Pros: Live show; talented performers; adults will enjoy it too.
Cons: Some parts may scare kids; unimpressive venue; slightly cheesy audience participation.
The Festival of the Lion King, located in the Camp Minnie-Mickey’s Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a long-running live stage show featuring songs from the popular film. Its plot is less a retelling of the film and more a “celebration”, with four human singers providing transitions between musical numbers including “The Circle of Life,” “Hakuna Matata,” and “Can You Fell the Love Tonight.” In addition to the very excellent live vocals, the schedule of events includes giant character puppets, trampoline tumblers, aerial acrobats, and fire dancers.
This show plays in a large theater with basic bleacher seating. I have read rumors on the internet that it may be relocated in the near future but I’m not sure how confirmed this is. In the meantime, the queue area is located outside and can be quite stuffy, but there are at least some fans along the way. Guests sit in one of four sections, with each section assigned a specific animal – giraffe, warthog, elephant, or lion. Some audience participation, including animal mimicry, is encouraged.
The 25-minute show runs at set times and requires a bit of a time commitment given its out-of-the way location. A current show schedule for the Animal Kingdom can be found at https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/calendars/animal-kingdom/.
The gorgeous Lion King film and its one-of-a kind soundtrack invite pageantry, and there is plenty of that here. Some of the individual numbers are downright breathtaking, with my personal favorite being the slightly scary “Be Prepared” number featuring sinister animals and flames swirling through a darkened theater. Scary for kids? Maybe, but fun for adults. On a lighter note, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” includes some truly beautiful aerial work on a vine-like ribbon. The famous song Circle of Life also vibrates through the auditorium on a couple of occasions. Hearing it makes me glad Disney still features some shows with live vocalists instead of just audio-animatronics.
I’d be remiss not to mention the amazing costumes in the Festival of the Lion King. With a few exceptions, the performers are not dressed as identical doppelgangers of the characters from the film. Instead, the four lead vocalists wear elaborate African-inspired garb while the remaining characters are mostly costumed so as to give the impression of a particular animal – zebra, monkey, gazelle, etc. The end result makes for a performance with more artistry than your average theme park attraction.
Since the musical numbers in this show are so strong, I could personally do without the slightly corny audience participation/act like an animal concept. However, it probably does help keep kids attention during the somewhat lengthy (by Disney standards) presentation.
The Bottom Line
The Festival of the Lion King is a solid tribute to one of Disney’s best film offerings. With tons of action and a familiar soundtrack, I find this attraction to be a better pick for families than the newer, more elaborate Finding Nemo the Musical, so hopefully you can squeeze it into your day.