Walt Disney World has announced that KiteTails at Animal Kingdom is ending. In this post, we’ll share details & dates, commentary about the news, entertainment in the new fiscal year, and our thoughts on this daytime kite show.
Here’s Walt Disney World’s official announcement: As you know, Disney KiteTails debuted at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park for the launch of the 50th Anniversary celebration of Walt Disney World Resort. After this first year, we will transition the entertainment on Discovery River Lagoon to the Flotillas. The last flight for Disney KiteTails will be September 30, 2022.
We look forward to seeing our guests continue waving to their Disney Friends cruising by on Flotillas, embracing Disney pals with up-close encounters, and more to come as we introduce our Festive holiday season offerings in the months ahead.
KiteTails was first introduced on October 1 of last year for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. Aside from some statues of animated movie characters, it was the only Animal Kingdom addition for the World’s Most Magical Celebration.
At its start, KiteTails featured a pre-show of puppeteers with critters from Finding Nemo to parade through the stage. The theater was decorated with vibrant lanterns and banners, upbeat music plays in the lead-up to the show, and the colorful character puppets were a delight.
Following that, the main show consisting of massive kites of characters from The Lion King or Jungle Book gracefully danced around Discovery River Lagoon behind jet skis. Sometimes the kite dances were not so graceful, which is when KiteTails truly shined.
I actually like KiteTails.
It feels like an odd concoction cooked up late one night while raiding the fridge. It repurposed jet skis and kites leftover from Epcot Forever, and then added some gigantic lion, bear, ape, and bird kites. Boom, KiteTails was born.
The big things that KiteTails gets right are tone, atmosphere, and energy. Everything about KiteTails feels natural and pure. The performers give it their all, and the end result can fairly be summed up as cute and charming.
Of course, it’s controlled (sometimes) chaos that’s the highlight of the show. The team behind KiteTails quickly learned that it was the epic crash landings of the kites that was packing the people in the stands, and it was pretty fun to watch the “KiteFails.” It’s nice (and rare) to see at Disney production that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Just a good time all around.
However, KiteTails was not without problems. Crash landing kites is a great time for folks like me, but Simba nose-diving into the cheap seats or King Louie taking off for the trees might not have been what Walt Disney World had in mind for this show.
Beyond that, there are issues that make watching KiteTails uncomfortable or challenging. The amphitheater is unshaded, so guests who arrived early would be roasting in the sun and often have a “that was it?” reaction to the show. Some might even leave early and miss its highlight, the aforementioned epic KiteFails. There’s also the practical reality that kites are wind-dependent, and that caused many cancellations or modifications.
All of this is why, earlier this summer, Walt Disney World modified KiteTails. According to the company, they shifted the focus so guests would be able to experience KiteTails from anywhere around the Discovery River Lagoon, with shorter and more frequent performances throughout the day.
The idea behind this was that it would reposition KiteTails as a diversion rather than a standalone show that merited arriving early to see in full. This made sense to some degree.
Even though I enjoyed it, I’m very cognizant of the fact that KiteTails scored poorly and underwhelmed casual audiences–especially those who took time out of their day and arrived in advance to see a show. KiteTails doesn’t deliver in the “traditional” ways one would expect of a Disney entertainment production.
Unfortunately, the changes also minimized one of the big draws of the show: those up-close and personal KiteFails.
From my perspective, the only reason KiteTails “works” is because of the energetic performers who hype up the crowd, near-misses as the kites graze the water and unpredictably swing around, and the epic up-close crash-landings.
The earlier change turned KiteTails into seeing kites fly around while walking around Animal Kingdom. Colorful kites calmy gliding over the lagoon is cool, but chaos is cooler.
With that in mind, it’s easy to understand why KiteTails is coming to an end.
Guest satisfaction might’ve increased with the changes made earlier in the summer simply by virtue of lower expectations and less disappointment, but it’s likely that interest and awareness decreased. KiteTails is probably on few guests’ radars at this point, and families probably get more out of seeing characters of flotillas.
This also means that Walt Disney World is 0/3 on entertainment added for the 50th Anniversary. Disney Enchantment, Harmonious, and KiteTails now all have been announced as ending either this year or next. None of these were originally intended as temporary or limited-run.
Unlike the nighttime spectaculars, KiteTails won’t even survive through the end of the World’s Most Magical Celebration. That comes to a close at the end of March 2023. Meanwhile, KiteTails will wrap at the conclusion of the current fiscal year.
Speaking of which, the turning point for new fiscal years has long been a time for “entertainment watch” at Walt Disney World. Pre-closure, it was common for shows, streetmosphere, and other acts to come to an end shortly before the start of a new fiscal year.
Commonly, that entertainment would not receive a 1:1 replacement, but new replacement entertainment would debut around the start of the following calendar year. (In fairness, Walt Disney World typically adds a lot of entertainment for the holiday season, meaning holes in the entertainment lineup in October and January/February, but not so much November or December.)
That has not happened in the last two years, mostly because there’s nothing to cut.
To the contrary, entertainment was restored last year between late September and early October. World Showcase has been one big beneficiary of that, with more musical acts returning last fall and again this year for the start of the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival.
It remains to be seen what the start of the upcoming fiscal year will bring. There’s still not much to cut by historical standards, but we wouldn’t bet the farm on KiteTails being the only casualty of the new fiscal year.
Still, it’s more likely that more entertainment will be added or restored around the start of October 2022. At one point, Walt Disney World’s goal was operational normalcy by the start of the new fiscal year. (At a prior point, that was the goal a full year ago!) That won’t happen, but they’re still moving in that direction.
Either way, we’ll be monitoring performers’ Facebook pages for quiet announcements (good or bad), as well as Disney press releases or stealth web page updates. We’ll keep you posted and share other entertainment news if or when there’s more to share. So stay tuned!
What do you think about Disney KiteTails coming to an end? Will you miss seeing the KiteFails, or were you not a fan of this show at all? Hoping to hear more (positive) entertainment updates for EPCOT and Animal Kingdom? Expecting more good news…or further cuts on the horizon? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!