Disneyland Monorail

Behind the Scenes of ‘The Lion King – Concert in the Wild’ for Harambe Nights at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on June 4th, 2014 by Shawn Slater, Communications Manager, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Creative Entertainment


Back in 1998, I had the good fortune to be part of the opening team in Africa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Thanks to the impressive work of the Imagineers who created it, the park’s fictional village of Harambe became a very real place to us, with a rich history and vibrant population. The village took its name from the Swahili word “harambee,” which is roughly defined as “pulling together to create something greater than its parts.” For Harambe Nights, the new special event debuting at Disney’s Animal Kingdom this week, the citizens of Harambe village are doing just that to create an epic theatrical celebration of Disney’s “The Lion King.”

“On this grand occasion of the film’s 20th anniversary, the people of Harambe have pulled together to present the beloved ‘Lion King’ story to visiting guests in a new way,” said Show Director Marsha Jackson-Randolph. “The village storyteller hosts, the Harambe choir sings, the best dancers dance, and the Sangoma shaman works his mystical powers as iconic scenes of the film appear to come to life in the authentic African tradition of a ‘Story Circle.’ And there’s more excitement! Harambe’s Town Council has invited a 25-piece guest orchestra and a celebrity guest narrator to join them each night.”

During a recent rehearsal, Marsha gave us a behind-the-scenes look at some of the tremendous work going into the staging of this all-new show, “The Lion King – Concert in the Wild,” and her close collaboration with noted South African Choreographer Warren Adams, whose impressive credits include Broadway’s “Motown the Musical,” the Hong Kong production of “The Lion King,” “Of Mice and Men” with James Franco, and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” starring Neil Patrick Harris.

I got goose bumps just watching the cast rehearse and can’t wait to see all the elements of the show come together in the Harambe Theatre. Of course, the only way to experience “The Lion King – Concert in the Wild” for yourself is to get a ticket to Harambe Nights, and they’re going fast!

Harambe Nights takes place from 7 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. every Saturday, June 7 – August 9, 2014. The celebrity narrators scheduled to appear each night as part of “The Lion King – Concert in the Wild” include*:

  • June 7 – Viola Davis: “The Help,” “Doubt,” “How to Get Away with Murder” – SOLD OUT
  • June 14 – Avery Brooks: “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “American History X”
  • June 21 – Montego Glover: “The Following,” “Memphis”
  • June 28 – David Alan Grier: “Porgy & Bess,” “In Living Color”
  • July 5 – Michael Beach: “ER,” “Third Watch,” “Sons of Anarchy”
  • July 12 – Harry Lennix: “The Blacklist,” “The Five Heartbeats”
  • July 19 – Joe Morton: “Scandal,” “American Gangster,” “The Good Wife”
  • July 26 – Alfre Woodard: “Desperate Housewives,” “Miss Evers Boys”
  • August 2 – Brian Stokes Mitchell: “Ragtime,” “Trapper John, M.D.,” “Glee”
  • August 9 – Patina Miller: “Pippin,” “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1”

Tickets are $119 for adults, $79 for ages 3-9, plus tax, and include parking, a Welcome Reception, the 55-minute theatrical experience, two hours of additional live entertainment during the Harambe Nights Street Party, and amazing food and drinks throughout the evening. For tickets, visit Disneyworld.com/HarambeNights or call 407-939-1319.

(*Entertainment subject to change)

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Alex and Ani Add ‘Character’ to the Disney Parks Collection

posted on June 3rd, 2014 by Michelle Harker, Manager, Merchandise Marketing & Communications, Disneyland Resort


UPDATE 6/4: Exciting news Disney fans! We actually just got news that the Disney Collection by Alex and Ani bangles just arrived!  Look for them starting today at the locations listed below.

I adore Alex and Ani bangles from Disney Parks! Curious as to what Alex and Ani is all about? Before I started collecting them, I was too.

Carolyn Rafaelian, Founder, Creative Director and Chief Executive Officer of Alex and Ani, hails from a family of jewelers where mastering their craft was not only an aspiration, but a family tradition. For more than 10 years, the lifestyle company, named after her first two daughters, has helped spread positive energy across the globe with its hand-crafted, eco-conscious and Made in America products. The Alex and Ani Disney Collection, featuring signature expandable (yes, they are adjustable for the perfect fit) wire bangles with Disney icons and characters are truly the perfect combination of pixie dust and positive energy.

Alex and Ani Add ‘Character’ to the Disney Parks Collection

How could the collection, currently made up of more than eight different Disney symbols, birthstones and initials, get any better? Perhaps something to complement the Disneyland park Sleeping Beauty Castle and Magic Kingdom Park Cinderella Castle bangles? New bangles with signature icon charms inspired by Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will debut at Walt Disney World Resort beginning June 5. Joining that list in late June is Mickey’s Fun Wheel from Disney California Adventure park.

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Or if, like me, you choose to embrace your Disney Side and live your life full of character, take note of what I’m about to show you. Also debuting June 5 is the one and only Tinker Bell, as well as a Dated 2014 bangle.
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Something else to keep on your radar are new bangles, featuring Aurora, Belle and Cinderella, releasing June 30 online and at Disney Parks.

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Are you as excited as I am? Then be sure to check back to learn about even more additions to the Disney Collection by Alex and Ani. I know you want me to tell you now, but where’s the fun in that? If I have to wait, so do you!

A fashion essential, these Alex and Ani bangles, available in both Rafaelian Gold and Rafaelian Silver finishes are the ideal keepsake for fans of all ages and are sure to evoke magical memories for years to come!

Tip: You can wear just one, or layer them together, truly making the look your very own.

So where are the best places to find them?

Disneyland Resort

Walt Disney World Resort

Online – Shop Now!

Which ones have you added to your collection, or are you most excited to get? Don’t even get me started with my list.

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Filed: Disney California Adventure Park, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort, Downtown Disney, Downtown Disney District, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Sneak Peek at First-Ever Nighttime Party at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on May 31st, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


Harambe Nights kicks off in just about a week on June 7, and we got a taste of the amazing celebration that stretches Disney entertainment and dining to new heights.

Early in the evening, the new Harambe Theatre and “The Lion King – Concert in the Wild” is the center of attention, with emotional music performed by a live choir and 25-piece orchestra, the back-up for such talented performers – we were mesmerized as we watched scenes from the blockbuster film come to life in a whole new way.

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The Walt Disney World Resort chefs are hard at work too – after the performance, Harambe Village lights up with a lively street party where the food takes center stage. The menu took weeks of planning by Chefs Robert Gilbert and Leonard Thompson, working in symphony with Chef David Njoroge at Sanaa restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, a native of Kenya who embraces true African-style cooking.

Before the show gets started, you get a little taste of the African and Indian cuisine with small bites such as Moroccan beef kefta with tamarind glaze and a mini-cheeseburger with tomato curry aioli. And just for fun, as you watch the show, there’s a cute little container of “Lion Chow,” a mix of pretzel chips benne (sesame) crumbles, cardamom candied pecans, raisins, cherries and ginger.

The evening is a culinary journey with aromatic spices – you’ll smell the lamb cooking, and get a taste of warm naan bread hot off the griddle. The aromatic spice of Africa create a mélange of amazing tastes – so be adventurous if you haven’t tried something like eggplant tikka masala or crispy pappadum crackers. But you’ll find plenty of familiar flavors too, as the cuisine of America’s South borrows plenty of tastes from Africa, such as barbecued pork (served with a delicious polenta) or simple roast chicken.

With all those diverse bites, naan, an Indian flatbread, is the perfect accompaniment. We can almost guarantee you’ll wish for another taste once you are home, so we’re sharing the recipe without the traditional tandoor oven – just use a pizza stone in the oven or your grill. Harambe Nights takes place every Saturday from June 7 through August 9. The welcome reception begins at 7 p.m., showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $119 for adults, $79 for ages 3-9, plus tax. Capacity is limited. For tickets, call 407-939-1319 or visit Disneyworld.com/HarambeNights.

Naan Bread
Makes 5 (8-inch) breads

3 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 cup milk
2/3 cup warm water
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 tablespoons butter, melted

  1. Combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; stir to combine.
  2. Combine milk, water, and oil in a medium bowl; whisk to combine.
  3. With the mixer running, pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. As soon as the mixture comes together, switch attachment to a dough hook, and mix until dough is smooth and no longer sticky. Do not over-mix.
  4. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.
  5. Place a pizza stone on a top rack of the oven, positioned approximately 6 inches below the broiler. Preheat oven to 500° for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Divide dough evenly into 5 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into an 8-inch circle.
  7. Turn oven to broil. Carefully slide one circle of dough onto the preheated pizza stone, and broil until bread is bubbled and golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Watch carefully, as the bread can burn very quickly. Repeat with remaining dough rounds. Brush the warm bread with melted butter, and serve immediately.
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Disney Parks After Dark: The Boneyard at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on May 29th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


This week’s “Disney Parks After Dark” image was snapped at the Boneyard at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Is this one of your child’s favorite places to explore during the day? The dino skeleton at night sure looks pretty cool, too.

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‘Festival of the Lion King’ Returns To Disney’s Animal Kingdom June 1

posted on May 29th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


Festival of the Lion King,” the popular musical stage show that originated at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 1998, will debut at the brand-new Harambe Theatre in the Africa section of the park on June 1.

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In case you aren’t familiar, the show tells the tale of Disney’s “The Lion King” through acrobatics, dance, music and puppetry. The show is a daily park offering and is performed multiple times a day (check your My Disney Experience App or the park’s Times Guide for showtimes. Entertainment is subject to change).

Are you a longtime fan of “Festival of the Lion King”? What do you love most about this show? Tell us in the “Comments” section below.

For more on “Festival of the Lion King,” click the links below:

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Summertime is Underway at Disney Parks

posted on May 24th, 2014 by Erin Glover, Social Media Director, Disneyland Resort


We just wrapped up the Rock Your Disney Side 24-hour event here at Disney Parks – our big kick-off to summer! There’s so much to see and do at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts this summer … here’s a peek:
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At Walt Disney World Resort, the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opens on May 28. The crowning jewel of New Fantasyland, the largest expansion in Magic Kingdom Park history, this new attraction takes guests on a rollicking musical ride into the mine “where a million diamonds shine.”

Also at Magic Kingdom Park, the new Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade features innovative parade floats, vibrant costumes and an original soundtrack that includes songs from favorite Disney films along with a new parade theme song.

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the popular “Festival of the Lion King” returns this summer in the new Harambe Theatre. The park will offer Harambe Nights on Saturday evenings, June 7 through August 9, featuring a dazzling theatrical experience and energetic street party to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Disney’s film, “The Lion King.”
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At the Disneyland Resort, guests can enjoy the newly reopened and enhanced Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, along with dazzling summer entertainment that, beginning in mid-June, will include “Frozen” characters in a special pre-parade float for Mickey’s Soundsational Parade. The pre-parade unit features Queen Elsa, Princess Anna and snowman Olaf.

Other summer entertainment in Disneyland includes daily performances of “Mickey and the Magical Map,” nightly performances of both “Fantasmic!” and “Magical” fireworks spectacular and a variety of new entertainment daily in Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree. At Disney California Adventure park, guests continue to enjoy Cars Land and the popular nighttime offerings, “World of Color” and Mad T Party.

What are you looking forward to this summer at Disney Parks? Let us know in the comments!

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Harambe Nights Street Party to Bring Out Your ‘Wild Side’ at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on May 22nd, 2014 by Shawn Slater, Communications Manager, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Creative Entertainment


The citizens of Harambe, the African village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, are preparing to welcome you this summer to a special event like none ever held before. Among other things, Harambe Nights will feature an all-new show, “The Lion King – Concert in the Wild,” celebrating the 20th anniversary of Disney’s “The Lion King” with a live orchestra, choir, dancers, animation, special effects, and a celebrity guest narrator.

I’ll have an update soon on everything happening behind the scenes to bring “The Lion King – Concert in the Wild” to life. While this theatrical experience will certainly be a highlight of the evening, once the show comes to its dramatic conclusion, the celebration is just getting started!

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Following the show, everyone is invited into the village for the Harambe Nights Street Party, a festive gathering of music and fun with a delicious, all-inclusive African-inspired menu.

“Harambe Nights Street Party is a totally immersive experience,” said Show Director Forrest Bahruth. “There will be opportunities for guests to get involved, to dance, to be entertained or just to relax and enjoy the evening.”

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The Harambe Nights Street Party fills the village streets with Afro-pop music from the Harambe Nights Band and DJ Khalifa, beloved Disney characters, stilt walkers, and specialty performers, encouraging everyone to join in and “Go wild!” You can even show your true wild side with some cool, glow-in-the-dark face painting and other opportunities to join in the fun.

“Our guests are going to come away from Harambe Nights, not only with memories of the 20th anniversary of ‘The Lion King,’” said Forrest, “but also the tastes and excitement of Africa and a feeling that they are a part of the great ‘Circle of Life.’ It’s going to be fantastic!”

Harambe Nights takes place every Saturday from June 7 – August 9, 2014, with a Welcome Reception starting at 7 p.m. and a 7:30 p.m. show time for “The Lion King – Concert in the Wild.” Tickets are $119 for adults, $79 for ages 3-9, plus tax. Great seats are still available for all nights, but capacity is limited. For tickets, visit Disneyworld.com/HarambeNights or call 407-939-1319.

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New Merchandise Coming to Harambe Nights at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Starting June 7

posted on May 22nd, 2014 by Steven Miller, Merchandise Communications Manager


Harambe Nights T-Shirt Coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom

The opening scene to Disney’s “The Lion King” is one of the best sequences I think Disney has ever created (I can still remember seeing it in a theatre nearly 20 years ago). My favorite character from the film is Zazu as he shares the latest news from the kingdom (plus he talks a lot, just like me). My fellow author Pam Brandon recently discussed the fantastic menu of global flavors coming to Harambe Nights, the special Lion King-themed events taking place every Saturday from June 7 – August 9, 2014 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. Her article inspired me to write this “Merchandise Report” that highlights new items coming to the events like the T-shirt shown above.

New Merchandise Coming to Harambe Nights at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Featuring Puzzle, Pins and D-Tech on Demand Phone Cases

For Harambe Nights, the Disney Pin Team will release a Lion King-themed mystery pin set. There are 10 puzzle pins (900 edition size each) and two chaser pins (600 edition size each) in this set. One randomly selected pin is included in each mystery box. Once all the pins are acquired, you can place them together to form a picture.

Speaking of puzzles, the toy team recently introduced a new Disney Signature Puzzles. You may recall seeing the first of these puzzles at Star Wars Weekends 2014 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The next 1,000 piece puzzle in this collection contains some beautiful artwork by Disney Design Group artist Darren Wilson.

New Merchandise Coming to Harambe Nights at Disney’s Animal Kingdom - Timepiece

Other items will include two D-Tech on Demand cases for the iPhone 5/5S and a specially designed timepiece.

New Merchandise Coming to Harambe Nights at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Featuring Passholder Coin

For Annual Passholders, we will introduce a 39mm silver plated coin that also commemorates the 20th anniversary of the film (edition size of 2,014).
These items will be found at Mombasa Marketplace located in Harambe Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park during the events.

On June 7, you can meet Disney Design Group artist Costa Alavezos who designed some unique artwork for the event. He will meet with guests at Mombasa Marketplace during the evening. Future events will feature other Disney artists (keep watching DisneyParksMerchandise.com for additional details).

Capacity is limited for Harambe Nights, so you’ll want to plan ahead and get your tickets by visiting Disneyworld.com/HarambeNights or calling 407-939-1319.

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Wildlife Wednesdays: Can You Name These Animals? Hint: They’re All at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge or The Seas with Nemo & Friends

posted on May 21st, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


The United Nations has proclaimed May 22 International Day for Biological Diversity. Guests who visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot experience amazing biological diversity in the various species of animals that make their homes here.

Below are photos of just six of these animals. Can you identify them? Answers are at the bottom of the post.

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Each of us can help to protect the biological diversity of our planet through our everyday actions. Any action that reduces waste, saves water or keeps it clean, or reduces emissions can help make the world a better place for wildlife and all of us. For information on Disney conservation efforts, please visit www.disney.com/conservation.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Dazzling Array of African, Indian Flavors at Harambe Nights Street Party at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on May 16th, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


The countdown has begun to Harambe Nights Street Party, kicking off June 7 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – a spectacular nighttime addition in the park’s Harambe Village. With a never-before-seen performance in the new Harambe Theatre of “The Lion King – Concert in the Wild” that includes a live orchestra and choir, dancers, lots of drama and celebrity guest narrators (see Shawn Slater’s earlier post on the Disney Parks Blog), the evening’s culinary experience is like rich icing on the proverbial cake.

Shortly after arrival, you’ll nosh on appetizers like Moroccan beef kefta with tamarind glaze, pickled fennel paneer cheese with tomato, Durban-spiced chicken bites and a safari cheeseburger slider with tomato curry aioli. Pair with African-inspired wine and beer and get the party started. Be adventurous – the chefs have had great fun crafting a menu that introduces new flavor sensations. If you’re a fan of Jiko—The Cooking Place, Boma—Flavors of Africa or Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge or Tusker House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, chances are you’ve tried some of the fantastic global flavors on the menu. We have, and we can’t wait for the butter chicken with warm naan bread (a Sanaa favorite), or the spicy veggie samosa with mango chutney.

After the Welcome Reception, the food never ends – you even get a “Lion Chow” snack for the show – a salty-sweet combo of sea-salted pretzel chips, benne (sesame) crumbles, cardamom candied pecans, golden raisins, dried cherries and candied ginger.

The curtain closes and the street party opens, with live music, characters, live performers and dozens of savory dishes. We caught up with Chef Robert Gilbert for a little insider info:

Chef Robert, tell us about the menu.
When we began working on this menu it was all about harmonizing the Harambe Nights’ experience with the exquisitely refined influences of Africa’s diverse cuisines. We tried for balance, for seasonality, for local ingredients – and most of all an authentic experience.

What was your inspiration?
Disney isn’t just a theme park or resort, it evokes a feeling, and we tried to capture that feeling through an immersive food experience – it was a strong collaboration with Chef David Njoroge at Sanaa, a native of Kenya who embraces true African-style cooking.

How long did it take to develop the menu?
We did four tastings before the menu got the green light. And we had some of our chefs and cast members work with the Sanaa team to truly appreciate and understand what goes into African-style cooking. It took us more than a month to get it right.

What are some of the unique African ingredients in the dishes?
We use paneer, an Indian cheese similar to queso blanco, in the appetizer with pickled fennel. The kachumbari salad – kachumbari is a Swahili name for fresh tomato and onion salad – is a popular food in East Africa. We use masala spice blend. And, of course, the traditional naan bread with chutneys and pickles is a favorite of guests.

Do you have a favorite dish?
That’s easy – the butter chicken with basmati rice – you can’t eat just one piece, it’s that good.

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Chef Robert shared the menu with us, subject to tweaks, but here’s a look at the dazzling array of flavors:

Fresh Cooked Breads, Salads and More
Watercress, melon, feta and berry balsamic onion salad
Kachumbari salad with tomato, paneer, carrot and cilantro
Roasted beetroot salad with sunflower seeds
Creamy mac ‘n cheese
Spicy vegetable samosa with mango chutney
Traditional naan, onion kulcha and pappadum breads
Roasted pepper hummus, raita and garlic-ginger pickle

Surf and Turf
Mango, radish, lime and mustard seed salad
Watermelon, cucumber and fennel salad
Coriander chutney roasted potatoes
Line-caught corvina filet with goan curry sauce
On-stage-seared lamb chops with tamarind pomegranate sauce

Slow-cook Action Stations
Fork-tender peri barbecued pork
Vegetarian eggplant tikka masala curry served over creamy goat cheese pap
Butter chicken thighs
Vegetarian legume wat served over basmati rice

Sweets
Golden pineapple with toasted coconut
Apple slices with Amarula caramel sauce
Ripe melon with minted lime yogurt dip
Rice pudding, dried fruit compote and pistachio gremolata
Caramel salted Tanzania chocolate Kenya coffee bite
Chai cream with zebra stripes
Ice cream bars

Harambe Nights is every Saturday from June 7 – August 9, with the Welcome Reception starting at 7:00 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m., it’s show time. Tickets are $119 for adults, $79 for ages 3-9, plus tax. Tickets with premium floor seating are $134 for adults, $94 for ages 3-9, plus tax. Capacity is limited. For tickets, Disneyworld.com/HarambeNights or call 407-939-1319.

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