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Why Doesn’t The Lion King Have a Bigger Presence at Disney Parks?

simba, rafiki, and nala
Credit: Disney

It’s no mystery that Disney Parks are populated by the world of film, but what does often leave us scratching our heads is why certain properties don’t have a big presence. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that there are a number of IPs that are underused at Disney Parks, with perhaps the biggest example being The Lion King.

rafiki holding baby simba

Credit: Disney

Released in 1994, The Lion King became an instant classic and spawned two straight-to-video sequels and video games. It has since been adapted to the stage too, and in more recent years, was given the live-action treatment, which stars Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Seth Rogen.

So to suggest that this franchise has been ignored over the years would be a lie, but it still doesn’t get the attention it deserves in the parks.

So then, why doesn’t The Lion King have a bigger presence at Disney Parks? And how can you currently get your fix for all things Hakuna Matata? Let’s find out!

timon holding grubs

Credit: Disney

Merchandise & Food

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of Lion King-themed merchandise and food at Disney Parks. Where things like gifts, souvenirs, collectibles, and toys are concerned, you won’t get lost in the mighty jungle as you shop around.

One store definitely worth calling out is Mariya’s Souvenirs located in Africa at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Park, where you’ll find all sorts of royal merchandise and memorabilia inspired by the beloved franchise.

As for food, Restaurant Hakuna Matata at Adventureland in Disneyland Paris is a themed eatery that’s adorned with artwork inspired by the animated film. And as you might have guessed, its theme revolves largely around our favorite meerkat and warthog-duo.

As for other Disney Parks, you’re likely to stumble upon some form of themed food, so you won’t need to go foraging for anything slimy-yet-satisfying under large rocks!

art of animation resort, timon, pumbaa, and simba sculpture

Credit: Disney


We appreciate that many characters from the ferocious franchise aren’t the kind you could enjoy a meet-and-greet with, mainly because they’re not of the anthropomorphic variety like characters from The Jungle Book (1967).

The only such characters are the likes of Rafiki and Timon who, at least up until the COVID-19 pandemic, you were able to meet in Magic Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. 

Other characters like Simba and Pumbaa are non-existent, although you were able to previously see them on parades.

With that said, there are ways for you to see your favorite characters in all their glory – if you’re ever lucky enough to stay at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort at Disney World, you’ll find stunning animation-style statues in their own ‘storybook landscape’.

lion kilimanjaro safaris animal kingdom

Credit: Disney

Safaris – ‘The Lion King’ In Real Life 

Speaking strictly of Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Park, there’s a strong argument to be made that The Lion King has more presence here than at any other Disney Park around the world, but not in the way you might think.

We’re not talking about previous character greetings, previous shows such as Disney Kite Tails or Tree of Life Awakenings, or even Festival of the Lion King – we’re talking about “everything the light touches” where the park’s wildlife is concerned.

In other words, you can see the real thing at this park – the Pride Lands in all their glory (with boundaries, of course).

Can’t find Simba, Timon or Pumbaa at Disney Parks? Never mind, because Africa’s Kilimanjaro Safaris allows you to see real lions, meerkats and warthogs – what more could you want? While of course they aren’t ‘officially’ Lion King-related, if it’s the real thing you’re after, it doesn’t get any better than this.

festival of the lion king

Credit: Ryan Wallace, Unsplash

‘The Lion King’ Live Shows

We’re not quite sure where to start when it comes to stage musicals that are based on the original animated film, because to date there have been seven iterations at Disney Parks.

The latest, however, comes in the form of The Celebration of the Festival of the Lion King, which has been hugely popular since it was reopened following the pandemic. The show is a dazzling spectacle that features characters and songs from the classic movie.

Previous versions of the show have included The Lion King Celebration and The Tale of the Lion King (Disneyland California), Festival of the Lion King (Walt Disney World and Hong Kong Disneyland), Legend of the Lion King (Disney World) and The Legend of the Lion King and The Lion King: Rhythms of the Pride Lands (Disneyland Paris).

So as you can see, there’s definitely no shortage of themed musicals at the Disney Parks.

lion king "i just can't wait to be king"

Credit: Disney


The closest we’ve ever had to a Lion King-themed attraction is Legend of the Lion King, one of the shows that used to play at Disney World.

Not to be confused with the show of the same name at Disneyland Paris, the Magic Kingdom version used life-size puppets instead of human actors. And the puppets were the same ones you’d normally see on one of the Disney Park parades, which really helped make this show feel more like an attraction.


Credit: Disney

It’s strange that we’re yet to see an attraction based on the popular animated film. After all, there are rides based on the likes of Beauty and the Beast (1991) and The Little Mermaid (1989), so why not The Lion King?

We’d love to explore the Pride Lands where audio-animatronic characters interact with one another, evade deadly stampedes in deep canyons, cower in elephant graveyards and marvel as Mufasa’s spirit materializes in the heavens above!

mufasa in the clouds

Credit: Disney

Disney Parks aren’t completely lacking in The Lion King experiences, even if Disney World does appear to be giving the franchise the most attention. Let’s just hope that this iconic IP takes its true place in the parks one day.

After all, no Disney Park should exist without a Pride Rock-inspired centerpiece. But to get more of your character-fix, keep your eyes peeled for the likes of Simba, Timon and Pumbaa as part the Disney Fab 50 Character Collection at Disney World.

Would you like to see more of The Lion King at Walt Disney World? Tell us about it in the comments below!

About Daniel

Dan is a huge fan of Star Wars, Disney, Jurassic Park, Ghostbusters, TMNT and Harry Potter, and has written for numerous film-focused and Disney-related sites, including Epicstream, Theme Park Tourist and Homey Hawaii. He has also recently completed his first children's novel, which he hopes to get published within the next year.

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