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)
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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
As the singing started up again, the performers continued their animal-like
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.
The Circle of Life segment ended with a loud roar from Simba on his Pride
Then the parade changed back from street show mode to parade mode;
the performers collected the musical instruments and moved back into
``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.