The "Pride" of Disneyland Roars onto Main Street, U.S.A. with "The Lion King Celebration"
Guests visiting Disneyland will find themselves in the presence of African royalty, as "The Lion King Celebration" makes its roaring presence known at the Magic Kingdom. This spectacular parade and street show is presented on the parade route between "It's a Small World" and Main Street, U.S.A.
Based on Walt Disney Pictures' 32nd full-length animated release, "The Lion King Celebration" at Disneyland tells the legend of the film's leading character, Simba the lion, as he journeys through "The Circle of Life" -- that delicate balance existing between animals of the kingdom and nature. With the breathtaking landscape of Africa as a backdrop, both the film and the parade follow the path of Simba, as he learns from his father, Mufasa, of his rightful place in the "circle" and matures from a playful cub to the next king of the jungle.
Disneyland has never presented a parade quite like this before, with the size and scope of the production bringing the majesty of Africa to Main Street, U.S.A. "There is so much to be excited about with this parade," commented Norm Doerges, Executive Vice President, Disneyland. "We're using state-of-the-art technologies to breathe life into the characters from the film. 'The Lion King Celebration' captures the emotion and feeling of this wonderful story in a way that leaves our guests in awe." Not just a parade, this visual wonder unfolds into a "street show" around floats that represent the continent of Africa, from the lush green oasis of an African rain forest to the sweeping beauty of the Serengeti. Depicted through hand-crafted landscape and scenic stylized African art, each section represents a different passage in Simba's life. More than 75 performers in tribal costumes move along the parade route through rain and steam, around tropical waterfalls, native animals, and rugged rock formations, to tell the tale of the young king.
You can feel the air grow still throughout the Magic Kingdom as the faint sound of a distant native drum breaks the silence and begins this regal procession. Leading the parade are two of the film's key characters: Zazu, the hornbill major domo and watchful guardian of Simba, and Rafiki, the mysterious baboon counselor to Pride Rock. The voice talent of British comedian Rowan Atkinson brings the ruffled voice of Zazu to the big screen and to his Audio-Animatronics® parade counterpart. Zazu represents the first-ever use of Disney's Audio-Animatronics® technology in a Disneyland parade. The voice talent of Robert Guillaume adds to the eccentric nature of the fully articulated "walk-around" character Rafiki as he stands at the lead of the first float.
Unlike other Disney animated films, "The Lion King" has no reference to the human world, presenting the parade's creative team with the challenge of making the leading characters as "real" as possible and "themeing" human dancers into the story. By creating "puppetronics," remote-controlled devices, and Disney Audio-Animatronics®, the Disneyland team has brought to life the film's main characters and many other of the jungle inhabitants. From a warthog and a bug-chasing meerkat to rhinos and street-roaming crocodiles, all the animals of Africa have come to pay homage to the new king of the jungle.
"To look at this presentation from just a puppeteering standpoint, it's the most advanced parade we've ever done," said Mike Davis, Vice President of Entertainment for Disneyland. "We're really pushing the creative envelope for this type of technology, and the results are these amazingly realistic animals that capture the magic and personality of the film."
Disneyland Guests will be amazed as lifelike giraffes bend down for a closer look at the audience, an African bull elephant trumpets the arrival of The Lion King, and monkeys swing from tree to tree through a tropical rain forest that actually rains. "Everyone in this parade is either in the form of an animal or representing an animal," said Robert Ponce, the parade's show director. "Because there are no humans in the film, the dancers that lead off the parade are representing tribal animals, the drummers are dressed like a pride of lions, and the other performers are wearing tribal interpretations of animals, ranging from gazelles, wildebeests, and cranes to leopards, cheetahs, and even zebras. It makes the presentation extremely visual."
Amidst the parade's animal calls and echoing thunder is a musical score from the film that captures the beauty of this African tale. The unparalleled team of rock and roll legend Elton John and Academy Award®-winning lyricist Tim Rice is joined by noted composer Hans Zimmer for a musical expedition of African rhythms, stirring instrumentation, and moving lyrics.
The music for the parade as it journeys through the Magic Kingdom is the fun-loving "Just Can't Wait to Be King," an energetic song from Simba's carefree cub days on the open plains of the African Pride Lands. "The opening song of the parade has the perfect tempo and energy level for traveling down the route," commented Davis. "'Just Can't Wait to Be King' is somewhat of a march, expressing Simba's energy and excitement about achieving his rightful place in the Pride. The parade's performance song, 'Circle of Life,' is really the message of the film and had to be set apart."
To make the transition between these two distinct songs, "The Lion King Celebration" makes four stops down the route, letting the music, emotion, and tempo of "Circle of Life" be played out in a stationary presentation to the audience. "We felt it was a broader, much more theatrical display and a better way to deliver those two very different messages," said Davis.
It is also during these four "street shows" that "The Lion King Celebration" reveals many of its special effects. During the chorus of "Circle of Life," performers and animals alike begin to move in unison to a single beat as Guests are given rain sticks and other African musical instruments to help keep the rhythm going. As thunder cracks and exotic birds call, a tropical rain begins to move over the audience. The parade comes to life as steam swirls around the native drummers, and acrobatic pole dancers, dressed as ceremonial birds, perform high above the jungle gathering.
At the finale, white pigeons are released from both the "Pride Rock" float and by dancers along the parade route. Steve Bass, the parade's designer, said, "It's not the quantity of birds being released that will move the audience at the finale, it's the power and simplicity of one dancer standing near them releasing that one bird into the circle of life as a symbol of love and freedom."
More so than any other parade presentation, "The Lion King Celebration" is packed with "WOW" factors. Set in the magical surroundings of Disneyland, it's more than a parade that just passes by, it's a moving experience that will draw guests into the emotion and drama of "The Lion King."
"Our Guests expect to see the finest in entertainment, they expect to see things they've never seen before, and they expect to see things they won't see anywhere else," said Davis. "For us, the highest compliment we receive is when a Guest, having seen one of our shows or performances, turns and says, 'You know what, only Disneyland can do that.' We're confident this parade will exceed all their expectations."