Why The Lion King is One of the Most Critically Underused IPs in the Disney Parks

Rafiki Takes a Selfie at Disneyland

The Lion King has always stood out among Disney films. Even in its era, the much-beloved Disney Reinassance, it was seen as something different and remains one of the most popular Disney films to this day. Considering it doesn't feature a prominent princess (that they promote) this is a testament to its quality. Beyond that, it is also Disney's most successful Broadway production as well as being the subject of possibly the most hyped remake in Disney history.

But as for a presence in the Disney Parks, there are many films with a lot more than it throughout the many lands of the parks. Films like The Little Mermaid continue to have a larger roster of attractions and shows than The Lion King despite not being as big of a hit.

So let us look at the Lion King presence in each of the Disney Resorts. For the purpose of this article, we are only looking at permanent offerings, not seasonal shows being used to promote the live-action remake.

Disneyland Resort

So what does The Lion King have at the original Disney Resort? Really nothing. Timon is a part of the Disney Jr. show and there's the Simba segment of Mickey's Philharmagic but beyond that, it's like the movie never existed. It shows up as a part of the fireworks whenever Disneyland Forever is being used, or for about 5 seconds of World of Color, but that's really it. There's no meet and greets, and now without a daily afternoon parade, the characters make no appearances in the parks on a regular basis, besides Rafiki occasionally appearing at Minnie's Plaza Inn Character Breakfast. This is less than almost any other movie of its popularity.

Walt Disney World

Probably the resort with the most Lion King is Walt Disney World. It features Festival of the Lion King, the show that was intended to be a temporary attraction to replace the canceled Beastly Kingdom that is still there to this day (in a new location). This show utilized the retired Lion King parade from Disneyland to create a show inspired by the movie with great live performers and animatronics. Beyond this there is Rafiki's Planet Watch, really themed to the Lion King in name only, with a few cut out characters throughout the land. Inside the Animation Experience does utilize characters from the film, but the experience itself is the same regardless of what character you draw. Songs from the movie are also used in the new version of Rivers of Light, but that's it in the park.

Outside of Disney's Animal Kingdom, there is little from The Lion King to be found. Disney's Hollywood Studios has nothing, beyond maybe a character in the finale of Fantasmic. Epcot might have a topiary or two depending on the time of year now that Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable is defunct.

The Magic Kingdom does have a small Lion King presence. There's the Philharmagic scene, as well as Mufasa speaking during Happily Ever After. But that's it for the resort's flagship park.

Tokyo Disney Resort

This resort, the most popular overseas, also really does not showcase The Lion King. I'm not including parades here because they are a lot shorter-lasting than in the states so that won't count for its presence. The movie does have a long section of Tokyo DisneySea's Fantasmic, but that is really it. There aren't even meet and greets with the characters, which is crazy because characters are insanely popular in Tokyo.

Disneyland Paris

This park is spotty. There can be a lot with seasonal festivals, but without them there is nothing. There is a new Lion King show in Frontierland for some reason, and the characters wander Adventureland. It also has the same Philharmagic from other parks, but that's it.

Hong Kong Disneyland

This is the smallest Disney Resort, but it has a relatively large Lion King presence. It features the same Festival of the Lion King from Disney's Animal Kingdom. Beyond that, it can be featured in a fireworks show.

Shanghai Disneyland

Shanghai Disneyland, being the newest Disney Resort, you would expect it to have more dedicated to The Lion King. You would be wrong. All it has is a Timon and Rafiki meet and greet.

For an animated property that has proven to be so popular, it is shocking how little it has been showcased in the Disney Parks. Its main attractions are a segment of a 3D show that's beginning to show its age and an amazing stage show that was intended to be temporary. No ride has ever existed for this park and it hasn't even been prominently featured in fireworks. Despite how popular the movie still is, there is relatively little still in the parks from it. The closest we ever got to a Lion King-themed land is the section at the Art of Animation Resort.

With new projects always coming we may still get a Lion King ride someday but for now, it is just an oddity in the Disney Parks. An insanely popular movie that has remained popular for over 25 years, with little from it to enjoy at the Disney Parks.