Disneyland offers a production of The Lion King it has never been done before. Since its debut in 1994, the animated film has been adapted for the stage as an award-winning Broadway musical and reimagined into a 2019 live-action film. Tale of the Lion King brings history to life in a never-before-seen way. The show originally premiered in 2019, but amid the coronavirus pandemic, the shows were, of course, put on hold. Luckily, now that the world is open again, Disneyland visitors are having an extra thrill with this show. Narrated from Simba’s perspective, the 30-minute live-action show uses the actors as real people instead of having them become chameleons in the form of animals and puppets.
It is a celebration of African culture as evidenced by the music, choreography and costumes incorporated into the production. Also noteworthy is the all-black cast, which the show’s associate director Paul Bryant said was just right. But what excites Bryant the most is how much the show differs from how it’s been previously told. For those who may have had the pleasure of seeing the Broadway show, Bryant promises it’s nothing like it.
“It’s not [like the original or the play]. And the thing that we’re so proud of is the fact that we’re telling the same story but in a different way with all this narrative aspect of the story. It’s not like we’re not trying to be the animals of the cast,” Bryant told us firmly in an interview during an advanced live screening of the production. “We’re not trying necessarily to turn us into puppets or all that stuff either. And even in some of our other stations where we have The Lion King or whatever the titles and all these shows, there are aspects of people trying to pass themselves off as animals. And our main goal wasn’t even to go that route. Instead, we wanted to be storytellers, where you can sit around the campfire and tell a story and keep everyone engaged. This story is unlike any other version of The Lion King, whether it’s Broadway or Hong Kong, Florida or Paris – I think they have one too. But it’s the same story. But I love the fact that in our cast it’s people, it’s human beings telling this story over and over again. And every time you say it, it changes a little.”
The difference between the original 2019 production is also the brand new choreography by the Wilson brothers, Kevin and Marcel, who are icons of the Broadway realm, as well as the live pop world having arranged choreography for Janet Jackson and Britney Spears .
“Kevin and I come from such a versatile dance background and we all love different dance styles, so we definitely wanted to incorporate that into Tale of The Lion King. We had hip-hop, jazz, contemporary, all these dance styles help move the story along while people watch the show,” Marcel told us.
Kevin loved the ability to use live music to his advantage to make dancing even better. “We even incorporate tap dancing. You wouldn’t necessarily see tap dancing with real tap dancing per se, but what we use is the advantage of tap dancing, it’s the musicality, the rhythm and the timing that was offered “, he added. .
Cosmetologist Shemika Draughan, who specializes in braiding and highly textured hair care, is the mastermind behind the cast’s hairstyle and makeup, all inspired by African diaspora tradition. For Draughan, having a young girl beaming with excitement at the cast’s hair because she sees a true representation of herself was the icing on the cake. The show fits perfectly with Disneyland’s Celebrate Soulfully campaign, a drive to bring black culture to park visitors.
Tale of the Lion King offers audiences a traditional theatrical experience with a menu specially curated by Disneyland chef Natalie Willingham. As in a traditional theatre, drinks and small bites/snacks are offered. But this time around, the food is an embodiment of African culture.
Guests will dine on perfectly seasoned chicken curry over kale and sweet potato yams, paired with non-alcoholic libations with infusions of sweet tea, lemon and ginger. The Caribbean flavors and elements are something Chef Natalie has gone to great lengths to bring the food together and show it seamlessly.
“It was kind of the region of Africa. So it’s actually spices from Malawi. Malawi is a region of Africa. We actually tried a bunch of different curries and different spices,” a- she explained. “We also used a Berber spice which you will see with Ethiopian cuisine and you can turn both into curries. But we preferred the Malawian. And with that I just added a coconut chicken, kale , sweet potato, and all that. And it was just stuff you’d find in Africa. Again, it was based on the region, and how they did it. And then we did our own little twist above.
The show currently airs four times a day Thursday through Monday at the Fantasyland Theater in Disneyland Park. Check Disneyland.com or the Disneyland app for specific times.