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The Lion King Celebration

What is it?

Attention, all creatures great and small. It is time to trim your manes, stomp your hooves and ruffle your feathers, in glorious celebration, as we present, the Legend of the Lion King!

- Zazu (Rowan Atkinson)

Rafiki float At first glance, the Lion King Celebration is (or was) simply the afternoon parade at Disneyland. It premiered on July 1, 1994 and ran until June 1, 1997 (just one month short of three years).

Dancer But the Lion King Celebration was more than just a parade. It was an experience. Based on Disney's 1994 movie, the Lion King, the parade, like the movie, had no human characters. All of the performers were dressed in incredible African-themed tribal animal costumes. There were Gazelles, Tribal Cranes, Leopards, Zebras and Cheetahs. And the most popular characters from the movie, Rafiki, Zazu, Timon, Pumbaa, Nala and, of course, Simba, are all represented as walk-around characters, puppets or animatronics. In addition there were two large (full-size?) rhino puppets and two huge giraffe puppets.

There were several floats loosely based on different points in the life of Simba, the title character from the movie. The first float features Rafiki and Zazu on a rock outcropping with giraffe puppets in the back. Gazelle Tree The next was a large tree with stylized gazelles at the base and wind chimes hanging from the top. It was pushed by performers dressed as Wildebeests. The next float had a large bull elephant at the front and represented the rain forest. Drum Dancer float After that came a rock outcropping float with native African drummers and dancers. And finally was the Pride Rock float with Simba standing atop the rock and Nala looking out from the base.

The Lion King Celebration was both a parade and a street show. While the parade was moving, a special arrangement of the song ``I Just Can't Wait to be King'' consisting of only the title lyrics was played.

As the parade approached a stop (there were four along the parade route), the final lyrics to ``I Just Can't Wait to be King'' played as the performers moved into position for the next segment, the show.

The show started with the performers standing motionless in respectful silence while the following quote was read over the park sound system:

A King's time as ruler rises and falls like the sun. Although the sun has set on my time, just remember, that I will always be there to guide you. And now, Simba, it is time for you to take your rightful place in the Circle... the Circle of Life.

- Mufasa (James Earl Jones)

And then a special lengthed version of the ``Circle of Life'' song played. The performers' dance steps were graceful and deliberate, and similar to animal moves, like scratching at the ground or clawing in the air.

Pole Climber There were ``pole climbers'' between each float, men and women dressed as birds carrying tall poles that fit into holes in the ground. They would climb the poles and do acrobatic stunts like turning sideways or upside-down ten feet in the air. It was captivating.

After the first chorus of the Circle of Life, the performers moved off and picked up musical instruments hidden on the floats (rain sticks 3 Cranes and bead-covered gourds), and offered them to young children sitting at the curb so that they can participate in the parade. The children shook the instruments to the beat of the music (often with the help of the parents).

As the singing started up again, the performers continued their animal-like movements.

Leopards The most powerful and stirring part of the performance came at the end of the Circle of Life. After a clap of thunder, the performers would leap around the floats, while the Wildebeests pushed the Gazelle Tree in a circle so all the wind chimes hanging from the top made a beautiful sound. Then many of the performers would twirl bird-shaped ``kites'' at the end of long poles in the air while several others released live white pigeons at the very end to fly off into the distance. Dancer releasing Bird

The Circle of Life segment ended with a loud roar from Simba on his Pride Rock float.

Simba and Nala Then the parade changed back from street show mode to parade mode; the performers collected the musical instruments and moved back into marching position; ``I Just Can't Wait to be King'' started back up and the parade marched on.

For more detailed information that will give even a die-hard Lion King Celebration fan a new appreciation for the depth and detail in the parade, see Disneyland's official information, linked from the home page.

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Send some email: Allyn Fratkin <allyn@fratkin.com>
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The Lion King Celebration Parade and logo image above are the intellectual property of the Walt Disney Company. The text and photographs shown on these pages are Copyright © 1997 Allyn Fratkin.