Ask anyone to name a Disney movie about animals, and we’re willing to bet their answer is The Lion King (1994).
Thanks to a combo of catchy tunes, a soaring Hans Zimmer score, and a gut-wrenching death scene burnt in the memories of millions of children, The Lion King is one of Disney’s most iconic movies – and one that still sparks plenty of interest with Disney Park Guests today.
Over at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, Festival of the Lion King is one of the Park’s premier attractions. The 40-minute musical – which is also performed at Hong Kong Disneyland – uses puppets, pageantry, and classic The Lion King songs such as “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” to immerse Guests in a celebration of the African savanna without ever leaving Harambe Theatre.
Animal Kingdom opened in 1998, deep in the middle of The Lion King mania. Yet somehow, in a Park totally dedicated to the world of animals, The Lion King only received one dedicated attraction – something Disney fans still see as a mistake.
Which poses the big question: why is Animal Kingdom yet to build an entire land dedicated to The Lion King?
With IP gradually taking over all other Parks, it’s only a matter of time until Animal Kingdom gets in on the action. In fact, I’d say it’s imminent. Since the closure of Primeval Whirl, Dino-Rama is a tarmac shell of its former self. With radio silence on any potential replacement, Dinoland U.S.A is the definition of a land on its last breath and seems destined for an IP grab – rumored to be Moana (2016) or Zootopia (2016) – in the near future.
We know that Disney Imagineering has given serious consideration to squeezing these two franchises into Animal Kingdom. “Blue Sky” plans emerged in September 2022 showing what Guests could expect from these lands. Shanghai Disneyland is also set to receive its own Zootopia land. Considering Disney’s recent habit of borrowing lands and attractions from other Parks, it wouldn’t be surprising if Animal Kingdom received a carbon copy.
If Disney Parks think they need IP to survive, so be it. But if it wants IP, why not choose IP that makes sense? The core message of Animal Kingdom is conservation and the circle of life. Conveniently, I happen to know a Disney movie that aligns perfectly with these values – in fact, it even has a pre-packaged song that already preaches them to the masses. Handy, huh?
What’s helpful is that the land plans itself. A massive Pride Rock centerpiece. A Timon and Pumba dark ride, complete with animatronics. An adrenaline-packed attraction themed around the Elephant Graveyard. Maybe even an educational show guided by the wisdom of Rafiki.
The opportunities for a Lion King-themed land are endless – especially in a Park desperately in need of a new hot attraction. If Animal Kingdom really wants to get into the IP wars, fingers crossed it’s The Lion King that wins.