, a quick look at the daily calendar for Disney's Animal Kingdom reveals that nighttime hours have been cut substantially for the fall, with the park returning to an early evening close at 9:00PM for most nights in September, and then drawing down to 8:30PM in October, and then going back to the park's former 6:00PM closure in November, which is a far cry from the 11:00PM closes that we saw this past summer. 

Now while this cut in hours can primarily can be attributed to the poor performance of this park after dark this past summer, it’s also worth remembering that budget cuts are also coming to all of the Walt Disney World parks, and one of the easiest ways that Disney can save money is by cutting hours, which is a strategy they’ve employed at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot before, most recently when Shanghai Disneyland cost overruns reportedly caused cuts in the US earlier this year.

However, aside from some of the more obvious reasons why this park would cut hours this fall there could be some other factors at work here, aside from slow attendance and the need for budget cuts. 

2. Rivers of Light is still in a holding pattern, and there is no opening date in sight

Image: Disney

Nearly four months after Rivers of Light was initially delayed, Disney still has yet to release any information about when exactly this long-in-development nighttime spectacular might debut, save for assuring guests that the show will be ready before the end of the year. Though insiders say that work to get this show ready for guests is ongoing, we still have no idea whether it will be weeks, months or perhaps even longer before Rivers of Light will be ready to go.

And while Disney has said they are still committed to bringing this show to Disney’s Animal Kingdom (so any fears of cancellation should be assuaged), it remains to be seen whether or not substantial alterations will be made to the finished product. Rumors suggest that the technical problems encountered by the show have led to potential cuts to some of the original planned effects for the show, and could result in a downsized experience that may not live up to what guests could be expecting.

Rivers of Light

Image: Disney

So what does the delay of Rivers of Light have to do with the shrinking hours coming to Disney's Animal Kingdom this fall? Well we saw this summer that without a must-see nighttime spectacular (like Wishes at the Magic Kingdom or Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios) guests simply won't stay in the park after the sun goes down. Though Disney tied to solve this problem with The Jungle Book: Alive With Magic, this show garnered such poor reviews that guests continued to decide to stay away this summer. Without Rivers of Light, Disney simply doesn't have a strong enough after-dark attractions lineup to keep this park open, which makes the decision to close the park early this fall an unfortunately easy one. 

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Comments

We went to Animal Kingdom this summer and really enjoyed the park being open in the evening! We liked the safari at dusk, and it wasn't so hot! We also loved riding Everest at night!! We loved the jungle book show and the light show on the tree! I hope they keep all of these things! We definitely would go back for the evening events!

Just finished a trip to Disney. We enjoyed the tree of life colors and the Jungle Book show at night. Other than those things, there wasn't much to do. Most of the food places were closed. We would have stopped for a drink at Yak and Yeti but it was closed. Limited places to grab a lye night snack or drink. Not much in the way of entertainment. They need to add a lot more to keep people in the park after dark. The front of Epcot is essentially nothing, so much is closed at the studios. Anyone going now is getting ripped off. Magic Kingdom is still good and Animal Kingdom is a good park but the other two are dissapointing. I can't remember the last time a new country was added and the United States remains pitiful and boring compared to the rest.

I visited the park a few times in June and was only a little impressed. The safari was a bust once it was really dark, you couldn't see anything. The Jungle Book show was nice, but not wow. The tree of life was okay, but hard to see.

This article has such a negative slant. Twiligjt comes very early in the winter, so DAK can still keep their night time activities going, starting much earlier.

And not continuing to keep a park open late into the nights, when the attendance didn't support the hours, has nothing to do with "budget cuts". If something isn't making money, it cut. Just like in any other business

All the negativity should stop.

We attended animal kingdom last week. It is so nice to be able to do rides through different times of day for different experiences and we found this with Everest. Two completely different rides in light and dark. We also really enjoyed the jungle book. I think because it was so different to anything else that Disney do. Also the tree of life awaking at night makes you stop and its amazing!

The only thing that I would say is that the lighting in the evening needs to be improved as it's very dark trying to find your way around. Overall though we thought Disney had done good with late night opening.

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