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Festival of the Lion King in Harambe Village, Disney’s Animal Kingdom

By Cassie

If you only plan on seeing one show at Walt Disney World, make sure it is this one.

The show began at Animal Kingdom, as a temporary attraction, in 1998, but recently moved into a newly built theater in the Africa section of the park. The original theater was in the Camp Minnie Mickey area of the park which is now being converted into an Avatar-themed area. The show had a short 5-month hiatus in 2014 waiting for their new theater to be built. Harambe village was extended to allow for this new addition. This new air-conditioned theater allows about 1370 guests to attend each showing. It is entertaining for guests of all ages. There is no other show at the resort that is more energetic as performers dance and sing in this theater in the round. It is an exciting experience!

The show contains the most popular songs from The Lion King (Disney 1994) that are sung by and danced to by extremely talented performers. Think Broadway show combined with circus acts! In fact, many of the first performers of the show went on to perform on Broadway-that is how good this show is! They smile throughout the 28-minute show making this a very enjoyable experience. The 136 costumes are incredibly beautiful and colorful and very unique in design turning humans into the animals of the Pride Land. The vibrant colors, feathers, beads, and head dresses are stunning. Don’t worry about sitting on bleachers for that long a show because you will be moving in your seats to these fun tunes!

The exuberant acts are as varied as the silly Tumble Monkeys doing acrobatic work on gymnastic equipment to the elegance of aerial ballet to actors on stilts and puppetry. It has the elements that every great show should have in beauty, a great story, great music, and even comedy. The kiddos will be delighted when characters from the film appear on giant parade floats. (These floats were originally built for a Lion King-themed parade in Disneyland that was ending as this attraction was being designed.) There is so much motion, color, energy that even the grumpiest guest can’t help but be pulled in to the fun.

The four main singers come out to each section of the theater and encourage the guests seated in each section to act and sound like a giraffe, warthog, lion or elephant. They choose someone from the audience to represent that animal section. Children in the audience are also brought into some of the dancing during the show. Simba will be there and so is Timon so join in the “Circle of Life” during the beautiful savanna sunrise. The cast consists of 4 lead singers and about 48 performers. Join in singing Pumbaa’s favorite “Hakuna Matata”, then Scar’s theme song “Be Prepared”, fire jugglers, aerial ballet to “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”. Other songs from the show are “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King”, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and a grand finale that will make you feel like one of the tribe. A soundtrack CD was released in 2001 if you would like to pick up a copy of the music.

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The four main singers have Swahili names “Kiume” which means masculine, strong; “Nakawa” means good-looking; “Kibibi” means princess; “Zawadi” means the gift. They take the stage first and welcome the crowd to “their world”. Then the animal actors take stage for Circle of Life. Floats come in between each section of the audience bearing audio-animatronic Pumbaa and Simba (12-foot high standing on Pride Rock), an elephant and giraffe, and a costumed actor as Timon. Timon tries to calm down the Tumble Monkeys to introduce “Hakuna Matata”. Pumbaa apologizes for not joining Timon on stage because his “little legs can’t get me down off this float.” Timon encourages the audience to join in while the monkeys go crazy. They perform acrobatics with a trampoline, bars, rings, and trapeze bar. As the theater darkens Kiume sings “Be Prepared” and a fire twirler performs. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” is beautifully sung by Nakawa and Kibibi while dancers dressed like birds perform a beautiful ballet, including aerials. Their act is beautiful!

Zawadi sings “The Circle of Life” as the other performers dance and the Audio Animatronic figures move to the rhythm. The Grand Finale is a mixture of all the numbers previously featured. At the end Pumbaa thanks everyone for coming and tells them “you are the greatest audience ever, now please get out!” because they “have another one of these babies to do.”

Festival of the Lion King exists here in Harambe, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World and in Adventureland, Hong Kong Disneyland.

If you have young children try to get FastPass+ for this show so they can sit up front or the top row on the bleacher seats where they have a better chance of seeing the action. You will still want to arrive at least 40-minutes prior to the show start to get the best seats available. If you arrive at the Stand By line later than 30 minutes before the show, you will most likely be queuing up for the show after the one you think you are lining up for. This is a very popular attraction! FastPass+ guests are allowed into the theater first for their pick of seating, then the Stand By line fills in until the theater is full. The outside Stand By queue is in the sun and rain, if it is raining, making getting that FastPass+ more attractive. If you want to avoid the longer Stand By lines, go to the first showing of the day or one of the last two showings in the afternoon. Guests in wheelchairs have a special section on the main floor for themselves and their party.

There is no smoking allowed in the theater but flash photography and videotaping are allowed during the show but for the safety of the performers they ask that you turn off any lights on your video camera. Once the show begins, since it is full of performers, they ask if you need to leave during the show to please have a host or hostess assist you.

If you need to quench your thirst or grab a bite to eat before the big show you will find several opportunities for that in this area. Harambe has the Dawa Bar, Tusker House Restaurant, TamuTamu Refreshments, Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery, the Harambe Fruit Market, and additional beverage kiosks. You will find many merchandise options here that offer Animal Kingdom merchandise but also handmade items from Africa, safari clothing, animal plush, decorative items, and musical instruments. A shop that opened with the show in Harambe, Mariya’s, has Lion King merchandise for sale. You can also get your face painted in Harambe by one of Disney’s talented artists.

The Festival of the Lion King reopening coincided with Animal Kingdom’s first night hard ticket event called Harambe Nights. It included a 55-minute showing of the Festival of the Lion King-Concert in the Wild version narrated by a celebrity host for the night. The show celebrated Simba’s tale of his coming to be king. Prior to the show guests were welcomed to the village with African-inspired food, wine and beer. Post show included a Harambe Street Party with African music, some of the characters and performers from the show mingling with the crowd and an all-inclusive buffet featuring more food inspired by Africa along with specialty beverages. Guests were permitted to purchase from a select group of Lion King Merchandise and collectible items. Harambe Nights were sellouts and surely we can expect more events like this in Animal Kingdom with this kind of popularity. The Lion King is one of the most-loved Disney films and it is easy to see its popularity is still strong.

Make sure you check the Times Guide, which you can pick up as you enter Animal Kingdom, to see what times are available each day as they can change. Show times are on the hour and usually begin at 10AM. Typically there are seven shows daily.

 

Attraction Timeline:

  • April 22, 1998-Opening Day in Camp Minnie Mickey in a temporary outdoor theater
  • 2003- Theater enclosed and air-conditioning added
  • 2009-Timon’s costume changed, adding the ability to move his mouth and blink his eyes
  • January 2014-May 31, 2014-show is on hiatus waiting for new theater to open
  • June 1, 2014-show opens with no changes except upgrade to lighting and audio
  • October 2014-three Cast Members refuse to put on animal costumes that others sweaty costumes have “soiled” and are fired. It was a one-time thing but the CM’s were afraid to wear the unitards that had other peoples sweat on them.

KWAHERINI!

About Cassie

Cassie L. I am a lifelong Disney fan. I attended Walt Disney World in 1971, and was there during the opening week of EPCOT, and have visited the Disney Parks for than 30 times. I have had the privilege of visiting Disneyland as a child, and then again with my children. My family recently moved from the northeastern United States to the Walt Disney World area. I now have cast members in my family and enjoy hearing the magical stories at the end of a shift. I love visiting all of the parks and getting to try more Disney food and being able to share it with you to help you plan your own magical day at Disney.