Monday, June 03, 2019

Lion King Celebration, 1994

"The Lion King" debuted in June of 1994 and was a smash hit in theaters; at Disneyland, an elaborate parade known as "The Lion King Celebration" was introduced at the same time. Today's photos come to us from Irene, Bruce, and James - as you can see, these are panoramic prints, and they look pretty great! 

According to Wikipedia, The parade's design centred around the story of Simba, the main protagonist of The Lion King, as if it were a tale passed down in Africa for generations. The lineup featured six floats designed around different aspects of African culture, dancers dressed in animal costumes, and a Pride Rock float featuring Simba and Nala.

The following description is also from good old Wikipedia:

Set to a mostly instrumental version of the song "I Just Can't Wait to Be King", the first characters to appear are two rhinoceroses...

...followed by tribal dancers, drummers and a float.

During a typical show a total of 89 cast members performed in The Lion King Celebration. This included 56 dancers, 12 puppeteers, 10 acrobatic pole dancers, 6 musicians and 5 remote control operators.

Zazu and Rafiki introduce the parade as it continues down Main Street, U.S.A.

The design of the parade had strong roots in traditional African artwork, featuring vibrant colors, traditional designs, and dance routines based on traditional African dances.

Next, a herd of gazelle dancers dressed in spandex costumes with hoods precede a float with tribal gazelle designs pushed along by wildebeest dancers.

They are followed by a group of tribal crane dancers, the elephant float and two remote-controlled crocodiles. The elephant on the float occasionally shoots a stream of water from its trunk. In the first year of the show, the larger "mother" elephant was preceded by a smaller "baby" elephant whose costume was similar to that of the previously mentioned rhinoceroses, only larger. Two pole dancers dressed in tribal bird costumes walk at the sides.

I've seen some pole dancers in my day, but I guess Disneyland has their own versions?

There's the mama elephant, with the Rain Forest float right behind her. So many dancers, so many costumes!

The Lion King Celebration featured the first use of Audio-Animatronics in a Disneyland parade. It also featured the first use of "Puppetronics", a technique used to create the large, lifelike animal puppets featured on the floats. Puppetronics allowed the animatronic animals to be controlled by a puppeteer but still retain complex movement, allowing for a smoother and more realistic performance.

Leopard dancers dance around the Rain Forest float, which features monkey dancers on swings and Pumbaa on the back. Pumbaa talks to Timon, who follows behind while chasing three remote-controlled bugs including a scorpion and a rhinoceros beetle.

Two tribal-bird pole dancers lead the Drum Dancer float, which features drummers, dancers and percussionists in colourful, vibrant tribal costumes.

The roll of film must have run out, because there was no panoramic photo of the final "Pride Rock" float featuring Simba and Nala. The parade eventually stops and Mufasa's voice is heard telling Simba to take his place in the Circle of Life. The song "Circle of Life" begins to play and the dancers dance and leap around the floats as the drummers drum along to the song. At the end of the song, Simba roars and white doves are released from one of the floats, symbolizing hope and peace.

"The Lion King Celebration" ran for a full three years, ending on June 1st, 1997.

Many thanks to the Dream Team!

Extra! Extra! GDB pal TokyoMagic! has generously shared his personal photos of the final Pride Float so that you can see what it looked like. THANKS, TokyoMagic!


Nanook said...


Gotta love that parade. As far as "pole dancers" are concerned - it was merely part of a regimen of exercise, strength training and dance moves - at least that was 'the line' Disney used...

Thanks to the Dream Team for sharing.

TokyoMagic! said...

These are terrific panoramic shots! I remember this parade very well. Some of the floats even had water little water falls pouring off of them. Gee, how can 1994 be 25 years ago, already!

Thank you, to Major & The Dream Team!

Melissa said...

Disney knows how to put on a parade, that's for sure. I can't decide which is more beautiful: the tree in number 4 or the felephants and numbers 5 and 6. And the adorable Gibson Girl in the bright blue skirt deserves a callout, too

Andrew said...

Hmm... the word "tribal" was used in that Wikipedia article at least five times. Though all's well that ends well, I guess!

It looks like a nice parade; I wish I had gotten to see it. These panoramas are likely as good as it gets.

stu29573 said...

And you can still see most of the floats and performers at WDW Animal Kingdom!

DrGoat said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again, apart from Main Street Electrical Parade, that was was favorite parade of all time. Cleared out the Penny Arcade in record time.

JC Shannon said...

TM, it is hard to believe it has been that long ago. Disney really struck gold with The Lion King. The Dream Team does it again, great photos of a great parade. Thanks to Major and the Team for sharing them.

K. Martinez said...

Great panoramic shots. I remember The Lion King parade being extremely popular. I thought it was a pretty special parade, but I do have my favorites.

Thanks, Dream Team!

Melissa, I agree. Disney does know how to put on a parade. Whenever visiting a Disney park, one of the things I always made sure to do was to see the current parade. They were usually the highlight of my day along with the fireworks show above the castle.

Irene said...

One of my favorite parades! And like Stu said, most if not all of it was shipped back to Animal Kingdom. I always loved that last float with the musical downbeat and everyone honoring Simba! I believe that final Simba stuck around for a few more parades, just can't remember which ones.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I wonder if there are any men who use pole dancing as a workout regimen?? I prefer Jazzercise personally.

TokyoMagic!, little waterfalls on a float, who ever heard of such a thing? Maybe they used audio-animatronic water!

Melissa, as nice as this parade was, I probably would have taken advantage of the shorter lines to ride “The Haunted Mansion” or whatever. I think it’s kind of funny that they used those demure long-skirted CMs as crowd control!

Penna. Andrew, ha, I didn’t notice, but yes they used “tribal” five times. I suppose they didn’t want to use any term that could possibly offend. I don’t know, is “native” bad? Possibly. “Tribal” worked, even if they used it too many times.

stu29573, really?? Do they still do the parade there?

DrGoat, what about the “Disneyland Celebrates the 1941 Animator’s Strike” parade?

Jonathan, I run into that problem all the time. “I saw that band in concert in 1986, that wasn’t very long ago”. “Uh, Major, that means it was 33 years ago”. D’OH! I love this panoramic format, there are more to come, but I wish there were LOTS more.

K. Martinez, I feel like I probably saw at least part of this parade, but you know me and parades… I often run away, like Dracula from garlic. What other parades do you like (not counting the Electrical Parade, which is on everyone’s list)? I think the last parade I sat through was a Christmas parade, and that was only because my date insisted on it. Boy was I antsy!

Irene, I have seen footage of the Simba parade and remember his fearsome roar. Was he animatronic, or was there a person inside puppeteering him? I'd love to know! Thank you as always for sharing these photos.

stu29573 said...

They don't do the parade at Animal Kingdom. They changed it into a sitdown show (in air conditioning!) called Festival of the Lion King. It's actually really good!

Anonymous said...

Wow, these are great photos. Thanks to Irene, Bruce & co. for recording these, in panoramic, no less.

Hard to believe the Lion King is that old. I really grew to dislike the soundtrack since my kids played it incessantly. We went to the stage play version in London, I think in 2005, and really enjoyed that. The staging and costumes were brilliant.

I must sound like a real curmudgeon when I say I don't like Disney parades, but they are a great opportunity to go ride Pirates or the Haunted Mansion, or even Indiana Jones, if it is working.

Thanks Major!


TokyoMagic! said...

Penna. Andrew, and anyone else who is interested. I shot video of the entire parade back in is a link to the video on YouTube: The Lion King Celebration/Parade

Dean Finder said...

Neat shots, I'd guess they were Kodak's Advanced Picture System that let you do panoramic and regular format shots on the same roll of film.

Major Pepperidge said...

stu29573, interesting, I’m trying to imagine how they use parade floats in a static indoor show, but apparently it works quite well.

JG, I know, I still remember talking to people about The Lion King when it came out. I like the movie, but confess that it isn’t my favorite. It made a fortune, so my opinion doesn’t matter much! And you and I agree about the parades, I have liked some, but often find them to be an inconvenience more than anything.

TokyoMagic!, I’ll have to check your YouTube footage out! Thanks for the link.

Dean Finder, I’m not aware of that “Advanced Picture System”, but I do remember disposable cameras that were specifically for panorama shots. I guess either one would have worked?

DrGoat said...

Worst parade ever Major. Light attendance.

Melissa said...

For a while in the mid-90s, I worked in the kids section of a department store. We sold some Disney DVD's, so there was usually one playing on a little TV by the register. I've seen The Lion King, Jumanji, The Return of Jafar, and Pocahontas more times than I could possibly count. (Oddly enough, I never got tired of the music from TLK or Pocahontas. Dialogue, sure, but not the music. Awesome soundtracks.)

Andrew said...

TokyoMagic! I did get the chance to watch the video, and wow, what a parade! Thanks for documenting it and sharing it here.

TokyoMagic! said...

Penna. Andrew, I'm glad you enjoyed it!