Opening Night Critters

Opening Night Critters was the first show to be performed in the newly renovated & renamed Pantopia Theater. The show ran four and a half years, where audiences got to see a cast of dozens of animal performers show off their talents.

Fast Facts:

Official Opening Date:
Closing Date: December 31, 2018
Replaced: Pirates 3-D
Replaced By: Critters Inn Charge
Location: Pantopia Theater, Pantopia


From the park’s blog:

When two stage hands masquerade as animal trainers in the Pantopia Theatre, they are soon faced with a cast of skeptical critters that don’t want to cooperate. Time is running out before the big show, but once the critters see that these two blokes are helpful and kind to animals, they change their tune and deliver a fantastic finale worthy of a king – saving the necks of their new friends and proving that EVERYONE’s a star.


As part of a hard hat tour for invited media on February 5, 2014, the park announced that Timbuktu Theater was undergoing some major changes inside and out, with a brand new show titled Opening Night Critters featuring rescued animals taking to the stage. The tour included a look inside the theater showing progress on the renovations.

The show debuted in the renovated & renamed Pantopia Theater. Part of the larger project that changed Timbuktu into Pantopia, the theater received a major overhaul including new audio equipment, lighting, seating, and air conditioning. A brand new stage and set were also built for the show, including dozens of specially designed props and trap doors for all of the trained animals to use during the performance.

Over 100 animals representing 28 different species starred in the show when it opened. The dedicated team of trainers spent more than 1,800 hours preparing the animals for their roles. Show manager Brian Potts explained “most of these animals need a purpose or activity to do and may have been seen in a home setting as difficult. By adopting them into our fold we give them a purpose and direction and they love to perform. Some of the behaviors we see in the show took almost a year to train and began before the animals even came to Busch Gardens.”

Opening Night Critters received the Brass Ring Award for Best Entertainment Performance Act at the 2015 International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions (IAAPA) Expo in November of 2015.

In mid-November 2018, a post was made on the Facebook fan page for Opening Night Critters stating the show would be coming to a close after the holiday season. The park confirmed on November 29 the show would be closing at the end of the year, later stating the last performances would be on December 31, 2018.

A pass member exclusive performance of the show was held on Thursday, December 13, 2018. The event was dubbed “Closing Night Critters” as the show was in its final weeks. In addition to the special performance, pass members could also enjoy 50% off drinks at nearby Dragon Fire Pub.


Busch Gardens Tampa | Jul 11 2014 – accessed 7/4/2018
Facebook – Opening Night Critters | Nov 15 2018 – accessed 11/30/2018
Twitter – @BuschGardens | Feb 5 2014 – accessed 4/28/2019
Busch Gardens Tampa | Jul 9 2014 – accessed 6/21/2019
Twitter – @BuschGardens | Nov 19 2015 – accessed 6/28/2019
Twitter – @BuschGardens | Nov 29 2018 – accessed 8/2/2019
Twitter – @BuschGardens | Dec 1 2018 – accessed 8/2/2019
Twitter – @BuschGardens | Dec 10 2018 – accessed 8/2/2019


Page last updated: 8/2/2019