Theme park live adaptations of The Lion King

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There have been seven theme park live adaptations of The Lion King at Disney parks since the animated film The Lion King was released by Walt Disney Animation Studios in 1994. These have included a parade, two theater-in-the-round shows, and four stage shows.

The Lion King Celebration[edit]

The Lion King Celebration
The Lion King Celebration.jpg
Opening dateJune 1, 1994
Closing dateJune 1, 1997
ReplacedAladdin's Royal Caravan
Replaced byHercules' Victory Parade
General statistics
Attraction typeParade
ThemeThe Lion King

The Lion King Celebration was a parade that ran at Disneyland Park in California from June 1, 1994 to June 1, 1997. The parade's design centered around the story of Simba, the main protagonist of The Lion King, as if it were a tale passed down in Africa for generations.[1] The lineup featured six floats designed around different aspects of African culture, dancers dressed in animal costumes, and a Pride Rock float featuring Simba and Nala.

The design of the parade had strong roots in traditional African artwork, featuring vibrant colors, traditional designs, and dance routines based on traditional African dances.[1] The parade featured six floats, accompanied by a total of 89 cast members. This included 56 dancers, 12 puppeteers, 10 acrobatic pole dancers, 6 musicians and 5 remote control operators.[1] The Lion King Celebration also featured the first use of Audio-Animatronics in a Disneyland parade as well as the first use of "Puppetronics", a technique used to create the large, lifelike animal puppets featured on the floats. Puppetronics allowed the animatronic animals to be controlled by a puppeteer but still retain complex movement, allowing for a smoother and more realistic performance.[1]

A commemorative VHS, hosted by Robert Guillaume, was released by the park featuring the parade and behind-the-scenes footage.[1] After the parade's run ended in 1997, four of the floats were moved to Disney's Animal Kingdom for the Festival of the Lion King show. Other assets from the parade were reused in other parades, including Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams.


Set to a mostly instrumental version of the song "I Just Can't Wait to Be King", the first characters to appear are two rhinoceroses, followed by tribal dancers, drummers and a float featuring Zazu and Rafiki with two giraffes. Zazu and Rafiki introduce the parade as it continues down Main Street, U.S.A..

Next, a herd of gazelle dancers dressed in spandex costumes with hoods precede a float with tribal gazelle designs pushed along by wildebeest dancers. They are followed by a group of tribal crane dancers, the elephant float and two remote-controlled crocodiles. The elephant on the float occasionally shoots a stream of water from its trunk. In the first year of the show, the larger "mother" elephant was preceded by a smaller "baby" elephant whose costume was similar to that of the previously mentioned rhinoceroses, only larger. Two pole dancers dressed in tribal bird costumes walk at the sides.

Leopard dancers dance around the Rain Forest float, which features monkey dancers on swings and Pumbaa on the back. Pumbaa talks to Timon, who follows behind while chasing three remote-controlled bugs including a scorpion and a rhinoceros beetle.

Two tribal-bird pole dancers lead the Drum Dancer float, which features drummers, dancers and percussionists in colourful, vibrant tribal costumes.

The last float - Pride Rock - is led by a group of zebra and cheetah dancers, two tribal elephant dancers and two tribal bird dancers. Simba stands atop Pride Rock while Nala roars and drums out the beat with her paw at the foot of the float. Above them, Mufasa's face is represented in a spinning sun design. The end of the parade is marked by two tribal zebra performers holding a rope.

The parade eventually stops and Mufasa's voice is heard telling Simba to take his place in the Circle of Life. The song "Circle of Life" begins to play and the dancers dance and leap around the floats as the drummers drum along to the song. At the end of the song, Simba roars and white doves are released from one of the floats, symbolizing hope and peace.[2]

Production team[edit]

Role Staff
Producer Nance Weenick
Production Manager Joey Michaels
Show Director Robert Ponce
Assistant Director/Senior Choreographer/African Dance Consultant Sylvia Hase
Art Director Steve Bass
Music Director Bruce Healy
Writer Tom Childs
Technical Director Ted Carlsson
Choreographer Mark Nordike
Costume Designer Alyja Clegg
Costumer Roseanne Yokoyama

Festival of the Lion King[edit]

Festival of the Lion King
Festival of the Lion King logo.svg
Scene from the show's finale at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Disney's Animal Kingdom
AreaCamp Minnie–Mickey (1998-2014)
Africa (2014-present)
Opening dateApril 22, 1998
Replaced byPandora – The World of Avatar (original)
Hong Kong Disneyland
Opening dateSeptember 12, 2005
General statistics
Attraction typeMusical show
ThemeThe Lion King
MusicSongs by Elton John and Tim Rice
Audience capacity2,210 (Hong Kong Disneyland) per show
Duration30 minutes
Fastpass+ available
Handicapped/disabled access Wheelchair accessible

Festival of the Lion King is a live stage musical performed at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World and in Adventureland at Hong Kong Disneyland. The show, an original interpretation of the Disney animated film The Lion King, uses songs, dance, puppetry and visual effects to portray a tribal celebration in an African savanna setting filled with lions, elephants, giraffes, birds, zebras and gazelles.

Disney's Animal Kingdom version[edit]

An actress in the Warthog section of the performance at the Animal Kingdom.
Simba on the "Lion" float

The Disney's Animal Kingdom version of the show is presented as a celebration with Simba and his friends (including a band of four human singers). The show is in the form of a revue, and not a condensed version of either the film or Broadway show. The show features Elton John and Tim Rice's award-winning music from the movie.

The show is performed inside an enclosed theater-in-the-round. Guests sit in four sections, each designated with an animal name: Warthog, Elephant, Giraffe, and Lion. These animals are represented by large puppets on four parade-style floats, which were originally built for Disneyland's The Lion King Celebration parade.[3] The show is hosted by four performers dressed in costumes inspired by traditional African dress. Each has a Swahili name: Kiume (meaning "masculine and strong"), Nakawa ("good-looking"), Kibibi ("princess"), and Zawadi ("the gift").

After the hosts welcome the audience to the show, the curtains open and a procession of dancers, puppeteers, and stilt walkers enter the theater ("I Just Can't Wait to Be King"). Among them are Lion King characters Simba, Pumbaa (both puppets on floats), and Timon (played by a live performer). Acts include gymnastic "Tumble Monkeys" ("Hakuna Matata"), a fire knife-twirling hyena ("Be Prepared"), and an aerial dance featuring performers dressed as birds ("Can You Feel the Love Tonight"), leading to an interactive sing-along ("The Lion Sleeps Tonight").


Due to the construction of Pandora – The World of Avatar replacing Camp Minnie-Mickey (which was the show's original location), the show went into a five-month hiatus while a new theater, the Harambe Theater, was constructed in an unused dense forest area in the Africa section of the park.

Construction on the Harambe Theater was completed in May 2014 and the show reopened there on June 1, 2014. This relocation was part of a wider expansion of Africa, which included a new path, restrooms, and new restaurant opportunities.[4]

Hong Kong Disneyland version[edit]

Musical at Hong Kong Disneyland

The Hong Kong Disneyland version of the show is presented as simplified version of the story of The Lion King, told through songs from the movie.

The show is performed in the "Theater in the Wild" in Adventureland. Similar to the theater setting in Disney's Animal Kingdom, guests sit in four different sections themed to a specific animal, and accompanied by a parade-style float. The performance is mainly in English, but two actors dressed as monkeys summarize and translate Rafiki's lines into Cantonese in order to accommodate guests who do not speak English. Simplified Chinese subtitles, for Mainland Chinese visitors, are also projected onto the screens above each seating section. The show is presented to Simba by Rafiki (portrayed by a female actress, as in the Broadway musical) as a re-telling of Simba's life. Simba is represented by a large, elaborate puppet on the "lion" float.


A soundtrack CD was released in 2001, titled Festival of The Lion King (Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World)

Track listing:

  1. Circle of Life – 1:40
  2. I Just Can't Wait to Be King – 2:40
  3. Hakuna Matata – 2:04
  4. Tumble Monkeys (Sing, Sing, Sing/Playmates/Snake Charmer/Caravan/Hakuna Matata/Yes! We Have No Bananas/Hawaiian War Chant) – 3:56
  5. Be Prepared – 3:00
  6. Can You Feel the Love Tonight/Circle of Life (Medley) – 4:45
  7. The Lion Sleeps Tonight – 2:28
  8. Celebration Finale (Hakuna Matata/Can You Feel the Love Tonight/Be Prepared/I Just Can't Wait to Be King/Circle of Life) – 3:45
  9. Circle of Life (Bows) – 0:34
  10. King of Pride Rock Circle of Life Reprise (Instrumental) – 2:34

Legend of The Lion King[edit]

Legend of the Lion King
Magic Kingdom
Opening dateJuly 8, 1994
Closing dateFebruary 23, 2002
ReplacedMickey Mouse Revue (1971-1980)
Magic Journeys (1987-1993)
Replaced byMickey's PhilharMagic
General statistics
Attraction typeShow
Assistive listening icon.svg Assistive listening available

The Legend of the Lion King show at the Magic Kingdom in the Walt Disney World in Florida was a stage performance retelling the story of the film using life size puppets.

The show debuted on July 8, 1994 in the Fantasyland Theater. Legend of The Lion King replaced the 3-D movie Magic Journeys, which was shown in the theater from December 1987 through December 1993.[5] This show featured what Disney described as "Disney Humanimals", which were "larger-than-life figures that look just like their animated film counterparts".[6] The Mufasa "humanimal" measured 7 feet (2.1 m) long from tail to tip, 6 feet (1.8 m) feet tall, and was perched upon an 18-foot-tall (5.5 m) Pride Rock that rose from below the stage.[6] The stage for show was 125 feet (38 m) wide, and was bigger than the seating area in order to permit the use of giant sets.[6] The attraction closed on February 23, 2002 to be replaced by Mickey's PhilharMagic.

The Legend of The Lion King[edit]

The Legend of the Lion King
The Legend of the Lion King.jpg
Disneyland Paris
Opening dateJune 26, 2004
Closing dateJuly 2009
General statistics
Attraction typeShow
Assistive listening icon.svg Assistive listening available

The Legend of The Lion King at Disneyland Paris ran from 2004 to 2009 and played at the Videopolis Theater located in Discoveryland.[7] This Broadway-style show used human actors, including some from the West End production of The Lion King,[8] and featured popular songs from the movie. The show ran for 30 minutes and had performances in both English and French.[9]

The Lion King: Rhythms of the Pride Lands[edit]

The Lion King: Rhythms of the Pride Lands
Disneyland Paris
Opening dateJune 30, 2019
Closing dateSeptember 22, 2019
ReplacedThe Forest of Enchantment : a Disney Musical Adventure
General statistics
Attraction typeShow

A new Lion King show, named The Lion King: Rhythms of the Pride Lands, debuted on June 30, 2019 at Disneyland Paris in the Frontierland Theater in Frontierland as part of "The Lion King & Jungle Festival".[10] Disney describes the show as "a tribe of singers, dancers and acrobats dressed as Rafiki, Simba, Timon, Pumbaa, Nala, Mufasa and Scar brilliantly bring famous Pride Rock anthems to life."[11]

Told in both English and Chansigne (a French sign language that interprets rhythms and song lyrics through interpretive hand movements), the show follows the story of The Lion King and features songs from both the film and musical. The staging features an elaborate moving set based on djembe drums which rotate and tilt.[12]

The show will close on September 22, 2019.

Tale of the Lion King[edit]

Tale of the Lion King
Disney California Adventure
AreaParadise Gardens Park
Opening dateJune 7, 2019
Closing dateSeptember 2, 2019
General statistics
Attraction typeShow

The Tale of the Lion King show at Disney California Adventure, which opened in June 2019, features a narrator, Mwongozo (Swahili for "guide"), who leads a troupe of 18 performers called the "Storytellers of the Pride Lands". The performance is presented in a contemporary story-theater style that retells the plot of the film through language, song and dance.


  1. ^ a b c d e Disneyland Presents The Lion King Celebration: VHS
  2. ^ "The Lion King Celebration". Yesterland. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
  3. ^ "The Lion King Celebration". Yesterland. Retrieved February 20, 2018. If you miss the floats from Disneyland’s Lion King Celebration, you might want to head over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World. In Camp Minnie-Mickey, look for a huge octagonal roof under which you can see the floats reused as part of the Festival of the Lion King. The Festival of the Lion is the hit of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Four modified floats and a rolling stage transform the empty theater into a vibrant setting for a spectacular live show.
  4. ^ "Festival of the Lion King reopens on June 1 at Disney's Animal Kingdom". May 29, 2014. Retrieved December 16, 2014.
  5. ^ Kurtti, Jeff (1996). Since the World Began: Walt Disney World, The First 25 Years. New York, New York: Hyperion. p. 65. ISBN 0-7868-6248-3
  6. ^ a b c Rasmussen, Nate (July 7, 2011). "Vintage Walt Disney World: Legend of the Lion King". Disney Parks Blog.
  7. ^ Videopolis (Disneyland Paris)
  8. ^ "Theatre – Roger Wright – Musician, singer, actor and performer". Retrieved May 9, 2019.
  9. ^ "The Legend of the Lion King". Magical Kingdoms. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  10. ^ "Disneyland Paris adds The Lion King show to its 2019 entertainment line-up".
  11. ^ "The Lion King & Jungle Festival". Disney. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  12. ^ Guide, D. L. P. (July 1, 2019). "The Lion King: Rhythms of the Pride Lands premieres with world class production values". DLP Guide. Retrieved July 30, 2019.

External links[edit]