A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King Soft Opening

One thing that has been missing since Walt Disney World reopened is live shows. There are a few, but most of the pre-closure productions have not been possible if following safety measures. One of the best shows at Walt Disney World has always been “Festival of the Lion King”. Everyone was thrilled when it was announced that a modified version would open in May. Called “A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King”, the revised show is now in technical rehearsals (or soft openings). It will officially open on Saturday, May 15.


credit: Paula

My daughter and I were able to catch the third show on Monday, May 10. If you plan to attend, arrive early. We were in line over an hour before the show, and we barely made it in. The queue runs onto the bridge between Africa and Pandora. That bridge was closed to foot traffic while the queue was there, it was only for the “Lion King” line. The bridge is a great place to watch Character Cruises, which gave us something to do while we waited.

The Cast Members asked everyone to pay attention to the social distancing markers on the ground. This wasn’t just to keep parties apart. The markers also let them know how many groups would be able to see each show. The theater is divided for safe seating for groups of up to four, so each marker represents one seating area.

Credit: Paula

Inside the theater I was surprised by how much distance Disney is keeping between parties. I asked a couple of Cast Members what full capacity under the current guidelines is and no one had a definitive answer.

Credit: Paula

The show itself was phenomenal. I can’t remember ever seeing performers enjoying themselves so much! It was obvious that they were happy to be back.

If you know “Festival of the Lion King” well, you will notice differences. Sadly, there are no monkeys. The dance during “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” has new choreography, and it is all on the ground. No volunteers are called from the audience. Everything has been reblocked, so you won’t see performers touch. They keep six feet away from each other. The stagehands who set up the stage in the middle wear both masks and face shields.

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Credit: Paula

What remains is an incredible show. There is still singing, dancing, and stilt walking. The energy is through the roof, even with smaller audiences. Simba and his friends all watch over everything. Timon still wants to steal the spotlight. If you have never seen “Festival of the Lion King”, you won’t know that anything is different, it feels like a full production. If you have seen “Festival of the Lion King”, you might miss some elements, but you will appreciate what we’ve been given.

credit: Paula

As “A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King” wound down, I almost felt like crying tears of joy. It was nice that Disney was able to bring back a good part of the popular show, and keep the cast, crew, and audience safe. Here’s hoping that more shows can be reworked and return soon. “A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King” is a must-do experience; even without the monkeys.

Source: DisDining Writer Paula

About PaulaK

I grew up in Western Massachusetts. When I was nine my family went to Disneyland and I was hooked. I grew up, attended New England College in Henniker, NH and eventually moved to Virginia. I worked as a disc jockey, married and became a full time mom when our daughter was born. Fast forward several years. In 2010 we moved to Central Florida and my Disney obsession grew. I now work as a freelance writer and spend my spare time in the parks. Under the name Paula Brown I penned the novels Dream Wanderers and The Coffee Cruiser. I also am a co-author of Dining at Walt Disney World: The Definitive Guide. I'm obsessed with Star Wars, so this is a good time to live in Central Florida. I've been a vegetarian for well over a decade, a choice that my daughter eventually made as well. While my husband still hasn't joined us fully he has given up most meats except for seafood. I was relieved to find that vegetarian dining is not difficult at Walt Disney World.