Disney KiteTails is Animal Kingdom’s new daytime show that debuted for Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary. The show takes place in the Discovery River Theater and features 3-dimensional kites and (checks notes) jet skis, among other things. KiteTails plays throughout the day and is best seen from the stands in DinoLand. In this post, we’ll review the new show.
I haven’t been on the internet much this week due to putting in some long hours while here at Walt Disney World. Generally, I have some idea of what the consensus is about a show before writing a review. I had no idea that people didn’t like KiteTails and all the trouble it’s had since opening when sitting down to write this one. Turns out there have been kites in trees and a bevy of cancellations and unfortunate, yet meme-able, moments. Finding all of these things out was a surprise because I (goes into a corner and hides) like the show.
Expectations are a funny thing. My hopes were not very high, pun intended, for KiteTails because I read the description for it. Watching kites soar above you is cool at the beach for a few seconds before you find a place to sit and actually look at the water. I’m all for oversized things because this is America after all but a giant kite on the back of a water ski doesn’t scream instant success to me, at least for the standard crowd Disney World is attracting. Add to that Disney World’s lackluster daytime show history and my expectations weren’t nearly as high as they were for other 50th anniversary offerings.
Maybe that’s why KiteTails exceeded what I hoped for, because I wasn’t hoping for much. Also, neither of the shows that I’ve tried to attend have been canceled or had any major fiascos. That probably helps.
As for what KiteTails is, I’ll try to explain in the most literal way possible. There are kite flyers who are more like puppeteers performing in front of the guest seating section with an array of different puppets. They dance and swing their kites around, and at times they even talk for the puppets/kites. This happens about 15 minutes before the show and then during the show. There’s Finding Nemo characters as well as ones that fit into either Jungle Book or Lion King themes.
Once the actual show begins, you’ll see one of those two versions. I slightly prefer the Jungle Book version because of the Baloo kite and a fun elephant sequence. Regardless of Jungle Book or Lion King, jet skis will circle around Discovery River Theater with a kite flyer sitting on the back and a giant kite flying behind. Music from whatever movie selection you get will play and then all of a sudden a massive Simba, Pumbaa, Baloo or King Louie are up in the air. It lasts for about 10 to 15 minutes and is… weird. Like to the point that I’m including more photos in this post than I should because they make me laugh.
I’ll start by saying that I don’t think this show will be around for very long. It seems like it will be lucky to make it through the 18 month anniversary celebration at this point. For one, there have been a good amount of issues already. Along with that, there are kites flying up in the sky throughout the afternoon and this is Florida, there are lots of thunderstorms. I imagine a good amount of these shows will be canceled when it’s in the middle of thunderstorm season.
There’s a number of reasons I do enjoy the show though. While watching a giant pig fly through the sky is alluring, the show wouldn’t work without the smaller kites in the seating sections. For this reason, I do not recommend sitting on the Asia side of the theater because they don’t have the performers over there. These performers do a great job of involving the audience, as they are almost a cross between Finding Nemo the Musical and the Merry Menagerie puppets seen in Discovery Island at Christmas time. The kites might not be as cute as either of those things but they have the same appeal. They make what should be an impersonal experience have some character and life.
Now there’s also these giant kites. I know I trashed the idea behind the show a little bit already but, Lord help me, I can’t take my eyes off of those things when they’re in the air zooming around. Baloo has been my favorite to watch. It’s partially because it’s odd and silly. The kites are well designed and everything, they look like the characters, but seeing them fly through the sky is goofy. And I’m of the opinion that Walt Disney World could use more strange and goofy things. Ideally, things would be both good quality and goofy, like the Country Bears. I’m not sure KiteTails is that. But it’s definitely goofy.
Perhaps the oddest part of the show is watching these giant kites land, or more like plop down, in a seating section in Asia. They don’t let guests sit there, although I do think that would add to the chaotic fun, so when Baloo is done with his flight he gets dropped and kind of flails, usually face first, into the side of the bleachers. It’s hilarious. I honestly can’t tell if Animal Kingdom and the show creators are in on this joke or not. I’d like to think that they knew it was funny and weird, the faces Pumbaa and Timon are a sign of that, but I guess that doesn’t really matter.
All of these quirky moments fit into Animal Kingdom, Disney World’s most unique park. For as weird as the show is, it didn’t feel out of place to me. The kite performers in the seating section play a big role in that as they’re not far off from running into the giant Kevin character from Up or having a Macaw buzz over your head during Winged Encounters. Animal Kingdom puts you as the main character in its story and the smaller kites and performers help give that feel.
KiteTails does feel like an ugly stepchild to one of Tokyo DisneySea’s harbor shows. Those often have jet skis and feel larger than life. They are usually pretty elaborate and I wouldn’t call KiteTails that but it does give off that “well this is crazy” vibe. I happen to be a fan of those moments and I think that’s why the show is enjoyable to me.
As an aside, is KiteTails a reference to Duck Tales? I can’t really think of any other reason to include the word tails in the title. Obviously, tails and tales are homophones and that just adds to my confusion. KiteTales actually makes more sense as a name since they’re bringing out characters from some of Disney’s ‘tales’. I have considered that they’re animals so that’s where the tails are coming from, but calling what King Louie, Baloo and Zazu have on their behinds a tail is generous and altogether wrong. Anybody have an answer here? The show leaves you confused, but in a good way.
I’m not sure that KiteTails is very good but with low expectations and no cancellations, I think it’s a weird and entertaining show to add to Animal Kingdom’s fun. After watching the two new nighttime spectaculars, it was nice to experience something a little strange instead of the boilerplate and unoriginal strategies that those enact. KiteTails is certainly different and is a solid addition to Animal Kingdom for however long it lasts.
Have you seen Disney KiteTails? Let us know your thoughts, along with any questions you might have, in the comments below! If you are planning a trip to Disney World, then check out our planning guide. If you enjoy what you are reading here on Wandering in Disney please share this post with your friends, as well as like our social media pages. You can also subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email. You can do all of that on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!