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Disneyland Unveils New Lion King Musical Show

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The rapid rhythmic beat of crackling hands on drums from the African Congo fills the air at the Fantasyland Theater at Disneyland.

The performers, dressed in bright, vibrant and colorful African-style clothing, are seen dancing and entertaining the audience on the lower level.

What do you want to know

  • Disney Unveils New Re-enacted Musical Show Titled ‘Tale of the Lion King’
  • “Tale of the Lion King” is a truncated 25-minute version of the 1993 animated film “The Lion King”
  • The show celebrates African and African American culture through dance, song and dress
  • The show will run Thursday through Monday at Disneyland’s Fantasyland Theater

A woman in a regal-looking African-style dress then takes the stage and sings the Zulu-language opening chant of “Circle of Life”, drawing the dancers onto the stage.

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Like the opening scene of Disney’s 1993 animated film “The Lion King,” where animals are drawn to celebrate new life, Disneyland’s newly adapted stage show “The Tale of the Lion King” has an opening similar.

From its forest setting to the Swahili language intertwined with dialogue and lyrics, colorful dress and dance styles, Disneyland’s new musical celebrates life inspired by black African and African American culture, told through the re-enactment of ” The Lion King”.

After a media preview, Disneyland Resort Creative Director Susana Tubert said she wanted to tell Simba’s story in a new and unique way, separate from the movie and the Broadway show.

Images from “Tale of the Lion King” at Disneyland (Courtesy of Disneyland Resort)

Disneyland’s “Tale of the Lion King” is a 25-minute musical and theatrical stage adaptation and truncated version of the famous Disney film.

Disney first performed the ‘story theater’ show in 2019 on the Paradise Gardens outdoor stage inside Disney California Adventure, but revised parts of it during downtime caused by the coronavirus pandemic .

The newly revamped show moved to the stage of Disneyland’s Fantasy Theater and featured most of the main characters, elements, and arrangements of popular songs from the animated film.

There is Mufasa, the king of the Pride Lands. Simba, Mufasa’s son and heir to their kingdom. Scar, Simba’s uncle, and Mufasa’s jealous and mean brother and second in line to the throne.

Other characters from the film appear and break into song – Timon, Pumba (Hakuna Matata) and Nala, Simba’s friend and future queen (Can You Feel the Love Tonight?). It’s missing the movie’s B-characters – the trio of talking hyenas, Zazu and others.

Mwongozo, the main narrator of the traveling troupe called Storytellers of the Pride Lands, tells the story of Simba’s journey to become king (Circle of Life) throughout the show.

The performers are dressed in colorful and vibrant costumes and hairstyles and African-style headwear.

A large multimedia screen enhances the scenography and artistic production in the background.

The show’s dance choreography by brothers Kevin and Marcel Wilson is where “Tale of the Lion King” shines.

The duo dance team, which performed and choreographed for Beyonce and Janet Jackson, incorporated several elements of African and African American dance styles with the show’s cast.

In an interview with Spectrum News, each of the main characters has a unique dance move and way of dancing, Kevin and Marcel said.

The movement of Scar, the antagonist, is rigid, controlled and deliberate. His dance moves and those of his company of hyenas are lower than the ground.

Meanwhile, Simba’s movements and entourage are fluid, energetic and loose. Simba is standing.

This dichotomy can be seen when the characters sing and dance in “I Can’t Wait to Be King” and “Be Prepared,” Kevin said.

“It lets you see both styles with hip-hop, step and Krumping coming together,” Marcell said. “It’s like ‘West Side Story’ – the Sharks versus the Jets.”

“We wanted to bring it to the world we know,” Kevin added. “We wanted a new approach to African dance. Everyone saw it. You see the derivative, the movement and the style, but there was also jazz funk – Krumping, stepping…freestyle.”

The “Tale of The Lion King” is a truly original piece, something Disney’s creative team was intentional about, said Paul David Bryant, the show’s director.

Images from “Tale of the Lion King” at Disneyland (Courtesy of Disneyland Resort)

Bryant said in some ways, the “Tale of The Lion King” is an origin story.

In a world before movies and TV, Bryant wants people to imagine what it was like to see a traveling 20-member troupe of performers come to town and entertain a crowd.

In this case, “Tale of the Lion King” is a recreation of a show about how a lion cub became king.

“It’s almost like [the theater group] told the story before Disney thought about making the movie,” Bryant said.

The show will run Thursday through Monday at Disneyland’s Fantasyland Theater.