Observations: June 1, 2014 Lion King Reopening

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Jambo, Everyone! Welcome to our look at the very blustery opening day of the Festival of the Lion King. When FastPass+ were released just a couple days before, I jumped at the chance to see this show return after a six month closure. Unfortunately, I was only able to reserve the last show of the day. Around 1pm I couldn’t wait any longer and decided to head to the park and attempt to get into the 2pm show through the standby line, even though it was drizzling outside. The new theater looks great and fits in perfectly with the rest of Harambe.


I arrived at the theater at 1:45pm and hopped in the line. It wasn’t as long as I’d expected, but I noticed people were only trickling in a few at a time. When I was closer to the podium, I was advised that only standing room was available for the show. I didn’t remember this from the old theater, so I decided to check it out for you guys. Basically, Disney is allowing guests to stand on the staircases around the seating areas and at the very back of the theater. I was pushed off to one side, so my photos didn’t turn out at all. The below photo will give you an idea what this view is like. Full disclosure: this is an older photo from the previous theater.


Frankly, the view isn’t very good, and being crammed together isn’t comfortable. If you have the option of going to a different show time, I would skip standing room. When I emerged from the theater, the rain was falling a little harder, so I headed over to Flights of Wonder. I hadn’t tried this show in the rain before, so I was curious if it would be different. Ultimately, some things were cut, but it was still worth doing in the rain. Check out the crane below in the Karate Crane Stance!


After the show something happened I’d never seen before. The trainer came out and asked people to stay and help with training a bird. Apparently, they were having trouble with this bird getting confused and landing on audience members rather than completing the behavior! We all settled into our seats and waited while they played the show opening music. A beautiful pink bird popped out of the wall and started to fly across the stage until something spooked him. The poor bird squawked, floundered, and looked like he might just fall out of the air before landing back on the trainer. Everything was set for him to try again, and he completed the behavior perfectly the second time. I really hope we’ll see him in the show in the future, and it was so neat to be invited participate in an extra activity.


Unfortunately, after the show it was still raining. In Florida we don’t commonly get rain that just falls all day. Often we see a violent rain storm and then get back to sunshine! Because I expected the rain to pass quickly, I hadn’t followed my normal rain plan and only had an umbrella with me. Begrudgingly, I stopped by Flame Tree Barbecue for a snack and some relief from the storm. You can tell it was raining because even on a Saturday all the outdoor seating was empty.


After a bit of waiting, the rain finally let up, and I was able to snap a lovely photo of Expedition Everest before deciding to go wait in line for the Kilimanjaro Safaris.


The posted wait time was 30 minutes but I was in my seat in just 25 minutes. While I was waiting in line, the rain began to gently fall again. This time I didn’t mind since I was under cover and the animals normally love wet weather. This proved to be the case; as we started out our safari, the animals were all out enjoying the shower.


I even managed to get a good photo of the sable antelope! If you can believe it, in all my hundreds of safaris this is the one animal that I’ve never managed to get on film. Even during the Wild Africa Trek this guy eluded me. They always seem to be far away from the trucks, but the rain had lured them out! So here you are – the impossible to photograph sable antelope!


As we continued on it looked like every single giraffe was out and enjoying a snack! I’ve always told people Animal Kingdom is a great park to visit in the rain, and this is why. I was so glad I’d waited in the standby line for this experience!


But then, out of nowhere, the crazy storm I’d been waiting for all day appeared. I’m used to seeing heavy rain approach like a curtain, but this rain just started falling without warning. As you can see from the video below, it spooked the giraffes, and they all started running. At the very beginning of the video you can see one giraffe falling. It looks like it slipped, and I started my video when he had two feet in the air. You can hear our driver say he’s going to call it in. (Also, please forgive my slow focusing!)

I wish I had more to share from this safari, but it started raining sideways, and I couldn’t let my camera get soaked. True to form, the elephants were all swimming in their pools when we got to them. Oddly, the big cats were also very active in the rain. By the time our safari ended I was completely soaked! (Umbrellas are useless in Florida rain!) Ironically, I had a FastPass+ window that had just opened for Kilimanjaro Safaris. I figured I was already soaked, so why not? Anyway, I wanted to check on the giraffes and make sure they were still in one piece! As you can see from the photo below, they were doing just fine after their shower. 🙂


They white rhinos were also out enjoying all the fresh mud that was generated from the storm. About this time the rain stopped completely.


I didn’t crop this photo so you could get a look at the storm that soaked me in the background. After playing in the rain, all three lions were conked out.


After two safaris I was very ready to finally see Festival of the Lion King. I decided to go be the first person in line for the FastPass+ queue. When they stopped accepting FastPass+ for the 6pm show at 5:50pm, I asked if I could start the FastPass+ lline for the 7:00pm show and was assigned a place to stand. However, when I finally scanned my MagicBand 30 minutes later, I received the flashing blue ring of death!! My stomach dropped to my feet. It was the last show of the day, and I had my heart set on bringing you some great coverage! Luckily, the cast member confirmed they’d had some opening day issues and let me proceed. After another 20 minutes we were allowed into the theater. The show is even better than you remember it!


I wanted to bring you a mix of photos and videos during the show, but the tumbling monkeys are definitely better presented by video!

The costumes all looked as good as new, and the performers were at their absolute best!


The theater looks identical, and the show is exactly as you remember it. I’ve seen a few people disappointed that upgrades weren’t made, but I’m just happy they didn’t cut anything! Your favorite performers are even back in the show.


I’d heard from a few cast members that the roof of the building is taller, but that didn’t seem to be the case.


The audience participation during “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” is still my favorite part of the show. Please forgive the loud clapping and the cast member who kept jumping in front of my camera.

I could share a hundred more photos, but here are a last couple favorites. It’s so obvious that the cast are proud to be a part of this show. They all looked so happy to be back!

17  18

Of course, I had to film the finale for you! Please forgive the moment when things go a little dark. A tumbling monkey need a high five… and who am I to deny that?? (Stay tuned until the end for Simba!)

I hope you enjoyed visiting Animal Kingdom on a rainy day with me. Remember to make a rain plan for your trip! Does anyone have any questions or requests for a future observations post? Please let us know in the comments below. I always love to hear from you! 🙂

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Daisy Lauren

I'm just about the biggest Touring Plans fan ever and still pinching myself that they let me be part of the team! I love sharing all things Disney with you and always appreciate your ideas and feedback at: daisylauren@touringplans.com or @dizdaisylauren on twitter Above everything else THANK YOU for reading and commenting!

24 thoughts on “Observations: June 1, 2014 Lion King Reopening

  • June 5, 2014 at 8:06 am

    We were there the day before. They closed down much of the park around 3:30 due to thunder and lightning, but no rain. Looks like you had a much better safari, and it was clear first thing in the morning when we did ours. It’s good to know about the effect of the rain-I had never considered that before. (They were test flying the cockatoo that day as well).

    • June 5, 2014 at 3:39 pm

      Hey Jules! How cool that you got to see training too. I’ve never seen that before. We loved it! Sorry your safari wasn’t great. You never know with that ride. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  • June 5, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Great post! Tks. I’m looking forward to going to AK on a rainy day now to check out the Safari!

    • June 5, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      OMB – it’s Duffy! 😉

      I’m so glad you’re going to try a rainy safari! The’re the best. Just make sure you bring something to keep your paws dry.

      • June 5, 2014 at 4:28 pm

        Oh, Thanks for the tip! I get so excited I forget to pack my rain stuff.

  • June 5, 2014 at 11:03 am

    We also had a great experience on the first safari of the day on a very rainy day. We were bummed initially because we assumed the animals would all bed down in the rain, to the point that we almost skipped it for later. That would have been a huge mistake! Our driver quickly corrected our thinking, and he was right – it was easily the most active safari we’ve ever been on!

    • June 5, 2014 at 3:43 pm

      Hi There! I’m so glad you lucked into a rainy safari. Animal Kingdom is the best park for rain! 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  • June 5, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    I’m so glad the show hasn’t changed; it’s for sure my favorite part of Animal Kingdom and in my top 5 for all of WDW.

    • June 5, 2014 at 3:44 pm

      Hey Leslie! It’s up there for me too. I’m thrilled to have it back and be able to share it! Thanks for stopping by to see. 🙂

  • June 5, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Great review and tips. Thanks for sharing.

    • June 5, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      You’re so welcome – thank you more for reading and commenting! 😉

  • June 5, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    What is the “flashing blue ring of death”?

    • June 5, 2014 at 3:47 pm

      Hi Tina… oh dear, that is me making up words. When you scan your magic band either it turns green meaning it worked, or it flashes blue meaning something is wrong. I’ve started calling it the “flashing blue ring of death” just because I dread seeing it so much. Sorry for the confusion! (And hopefully you never see it anyway!)

  • June 5, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Hi Daisy,

    Another great post! Can’t wait to see this show in my September trip.
    Just in case you were wondering, the pretty pink bird you saw in Flights of Wonder (if it’s the one in your photo) is a Galah, a native in my homeland Australia!
    Can’t wait for the next post 🙂

    • June 6, 2014 at 7:53 am

      Hi Bec! Thanks so much – I wasn’t sure what kind of bird that was and I knew if I got it wrong I’d be in trouble! 😉 Flights of Wonder is my hubby’s favorite show. We see it just about every visit and there is almost always something knew and different. I hope you love it too. Thanks for stopping by! (Any requests for that next post??)

      • June 6, 2014 at 7:58 am

        My best friend is a huge bird fan so it’s a must see for our trip!
        I don’t know if there’s already a post out there but best seats for show viewing (particularly shows

      • June 6, 2014 at 8:00 am

        Whoops published too early.
        Particularly shows like The Lion King, Finding Nemo and Beauty & the Beast Live?

      • June 6, 2014 at 8:13 am

        Early or late – that is brilliant! Thanks for the awesome idea! 🙂

  • June 5, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    Hello, Daisy. I have a question: are there any shows or attractions that we can’t take pictures? I mean, I’m not stupid to try to take pictures while riding a rollercoaster, or use flash photography in a dark ride, but are there places where a cast member would come to me and say “excuse me sir, but pictures aren’t allowed here”?

    When I went to Japan, many places (not Disney) had signs prohibiting photography. Mainly stores (almost every store, in fact), but some malls and temples also had these signs. So when I went to Tokyo Disney, I was a little afraid that suddenly a cast member would scold me. Of course, even so I still filmed and photographed everything I wanted, but this time I wanted to be sure to focus on the fun part, not on the “OMG, am I really allowed to be doing this?” part.

    Since I’m already on the subject, it’s the first time I’m going to USA, so are non-Disney shops as strict about photos as Japan? In Japan there were these gigantic department stores, awesome shopping malls, shops filled with costumes for cosplay or with tons of action figures, but I couldn’t take a single picture of them… At places like Florida Mall, Best Buy, The Mall at Millenia, will someone kick me out for taking a few pictures?

    • June 6, 2014 at 8:10 am

      Leandro – hello my friend! I’m glad I can help with this one because lord knows I’ve tried to take photos everywhere! 😉

      I have been stupid enough to take photos while riding a roller coaster and I’ve never been asked to put my camera away. (That is at Disney, of course. At Universal some roller coasters are so crazy you can’t bring anything at all with you and everything goes in a locker.)

      Everywhere at Disney it will be clearly posted if you can’t take photos and there are very few attractions where that is the case. Stitches Great Escape comes to mind – for whatever reason they are incredibly strict about no photos in there. One thing just to be aware of at Disney is that if you have anything more than a “point and shoot” you’ll normally be told personally before EVERY ride that there is no flash photography. It happens to me almost every dark ride I board. (Just don’t want you to think you’re being singled out.) Normally, if there is a photo policy it will be clearly announced. At lion king they even allow flash photos.. but I couldn’t do that to the performers!

      At public places I’ve never been asked to put my camera away. Of course, if you’re taking photos of a person they will be uncomfortable and may say something. But if you just want to get photos of stores and merchandise you should be fine. The last time I was fooling around with my camera in Best Buy an employee actually approached me that had the same camera and showed me some neat video features!

      Now I’m wondering if I should bother bringing my gear to walk around Tokyo. I never would have thought they’d be so strict in public places! Thanks for the heads up! 🙂

      • June 6, 2014 at 10:53 am

        Thanks for the answers, Daisy. I don’t know if I will go back to WDW in the next few years because of the extremely high cost to me, so I want to take pictures and videos of everything I can. And it’s also good to know that even outside Disney I will not be afraid to take some pictures.

        About Japan, on the good side they never asked to erase the pictures I had already taken. So when I REALLY wanted to take pictures of somewhere I knew I couldn’t, I just pretended I didn’t know and took some pictures anyway and when someone came to me to say that pictures weren’t allowed, I just apologised and put the camera back in my pocket (maybe that’s one of the reasons they don’t really like foreigners 😛 ). I also had another “technique” that I kept my point and shoot in my hand, I turned it on while my hand was still down, then in a few seconds I raised my hand and quickly took a photo without looking at the camera to avoid raising suspicion. Some of them came out unfocused and whatnot, but it’s better to have something than nothing at all.

        I’m not really proud of using the “jeitinho brasileiro” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeitinho), but in a once in a lifetime vacation…

  • June 5, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    Have the touringplans for Animal Kingdom been updated with the new location for the Lion King? It looks like the one day plan for small children still has you walking over to Camp Minnie Mickey

    • June 6, 2014 at 8:11 am

      Hi Sarah – I would assume that the plan would still be the same regardless of location but I’ll check in with the smart guys to find out. 🙂 Thanks for pointing that out.

  • June 7, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    Yay, thanks for that great blog again! I’m so, so happy, that Festival of the Lion King is finally back and as great as it always was! I’m very glad too, that they didn’t make any big changes to it! Even a day in the Florida rain can be very awesome! 🙂 Poor, cute giraffe though. I hope he/she was okay after that fall. The giraffes and the white rhinos are my favorites out there! Thanks for sharing and “read ya real soon”!


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