Festival of the Lion King – Information

Dawa Bar was a freestanding bar in the middle of a patio between Discovery River and Tusker House restaurant. The bar was torn down to make a path along the river while a new bar was attached to the front of Tusker House. On the patio you can see a sign for Harambe Theatre and the hours for Festival of the Lion King. Harambe has a back-story that few know about. A plaque in the line tells us that Fort Lion King5Harambe was built in 1498 which is the year that Vasco de Gama arrived in Mozambique. At the Harambe Theatre exit is a handbill on a post in Swahili advertising the Festival of the Lion King. Disney has used the history of East Africa under Portuguese, Omani Arabians and finally in 1895 the British to make a thriving port town instead of just lines for a show. I spent over an hour studying that rich history that is displayed in the Harambee beach area, the architecture, a shuttered window left open to catch a breeze, an ad for a hair salon, plaster coming off of a wall, and finally the artwork and baskets inside the line. I am the one holding up the line to take photos.

As you enter Harambe you will find stroller parking to your right and a gift kiosk with cold drinks to your left. The entire front of the theater consists of holding lines despite the facade that looks like a place to shop. Lion KingShow times are on the hour from 10 am to 7 pm with some days having a few shows at night. My fastpass was for 9:30 to 9:50 a.m. so they let us in at 9:30 am then we waited there for about 10 minutes for the doors to open. All shows follow this pattern. I recommend getting there earlier so you can get the seat you want.

The line to enter with fastpasses is in the sun and rain but thankfully once admitted you are in the shade. Guests without a fastpass are sent through the left turnstile where they wait under a partially shaded area. Sometimes that line extends out into the main path where there is no shade or protection. There are bathrooms and drinking fountains at the end of the path. You will see a white bridge which is a service road and under it the path that leads from the bathrooms to that bridge and onward to Avatarland. The patio by Tusker House and this path are about the only truly shady spots in the area.

Disney recreated the show and theater right down to the area that disabled guests sit. The first rows are on the floor so that guests end up trying to see over guests in scooters and wheelchairs. I am so upset because we were promised better seating in that area. Disabled guests are mainstreamed and seated as they come through the doors. If you are a slow mover who wants a seat in the bleachers, not the floor, then send someone ahead to save you a spot. Cast members lead disabled guests to their seat. Lion King2However, that does not stop people from race walking to a seat, climbing over seats, or even pushing a guest out of their way. Most are civilized but I have seen too many guests so desperate for a good seat that they forget their manners. Exiting is hard because guests are trying to get out of the theater without stopping to let someone merge in front of them.

Before the show guests are chosen to show how to do the Hand Jive and later to show the sounds that the animals make. During the show the kids are allowed to come up front to shake percussion instruments and parade around the stage. I have seen so many kids balk at being a Jedi Knight or in a parade so work with your children before coming to WDW so they can participate. Lion Kin3Groups should have a designated meeting area such as the cannon as groups do get split up. A major issue with strollers are the parents who bring the entire family into the stroller parking lot then stand there putting the children in strollers and handing out snacks and drinks. It is easier on everyone if just one person fetches the stroller and takes it over to the river area where nobody is bumping into you and you have better lighting. This frees up space for incoming strollers and leaves you with nobody pushing or shoving to get their stroller.

You can watch YouTube for full videos of the new version. The main difference is the fog that rises from the ground as it has sulfur that smelled like rotten eggs. Some children freaked out during the show.  Be prepared, part of the show gets dark and scary. I have looked at videos of both versions of the show to verify, that honestly, the only difference is a slightly larger floor space for the actors and maybe better lighting. It will always be my favorite part of WDW and somewhere I will be as often as a I can. I love that the theater is just off the main walkway and a long trek like the old theater. I left with many photos for my own use as none really came out good and with a song in my heart. HAKUNA MATATA!!

My name is Laurie Smith and I have lived in Kissimmee, FL since March, 2012, so that I could learn about WDW and help people enjoy WDW.  I have been going to Disney parks since 1960.