Festival of the Lion King – Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Jack Spence Masthead

As many of you know, it was announced last year that a new land, based on the movie Avatar, would be coming to the Animal Kingdom. This new themed area will replace Camp Minnie-Mickey. Disney cautiously said that construction would begin sometime in early 2013 with the land to open three to five years later. Although Disney is very tight-lipped about the progress of this project, I feel it stands to reason that “Festival of the Lion King” will be discontinued sometime in the near future to make room for Avatar Land. So I thought I would take this opportunity to thoroughly videotape the production and give you a little history of this show before this perennial favorite leaves us – perhaps forever.

Camp Minnie-Mickey was not in the original plans of the Animal Kingdom. It was an afterthought. Initial designs called for this area to be the home of Beastly Kingdom, a land devoted to mythical creatures and legends. Included in the plans were a number of elaborately themed attractions, including a rollercoaster based on dragons.

Beastly Kingdom Dragon Coaster

Building Beastly Kingdom was going to be expensive so it was decided to table this land for a couple of years before starting construction. This would allow the Animal Kingdom to open and start generating revenue before moving forward with this project. In addition, this would allow Disney to concentrate its efforts on completing Asia which was not slated to be an opening day land. However, opening the Animal Kingdom without Beastly Kingdom and Asia would leave guests wanting more to do, so it was decided to throw together an inexpensive land to give audiences something else to see when visiting Disney World’s newest park.

It was reasoned that a “summer camp” theme could be designed quickly, built cheaply, and utilize structures that could easily be dismantled once Beastly Kingdom was given the green light. To demonstrate how cheaply Camp Minnie-Mickey was built, let’s take a look at the various attractions and facilities that grace this land. Keep in mind; I’m not trying to put Camp Minnie-Mickey down. I’m simply trying to illustrate how inexpensively it was built. We’ll begin with the Meet-&-Greet Trails.

Character encounters are a big hit with guests so it was a no-brainer to include a Meet-&-Greet area in Camp Minnie-Mickey. All this attraction would require was a few paved walkways lined with shrubbery and some natural-looking pavilions.

Meet-&-Greet Trails

Meet-&-Greet Trails

Of course, Camp Minnie-Mickey would need someplace for guests to grab a bite to eat. But rather than construct a full-fledged restaurant, a couple of simple structures were built. Instead of providing full meals, these “huts” would offer a limited selection of snacks.

Food Stand

Food Stand

Disney also threw in a few inexpensive “statues” to add atmosphere to the area.

Disney Statues

Disney Statues

Even the restrooms where built for less money than their counterparts in other lands. Take a look at the sinks. These are off-the-shelf basins that were slapped onto the wall. There is absolutely no counter space to place your belongings while you wash your hands.

Restroom Sink

In the scheme of things, shows are a lot less expensive to create and produce than a full blown ride and the Imagineers knew this when planning Camp Minnie-Mickey. The first show we’ll look at is “Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends.” This ecologically friendly production taught youngsters about North American critters and the importance they play in the environment. During the presentation, a number of animals were brought onstage and Pocahontas would describe them to the audience and provide some interesting facts. She was assisted by two Audio-Animatronics figures, Grandmother Willow and Sprig.

Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends

The stage was modest, containing many simple props. Grandmother Willow and Sprig were acceptable AA figures, but they were certainly not sophisticated or elaborate. And the 400 audience members sat on hard wooden benches and were not protected from the elements. All-in-all, this was a relatively inexpensive show to stage.

Unfortunately, “Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends” closed on September 27, 2008. Disney gave no explanation for ending this show. However the show’s closing did spark speculation among fans that perhaps Beastly Kingdome would be coming soon. As we know now, this was not the case.

“Festival of the Lion King” was to be the big draw at Camp Minnie-Mickey. Unlike “Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends” which was a small and simple show, “Festival of the Lion King” was to be a grand extravaganza with a large cast and a large audience. However, Disney still planned on staging this show as inexpensively as they possibly could. After all, this was going to be a temporary show. Let’s take a look at how they cut costs.

Disney knew this show needed protection from the sun and rain. However, they decided to build a pavilion rather than a fully enclosed structure to save money. In the early years, two of the eight walls were missing, creating an open air theater-in-the-round. Not only did this save on construction costs, it saved a fortune in air-conditioning bills. In the summer months, guests sweltered in the theater as air movement was practically nonexistent. The overhead fans offered little relief. In the winter, the theater could be as cold as an icebox. In addition, the bright sunlight streaming in made lighting the show difficult. It wasn’t until 2003 that the theater was finally enclosed and air-conditioning added. This was also a sign that Disney would not be converting Camp Minnie-Mickey into Beastly Kingdom anytime soon.

Open-air Theater

Another cost-cutting measure came in the form of seating. Simple, metal bleachers were installed – with no back support. Compare this to the Theater in the Wild located in Dinoland. In this theater, beautiful wooden benches (with backs) were constructed. These seats aren’t particularly comfortable, but it’s obvious they were intended to be permanent.

Over at Disneyland, their “Lion King Celebration” parade was ending its three year run. It was decided that four of these floats and puppets could be repurposed and used in the “Festival of the Lion King” show. So they were dismantled and shipped to Orlando.

Even though Disney cut costs where they could, they staged a quality production that pleased audiences. “Festival of the Lion King” went on to become one of the most popular shows in all of Walt Disney World.

So what happened to Beastly Kingdom?

If you follow official Disney press announcements, you’ll notice that you never hear anything negative about the company. Disney rarely, if ever, admits that they made a mistake or changed their minds about something. They either put a positive spin on a negative aspect or they simply ignore the topic altogether when dealing with the general public. Such is the case with Beastly Kingdom. Disney has never given an “official” explanation for abandoning this project. However, many believe the reason lives about ten miles away from Walt Disney World at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

The “Lost Continent” was one of the “islands” that opened at this new park in May, 1999. It was themed to showcase ancient myths, legends, and mythical creatures (sound somewhat familiar). It also featured a roller coaster called Dueling Dragons.

Although Disney’s plans for Beastly Kingdom were entirely different than the Lost Continent, a “dragon” coaster was to be the land’s centerpiece. Not to mention, the overall themes were very similar. Many outsiders reason that Disney simply did not want to be accused of copying ideas from Universal and decided to abandon the project until another idea could be found – which ended up being Avatar Land.

So what will happen to “Festival of the Lion King” when construction begins on Avatar Land? Disney hasn’t said. However, rumors suggest that the show might be relocated to the Africa section of the park – a much better fit thematically. However, this is a RUMOR. I know NOTHING official.

Now that you know the history of Camp Minnie-Mickey and “Festival of the Lion King,” let’s take a look at the show.

The Imagineers were faced with a challenge with their new production – a story. Using the old Disneyland floats had tied them into a Lion King theme; however, another attraction was already capitalizing on this movie over at the Magic Kingdom. In Fantasyland, “Legend of the Lion King” was retelling the story of Simba and the gang with the use of life-sized puppets. The Animal Kingdom show needed to be different. So instead of recounting Simba’s life, it was decided to celebrate him instead.

“Festival of the Lion King” tells the story of a group of African tribal performers who follow Simba and his pals from one location to the next, sharing the power and majesty of the great “circle of life.” The performance begins with the arrival of the show’s four hosts. The formidable leader of the group is Kiume (which means masculine in Swahili). Nakawa (which means good-looking) is a handsome young man and the love interest for the beautiful Kibibi (which means princess). And finally we have the striking Zawadi (which means the gift).





Once introductions are out of the way, the group tells us that Simba and his friends will be arriving soon. In order to greet them properly, we must first learn a few animal sounds to herald their arrival. To accomplish this, the audience is divided into four sections and each is assigned an animal. Kiume presides over the elephant section. Nakawa takes the lion section. Kibibi selects the giraffe section. And Zawadi hosts the warthog section. From each group, a volunteer is selected to help lead the training session. After a trial run, the warthog section of the audience snorts, the lion section roars, the elephants trumpet, and giraffes”¦ Well, you’ll have to see the show to find out what sound a giraffe makes.

Warthog Section

Lion Section

At the completion of the training, all four groups make their animal sound together. Then the lights begin to dim and Kiume tells the audience to listen. As the wind howls in the background, we can make out ghostly figures as performers dance into the room. Slowly the lights come up and we witness a tribal ballet and the “Circle of Life” begins to play.

African Ballet

An unseen Simba then welcomes the audience to the presentation. At the completion of his greeting, the mood changes from serious to fun-loving and the tune “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” begins to play. More performers enter the room along with four floats, one for each section of the audience.

Giraffe Float

Warthog Float

Elephant Float

Lion Float

As the merriment begins to die down, Timon takes center stage and sings “Hakuna Matata” with the help of Pumba who can be found on one of the floats.



However, during Timon’s number, the Tumble Monkeys continually distract and harass him. Eventually, Timon submits to their antics and gives his flea-bitten friends center stage where they proceed to amaze and impress the audience with their acrobatic skills. Interwoven into the song “Hakuna Matata” are the tunes “Playmates,” “Snake Charmer,” “Yes, We Have No Bananas,” “Hawaiian War Chant” and a few other numbers.

Tumble Monkies

Tumble Monkies

As the Tumble Monkeys leave the stage, Kiume enters and sings “Be Prepared.” As his deep voice resonates around the room, a fire-eater enters and performs a foreboding number featuring blazing batons.


Fire Eater

Fire Eater

Following “Be Prepared,” Nakawa and Kibibi sing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” As they do, two “birds” dance and fly above the stage.



Bird Ballet

Bird Ballet

The next act features Zawadi singing “Circle of Life.” As she does, all of the other performers circle the stage in dance and merriment.


For the celebration finale, Simba tells the audience that it’s time for everyone to join in the fun. The cast breaks into “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and the audience is encouraged to sing along in competition. The giraffe and the elephant sections are assigned to sing the “wing-a-way” and the lion and warthog sections are given the “high part.” Of course both groups perform admirably and no winning section can be determined.


As the number continues, children (and adults) are pulled from the audience and paraded around the room with much pageantry.

Parading Around the Room

The show concludes when Timon tells the cast to “take it home.” A medley of Lion King numbers is reprised as well as snippets of the acts previously seen. The presentation ends with all of the performers taking a bow to the roar Simba.

Show Finale

Fun Facts:

“Festival of the Lion King” has four complete casts plus understudies. On the day I videotaped this show, there were nine performances. This meant that three casts were on hand and each would perform three shows.

With the exception of Timon, all of the performers belong to Actor’s Equity, a labor union representing the world of live theatrical performances.

All performers must audition every year to retain their part in the show.

The theater can seat 1,375 guests.

The show features 136 unique costumes.

The Simba puppet atop Pride Rock is 12 feet tall.

Ernie Sabella is the voice of Pumbaa and Quinton Flynn is the voice of Timon.

The first showing of “Festival of the Lion King” usually takes place at 10:30am. This show is rarely filled to capacity and you can usually arrive a couple of minutes before the show and still get a seat. For all other shows, it’s best to arrive at least 15-20 minutes before the stated time.

Disney uses the giraffe section for late comers. If seats are still available in this section after the show begins, cast members will bring guests in a back door for seating here. Note, these people have missed the beginning of the show because they didn’t arrive early enough.

Since the fate of “Festival of the Lion King” is unknown to the general public, I decided I should film it for posterity. Although I know there are many clips of this show already on YouTube, most of these were shot from one vantage point and offer less than stellar views. So for my video I arranged to see the show four times in a row and to have a different vantage point for each performance. Once back home, I edited the footage to offer the best angles and variety when being viewed.

Below is a video containing the complete show of “Festival of the Lion King.” It is approximately 33 minutes long.

For those of you who wish to comment on this article, I have a favor to ask. Please do not chime in on the merits of Avatar Land coming to the Animal Kingdom. This is a hot topic that I’d rather not address here. This blog is about “Festival of the Lion King” and I would like to restrict the comments to that topic alone. Thank you.

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49 Replies to “Festival of the Lion King – Disney’s Animal Kingdom”

  1. I miss that show I’ve been there since I was 9 or 10 years old very birthday I would go but I stopped going when I was 14 because my parents and myself became close to the one of performer his role nakawa his real name is William Hammond we haven’t heard from him since then

  2. It’s probably not true, but I read a rumor Disney is making their 5th park right next to Animal Kingdom. It will be called Disney’s Beastly Kingdom (possibly Dominion). The lands would consist of a central Dragon section (Discovery Island), an Egypt section (Africa), Australia (Asia), a Stars Wars snow planet (Dinoland) and Fantasia (Pandora).

  3. This is my family’s favorite show in WDW. The acrobatics are amazing, not to mention the singing and the dancing! I have a crazy question though, that I hope someone can answer. How do they get the floats in the arena without us noticing? I assume they come in the entrances that the guests come in, but the floats are much higher than the doors. Each time I see the show, it’s as if they just appear out of nowhere. All part of Disney magic I suppose!! So glad they are moving the show and not getting rid of it altogether.

  4. I like going to AK for a few reasons. “Festival of the Lion King” is the main one. It is by far my favorite show at WDW. The songs, the dancing, the acrobatics; simply amazing. I hope that the powers that be realize what a loss this would be and permanently move the show rather than discontinuing it.

  5. This is my father’s FAVORITE thing at Disney! He is a retired firefighter and I would have NEVER even imagined he would have sat and watched it much less LOVE it. It is one of the very first thing we have to do when we get to Disney! Animal Kingdom on the first day~ When I read this and told him that it may be going away, he said plan a trip for right after the first of the year! WHAT!!!! well, alrighty then!!!! I don’t need an excuse to plan the trip at all!!! LOL…I was already doing the Disney Cruise in May, but I can do Disney day after day!!! Needless to say, we’re now planning a trip for sometime in January 2013 and he is so excited. We were not planning to go back until October of 2013, but since this popped up, he doesnt want to chance missing it!

    thanks Jack….Keep us posted!!!!

  6. I LOVE the Lion King. It is one of my favourite things to do in Disney World, and I make sure to see it every time I go. It is a high quality show thanks to the amazing efforts of the singers and performers, and reminds me of the Broadway version. It’s beautiful, funny and awesome, and I always have happy tears by the end of it. Once I was the audience member selected to demonstrate the elephant sound. Unfortunately I did not do a good job, and Kiume was not impressed. But everyone got a good laugh. I hope that if Camp Minnie-Mickey is going to change, WDW finds another place to put the Festival of the Lion King. I think it really fits in with the Animal Kingdom theme and celebrates one of Disney’s really great movies.

  7. It would be a step back if Disney removed the Festial of the Lion King. I believe it is the BEST show on all of Disney property. It is the main reason my family even goes to Animal Kingdom.

  8. Thank you, Jack, for all this info about The Lion King Show. Very informative, and very sad. I don’t think that the people who make all these “cost cutting decisions”, realize what a treasure they have. Camp Minnie-Mickey is one of my favorite places to go at The Animal Kingdom. I loved the Pocahontas show and was sad when it closed. The Lion King Show is the nearest thing to a Broadway show that I will ever get to see. I was devastated when I read that Avatar is going to replace Camp Minnie-Mickey and The Lion King Show. As much as I love The Animal Kingdom, if these changes come to pass, I will probably limit my visits, if not stop altogether, my time at The Animal Kingdom. Disney should be DISNEY! Again, thank you so much for your blog. I enjoy your insight and passion for Disney.

  9. Hi Jack,

    Thanks for all the great info! We will be visiting WDW from Jan 29 thru Feb 3 2013 and FOtLK is my 2 year olds favorite thing! How/when can we find out exactly when it is closing? We wouldn’t cancel the trip, but I would like to prepare him for the disappointment if necessary.


    Jack’s Answer:

    Don’t worry, Festival of the Lion King will be playing when you visit early next year. Disney will announce a closing date well in advance and they have not done so yet.

  10. If “Festival of The Lion King” ever left Animal Kingdom permanently that would be a sad day in Walt Disney World!!!!!

  11. Indeed this show is high quality entertainment. Mother and I saw this last January and we were blown away by the Broadway quality and performances. We were expecting decent entertainment but certainly not A list caliber and these performers were top notch. The acrobatics from the tumblemonkeys was also amazing to watch and if I recall, one of them was an Olympian in gymnastics before working and entertaining us as a tumblemonkey in the show. I hope Disney will find a permanent home for this attraction as it is a Not To Be Missed Attraction as far as I am concerned.

  12. The Festival of the Lion King is a timeless treasure that needs to be preserved. I agree that it should be moved to Africa if the area is needed for Avatar! We always bring our friends to the show whenever we come to Animal Kingdom and we recommend it to others that we know will be visiting. There really are not very many attractions in the park so it would really hurt to lose a favorite!

  13. There is nothing I can add that so many others have already said. I enjoy your articles & don’t remember ever seeing so many responses. I think this alone idictates that the loyal followers of Festival of the Lion King are too numerous to be ignored by WDW management. Hopefully “this petition of love and loyalty” will strongly encourage management to relocate rather than discontinue. This production is a classic.

  14. Jack-I can’t imagine the Animal Kingdom without FoTLK, however, moving it to Africa would be perfect for my son who doesn’t want to walk away from the Safari to do anything else and his little brother who is autistic and is instantly calmed by the Tumble Monkeys and the Flying Bird Lady. Thanks for the great blog and the fantastic video.

  15. I LOVE this show. It’s the BEST! This is the very first attraction we do every time we visit disney. Well, we went in October and we did not see the lion king first. We actually waited several days. I was worried that I was losing the Disney magic. Something felt off this trip and I was so bummed. However, AFTER watching the festival of the lion king, the disney magic was back and the rest for our trip was just as magical as i remembered the other being. So, if they do away with the festival of the lion king, and I can’t visit it first thing, i don’t know that the parks will be as magical for me anymore. I hope they keep it. This attraction is a MUST do. NOT a do away with!

  16. Hi Jack. I always enjoy reading your “World according to…” as I learn so much from you. Two years ago my 4-year old grandson had the opportunity to be a lion and had to roar. It was quite an honor for him and his nana arranged it!!! It’s one of the best shows in Disney and I attend it every time I visit. The costuming is awesome and singing great. Thank you for writing about things.

  17. Jack,

    I hope Disney doesn’t do this and end The legion of the Lion King. It has been a favorite since ’98 and would be truly missed. I have seen the musical in NewYork and in Las Vegas and though wonderful, the AK show is just as fabulous and reaches far more people. I might add that I also miss Tarzan Rocks.

    Thanks Jack for your wonderful blog and information. I’ll be at the Animal Kingdom as well as all of WDW during Christmas and again in March. I won’t miss the show either time.

    De Queen, AR

  18. Thank you for sitting through 4 performances of this wonderful show. The time you put into these blogs is greatly appreciated. I love this show and your video of the whole show has given me my ‘Disney Fix’ that will last more than a week! The only downside is I’m singing songs from the show at the top of my lungs, much to my family’s distress. You’ve probably guessed I’m not a fantastic singer.

    Thank you once again Jack, I really look forward to your blogs.

  19. My family and I have attended FOTLK many times over the past ten years and have found pleasure in introducing friends to this lovely show. It breaks my heart to think it will no longer be presented! Heres hoping that someone at Disney reads your blog and comments. They need to realize what this show means to us.

  20. Jack

    I am shocked to hear about Festival of the Lion King. I hope they move it. It is one of the best musical shows. Our family goes to see it 4 – 5 times each time we visit WDW. Our trip is not complete until we see it.

    Keep up the great work!

  21. Thank you Thank you one of my favorite things to see at the parks. I can not go back to Disney until Oct 2013 so what a thrill to be able to watch thia show on my computer. God bless you Jack for keeping us Disney fans in touch

  22. Good job Jack. I will miss this tremendously if it goes. It seems like such a strong attraction, and such a natural fit for Africa, that I just can’t understand why they wouldn’t want to put it there.

    I miss Pocahontas, which was charming. It was simple, but everything that really is accessible to pre-schoolers is simple by nature. When we next go in January, my little boy will be almost 2, and he would have loved that show.

    Thanks, Wendy

  23. Thanks Jack for being sensitive to millions of FotLK fans who may loose their beloved show.

    Funny, when they announced Avatar-land my sister-in-law wondered if they would do away with the show, but then we said no…how could they when it is such a moving and popular show?

    I hope it will not go the way of Tarzan but I have an ugly feeling the fate of the Tumble Monkeys is not looking good. I will make it a point to see it as many times as I can when I go in April. Sometimes progress is so hard…

  24. Thanks for all the work you do on all your blog posts. While I have not had the chance to visit Disney World (yet!), I’m glad to have a chance to see this show here.

    It sure looks like an amazing show they should keep and relocate. If they don’t, as others have mentioned, thanks for doing such a great job of preserving the details.

  25. After 2 years of planning with friends, my husband and I recently had the privilege of visiting Disney World. The most breath-taking, fun, and enjoyable time we had was watching the Festival of the Lion King. I cannot imagine why it would be discontinued for any other show. It is truly a work of art celebrating life. You did an amazing job of video-taping and editing. Thank you!!

  26. Thank you for the great article and video, Jack. I did want to share that Disney Parks Talent Casting just held auditions for the FoLK four lead singing roles for contracts starting February 2013 through March 2014. Seems to me that they are planning to continue the show. 🙂

  27. Thanks for bring all the different angles in to the video. That was great brought back lots of memories hope that they don’t get rid of it!!!

  28. I hope that Disney keeps this show! It is my absolute favorite, much better than Nemo in my opinion. We always try to see it twice a day when we visit. The Tumble Monkeys are the BEST! Even if you have seen the show several times, it always seems fresh and different.

    My daughter was so sad when Pocahontas closed several years ago, we managed to get to one of the shows on the last day. It would be tragic to lose the Lion King too. The character greeting trails were great too–so easy to get autographs and pictures of the Fab Five in a great setting.

  29. This may be my favorite thing in Disney world! My son is obsessed with the blue bird, and watching the ariel ballet is my favorite. I secretly hope my three-year old daughter someday gets to dance that part! It would be a shame to see it go.

  30. Its such a spectacular show, it would truly be a shame to lose it. Always a must see for me and my family, I absolutely love the tumble monkeys and the birds! Fantastic video as always Jack, your investment of time & care shows! Thank you 🙂

  31. Thanks, Jack for another great video! I love to watch them over and over for a Disney fix when far away. We took our oldest granddaughter for her first visit to WDW, two weeks ago. She loved FoLK and is telling her sisters and cousins, who get to go in the next four years, it is a must see. We certainly hope it will be re-located!

  32. The song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” or “Wimoweh,” originally “Mbube,” was the subject of a lengthy lawsuit over royalties supposedly due to the descendants of its South African originator. Though used in the Lion King movie and productions, it wasn’t settled until a licensing agreement was worked out with Disney in 2006. The royalties were estimated at $1.5 million for the movie alone.

  33. jack,

    I love this show so much. My daughter has been picked to teach the Hand Jive Pre-show and has been in the parade a few times. Our trip for Halloween she was pulled from the parade by Timon and he was joking with her from the stage. I am in awe of the Tumble Monkey’s I never get tired of watching them. I also love the flying lady. I hope they keep the show as I tell people it is almost as good as going to Broadway to see The Lion King and it is FREE with your admission. Thank you for another Disney Pick me up!!!! Only about 60 more days until I am back in the Magic!!!

  34. Jack – I always felt that Camp Minnie Mickey was kind of slapped together. Now this makes total sense as to why. I am so glad you are able to give us the backstory on this.

    I also sincerely hope that they find a new home for the show. I can now also see how the show was slapped together. I really love this show, it is one of my top 5 things in all of Walt Disney World. So I hope they do find a spot for it in Africa!

  35. Hi Jack –

    This was only the 2nd time I’ve seen the show (saw it live in 2006)- and it is a wonderfully entertaining show. I am amazed at the performers’ consistency from performance to performance. Even more spectacular than the show is your editing of your four vantage points seamlessly and spot on! The filming and editing combined with the performers consistency makes this a super video!

    – Jeff

  36. Truly one of the best attractions at Walt Disney World. Few things leave me as happy as the Lion Sleeps Tonight sing-along.

    Any word on the creative team for the show? I’ve never really heard any names in terms of show writing, music arrangements, etc. They really built a new classic out of something that was supposed to be a “cheap fill-in” attraction.

    Jack’s Answer:

    I have no idea who put this show together. But you’re right. They deserve a round of applause.

  37. Hi Jack,

    Wonderful post as always and I hope that you’re right that the show will be relocated instead of cancelled. My 10 year old wants to be the “bird lady” when she grows up 🙂

    Even though the area was a temporary measure I really love the character “huts” when they’re decorated for Christmas – it’s a must do.


  38. I LOVE this show and it’s a must do for me and my family every Disney visit. As soon as I hear the first strains of Circle of Life, I start tearing up. Thank for filming! I hope they continue the show somewhere else.

  39. Thanks so much for this post. I had been hoping to see the Festival of the Lion King in a couple of years and really did not know what to expect. And now I read Disney might cancel the show! At least I got to see your video of it! The description was also a lot of fun. Here’s hoping they’ll just relocate the show. It seems lovely.

  40. This is my favorite attraction in the entirety of WDW; I attend twice a trip if I have the time. I even have a favorite spot: on the end in the lion section, so I can watch the supporting performers when they hang out on the floats AND sing the hard part, you know.

    I would be super-sad if it were replaced with something I’m not at all excited about, but that’s the nature of the parks, I suppose. Who knows – I may be pleasantly surprised. All the same, I fervently hope they move the show to Africa!

    (Fantastic post as always.)

  41. This show remains one of our favorite in all of Disney and was a must see for my deceased husband whenever we were in AK. We actually were there when the show was interrupted and we learned of the tragedy of 9.11. I hope that the entire cast is moved over to a location in Africa and can continue delighting guests for a very long time to come!

  42. Jack,

    Another great historical lesson on Disney. We love this show and hope it will indeed relocate to the Africa area soon. The video is great. Thanks for doing that so we have this to view for posterity.

  43. I certainly hope they’re able to keep this show. It’s beautiful and it revolves around a Disney Classic.

    Great info from both Jack and the Former Camp Councelor on this section of the park.

  44. I’m embarrased to say that for year I avoided this show, thinking I would be bored. My wife would take our son to go see it, and I’d go ride EE a few times. I finally relented and saw the show and realized what I’d been missing.

    In February, while entering the AK, we were chosen to get front row seats. It was even more spectactular from the front!

    Thanks for the great video!

  45. Jack,

    I have heard that Avatar Land has not begun construction because they are waiting to complete the new theater for Festival of the Lion King that is being built quietly in the Africa area.


    Jack’s Comment:

    I have not heard this and doubt that it’s true. Disney could not “quietly” build a new theater without all of the Animal Kingdom cast members knowing about it and spreading the word on all the Disney bulletin boards. Also, I had the opportunity to speak to some Imagineers last month at a D23 convention. They told me the plans for Avatar Land are still in the works.

  46. hey Jack
    The festival of the Lion King is one of my favorite shows throughout Disney World. I do hope they are able to keep it somehow. The music as well as the fire dancer are breath taking and the tumble monkeys are always a riot. I also love your video with the different angles. It was very well done. can’t wait for your next blog and as always keep up the great work.

  47. Thanks for this report. I was a “Camp Councelor” for many years beginning with my College Program. Some other fun facts about the land. If you read the Imagineering Mountians book or Animal Kigndom book you can see the concept art of the whole park. In this sketch, Camp Minnie Mickey is in mirror image. The built version was made so fast that the master plans for the land were upsidedown when laying out the path and buildings. This is why after you crossover the second bridge just before the entrance to FoLK that the people traffic switches from right to left, causing a huge traffic jam and working against standard Disney crowd management.

    I was lucky enought to both work the last three weeks of shifts at Poca and to be asked to be the closing cast member. If you ever see the posterity DVD they made, I am the one introducing the show and thanking the higher ups. It was a great show, and we studied it in my Disney Entertianment Production class as it was closing. The decision that a show is at the end of its life is a many month process, and weighs the production cost against the guest use. Poca unfortantuatl, was high cost due to the live animals (the midday show was a live animal training show), an Equity performer, three technicians due to using AAs, two puppeteers, all based around a character that almost all the children didn’t recognize (except for the British).

    You may also remember the filler show of Good Times Gathering Spot during busy seasons consisting of a DJ dance party, roaming characters, coloring tables, and stoytime with Pocahontas. During the fist Christmas season, they also brought out the live animals before they were all adopted by other zoos. This temporary and cheap use of the theater space both served the purpose of being a supporter to FoLK during full shows and kept more people in Camp than Poca did.

    Of course the many role of attractions in Camp is FoLK. A few adjustments to your fun facts. The dancers and puppeteers are all standard Entertianment cast members, not Equity. Keep an eye out for some of your favorites from the midday shows in MJJ parade. If you happen to be at one of the very rare shows where they go 101 and have to cancel before the birds fly, stick around for a chance at a meet and greet in the theater (this will be announced if happening). Many people are too upset at missing the show to realize the opportunity they are getting to see the performers up close. If it is right after we open the doors, ask us to help you find your favorite animal section. Many people are disoriented when they walk in, but from left to right are Giraffe, Elephant, Lion, Warhog. They show has also slightly changed over the years. In addition to some costume redesigns a few years ago, due to budgetary reasons it has gone from a 35 minutes, to 40, to 30, 25, and now back to 30 (really 33). No songs have been lost, but the other times have been tightened, the soundtrack is sometimes on sale at the merchandise cart on your way out of Camp.

    Finally, you missed my favorite parts of both of the shows, the pre-show. This is the role I was most often asked to perform. Poca had an 8 minute pre-show (and a 12 minute show) of a CM selecting a child to be a Jr. Camp Counselor. They helped introduce the show, then preformed tasks to help call Pocahontas out of the forest. At FoLK we teach a select guest to do the Hakuna Matatah Hand Jive. Given time we do this infront of each of the sections and then the middle. Time constrains in the buisy seasons often limit this. A few CM are stage shy and might not get around to performing this on top of their other ushering duties. If you are interested, let someone know as soon as you get into the theatre with at least 15 minutes before the show starts.

    Great to see some love for my land.