Festival of the Lion King is an energetic theater in the round spectacular that takes guests through the music of The Lion King. Stilt walkers, acrobats, fire jugglers, and a group of singers all help bring this show to life.
Rather than tell the linear story of The Lion King, the attraction takes the guests through the music of the movie. As guests enter Harambe Theater they can sit in one of four sections. The sections will later be identified as follows:
Guests arriving late to the show will be brought in through a back entrance to the Giraffe section. Before the main show begins, cast members will interact with the crowd. When the show was located in the former Camp Minnie Mickey location, these cast members were classified as, “Camp Counselors. The cast members prep the guests for the “pep rally” they are about to experience. A voiceover takes guests through the safety spiel before the entry music begins. Four singers enter with the music, emerging from one of two tunnels. They are dressed in distinctly African themed garments and adornments with the leader wearing a large headdress.
The group introduces themselves while singing, “Welcome to our World”. The characters are each identified by their Swahili name and English translation:
- Kiume (Male performer, English translation: masculine and strong)
- Nakawa (Male performer, English translation: good-looking)
- Kibibi (Female performer, English translation: princess)
- Zawadi (Female performer, English translation: the gift)
Kiume identifies the group as a band of singers that travel with Simba with this tribal celebration. The interactivity continues as the performers each select one of the animal sections to teach the guests the sounds that the respective animals make.
- Kiume – Elephant section
- Nakawa – Lion section
- Kibibi – Giraffe section
- Zawadi – Warthog section
The singers each select a guest to make the noise of their section, before leading the entire section in that noise. After each section has their turn these noises are then used together to “call out” Simba and his friends. At this point the sound of wind is heard throughout the theater. An elephant is heard in the distance, and other performers start to run in performing a choreographed dance. Kiume states, ‘IT IS TIME!” Drums are heard as the wind continues and the elephant continues to trumpet. The performers gather in the center of the stage as the drumming accelerates before coming to a stop. More animal noises are heard and the opening bars of “Circle of Life” begin.
The performers dance slowly around the stage and Kiume presents, “His majesty… The Lion King!” The voice of Simba is then heard overhead and the pace of the music accelerates into “I Just Can’t Wait to be King”. More performers come out of the tunnels, and the performers are accompanied by four large parade floats. The floats represent each of the four animal sections. The giraffe and elephant sections feature non-specific animals on the parade floats, while the lion float features an adult Simba and the warthog float features Pumba. In the center of the stage, a raised platform is also brought out that features collapsible sections. As the floats are brought out, the singers instruct the guests to make the noise of their animal.
All of the performers have found their spots around the stage, all of the floats are put in place, and the center stage has opened to reveal a trampoline, a swing, rings, and gymnastic bars. “I Just Can’t Wait to be King,” ends and four monkeys join Timon saying “Hakuna Matata” over and over again. The “Tumble Monkeys” are playing and bouncing on the trampoline and gymnastics equipment. Timon then gets the monkeys to settle down and Timon and Pumba sign a duet of “Hakuna Matata” before Timon starts to sing a solo. The Tumble Monkeys interrupt Timon’s singing, but then they help get the audience to sing along with Timon.
After the singing, the Tumble Monkeys perform a variety of acrobatic stunts using the trampoline, swing, rings, and gymnastic bars. The finale of the gymnastic portion features Timon singing the end of “Hakuna Matata”. The Tumble Monkeys start packing up the stage and disconnect the gymnastics equipment. The trampoline is covered and sinister music starts to play.
Kiume takes center stage and he is joined by a fireknife dancer and a man dressed as a red bird. Kiume sings, “Be Prepared” while the fireknife dancer performs various stunts with a flaming baton. At the end of the song, an elephant trumpets and Kiume leaves the stage.
Nakawa and Kabibi come on stage to join the male bird who is now accompanied by a female bird dressed in blue. Nakawa and Kabibi sing a duet of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” while the female bird performs an aerial performance. At the end of the song, Kiume joins them center stage and explains how we are all connected in the great circle of life.
Zawadi takes over singing “Circle of Life” while all of the other performers sing backup. The performance introduces the celebration finale that begins with the various animal sections singing along to, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. Children are picked out of the audience by the performers to play various instruments and circle the stage. While this is going on, the four singers decide the sections should have a contest where the Giraffes and Elephants since the “Wimowehs” while the Lions and Warthogs sing the “high part”.
After “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, the entire cast does a medley of the songs performed. Each song is highlighted by the other performers performing with the singers:
- Timon and Tumble Monkeys – HakunaMatata
- Nakawa, Kabibi and the birds – Can You Feel the Love Tonight
- Kiume and the fire twirler (now juggling knives) – Be Prepared
- Nakawa and other dancers – I Just Can’t Wait to be King
- Zawadi and Timon – Circle of Life
The show ends with the female bird suspended in the air and the other performers surrounding her on the ground. The performers exit through the tunnel leaving the stage and floats in place. Timon comes over the PA system and says:
Eh, is this thing on? Ok.
Hello there, this is Timon. We hope you enjoyed the show, it was grand having you with us, you were a lovely group, the best audience ever. Now, please get out! You know the drill, check for personal belongings, take small children by the hands, yahda yahda yahda, move in an orderly fashion towards the exits, no pushing and shoving. Come on move it! We haven’t got all day, we’ve got another one of these babies to crank out and Pumba needs a bug break. So from all of us here to all of you there, thanks for coming and have a wonderful day out there in the Animal Kingdom.
This show appeals to guests of all ages. There are comedic elements, emotional elements, and thrilling elements.
As a show, Festival of the Lion King typically does not require a Fastpass+ reservation except on the busiest days of the year. Fastpass+ requires guests to return 5-20 minutes prior to the scheduled show time, and typically a guest returning during that time will be able to view the show using standby.
The queue is themed with African artifacts and clothing. It blends in with the surrounding village of Harambe.
The theater in the round seat configuration is unique to Festival of the Lion King, the show itself is similar to other musical based shows like Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage and Finding Nemo – The Musical.
Tara Anderson – Show Director
Reed Jones – Show Creator