Festival of the Lion King, an original interpretation of the Disney animated film The Lion King, is a Broadway-caliber short-form stage musical performed live. It uses the concept of tribal celebration in combination with ideas from Disney's parades. It is performed at Disney's Animal Kingdom and Hong Kong Disneyland.
The show uses songs, dance, puppetry and visual effects to create an African savanna setting filled with lions, elephants, giraffes, birds, zebras and gazelles. In this theater environment, Festival of the Lion King is a traveling celebration presented by 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 the award-winning music from the movie, written by Elton John and Tim Rice.
The show was presented inside an enclosed theater in Camp Minnie-Mickey from 1998-2014. Guests sit in four sections, each designated with an animal name: Warthog, Elephant, Giraffe and Lion. The four animal floats were sourced from The Lion King Celebration parade that ran at Disneyland. Guests are asked to make a noise corresponding to their animal at certain times during the show and children are sometimes pulled out of the audience to dance.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 (Meaning "good-looking"), Kibibi (Meaning "princess"), and Zawadi (Meaning "the gift").
The story of the movie is not followed, being replaced instead with a show of songs from the movie and other sources.
This is combined with aerobatics performed by the Tumble Monkeys, a group of performers dressed in orange monkey costumes. The cast also performs annually for the Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade which is filmed at the Magic Kingdom and is broadcast on Christmas Day on ABC.
Starting January 2009, Timon has an articulated head, and Simba's front feet move. Simba's feet moved when the show first opened in 1998. Then the feet did not move from 2001-2008. The movement of the feet was put back in 2008.
The show embarked on a temporary hiatus on January 6, 2014, as Camp Minnie-Mickey closed to make way for Pandora: The World of Avatar. The show reopened on June 1, 2014 in the Africa section of the park in a similar theater with a completely overhauled exterior
On January 21, 2021, Disney's Animal Kingdom had announced that More Entertainment Returns, which is being a modified version, in the Summer of 2021 with a Celebration of ‘Festival of the Lion King’ at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in the time of 50th Anniversary celebration of Walt Disney World.
Hong Kong Disneyland version
The show is featured in the "Theater in the Wild" in Adventureland. Similar to the theater setting in Disney's Animal Kingdom, guests sit in four different sections, each with an animal name: Warthog, Elephant, Giraffe and Lion. The show in Hong Kong has been arranged to a simplified version of the story of The Lion King along with the songs in the movie. 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 a parade-style float decorated as a tribal-styled Pride Rock.
In contrast to the Simba of the Animal Kingdom production, he wears red and black tribal bracelets and has braids in his mane.