Rivers of Light is a nighttime lagoon show at Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Taking the fountain and water screen technology of previous shows like Fantasmic and World of Color and making them mobile, the show takes the form of an Asian lantern festival pageant on the waters between the Asia area and DinoLand U.S.A. featuring music by Mark Mancina (The Lion King, Brother Bear, Moana) and animal footage shot by the Disneynature documentary unit. Initially scheduled for an April 2016 opening, technical problems lead to a long delay, with it finally debuting in February 2017.
The lantern ceremony is presided over by two shamans with Elemental Powers, Aseema (Water) and Aditya (Light/Fire) and their respective apprentices Ambu and Ketu, representative of the natural/cosmic forces that make life possible. Using pantomime, shadow puppets and magic, the shamans call on the power of four totemic Animal Spirits: A Tiger, a Turtle, an Owl, and an Elephant and five mystical Lotuses that take us on a journey through the natural world, the Aurora Borealis (the titular Rivers of Light), and eventually into the heavens and the animal constellations within.
Executive Meddling would result in the live actors being cut from the show in the fall of 2018 and the show to be retooled to feature more familiar Disney animated characters in May of 2019, with the altered show gaining the subtitle We Are One.
Contains examples of:
- All There in the Manual: The Shaman/Apprentice names are given in promotional material
- Cool Boat: The Lantern sailboats that the Shamans ride on. The sails serve as screens for shadow puppetry and the Shamans sometimes have the shadow puppets leap from the sail onto the water into the spirit animal form.
- Disney Acid Sequence
- Four-Element Ensemble: The Animal Spirits are meant to represent this. The Tiger is Fire, Turtle is Water, the Elephant is Earth, and the Owl is Sky.
- Magic Music: The instruments the Shamans play seem to call the animal spirits to action, such as when Aditya's horn calls the Tiger Spirit to leap from his sail onto the water and leapfrog on the lotuses.
- Meaningful Name: The names of the Shamans are taken from Sanskrit and Nepalese words. Aseema means "limitless", Aditya is "Sun", Ambu is "water" and Ketu is "comet".
- Name's the Same: The show's main theme "We Are One", shares a title with a song from The Lion King II: Simba's Pride.
- Panda-ing to the Audience: Appearing in a montage of animal parents and children.
- Panthera Awesome: The Tiger Spirit gets a big spotlight moment to kick off "We Are One" and a savanna segment is built around cheetahs and lions.
- Predators Are Mean: The savanna segment is focused around a cheetah mother trying to escape a male lion intent on killing her, taken from a segment of the "African Cats" DisneyNature film.
- Rapunzel Hair: Aseema has long braided hair streaming down through her hat
- Shout-Out: The Aurora sequence is one to Brother Bear, with the music taking on a similar feel to the Transformation scene and the spirits within are presented in the same shadowy form, which includes some of the ones in the Brother Bear scene.
- Spiritual Successor: To Epcot's IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth and Tapestry of Nations