Via Napoli Restaurant, Italy Pavilion at Epcot

‘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.


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:
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.”
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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Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

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!


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.”


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 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 for additional details).

Capacity is limited for Harambe Nights, so you’ll want to plan ahead and get your tickets by visiting 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.


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

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.


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

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, or call 407-939-1319.

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Filed: Disney Dining, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesdays: World Turtle Day Celebrated May 20 at Epcot and Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on May 14th, 2014 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks

Guests can find out all kinds of fascinating information about turtles — including sea turtles like Crush and Squirt — and participate in a variety of activities for the whole family on May 20 when Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot celebrate World Turtle Day.


At Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, guests may see a turtle getting a veterinary exam, try on a replica of a turtle shell, get an up-close look at some of the turtles and tortoises that make their home at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and talk with cast members about the conservation work they are doing to help turtles and tortoises that live on conservation land right here at the Walt Disney World Resort and in springs, rivers and oceans around the state.


At The Seas with Nemo & Friends, children can climb through a full-size model of a turtle excluder device, used on fishing boats to prevent sea turtles from getting caught in nets. Families also can watch a sea turtle swimming gracefully by in the 5.7-million-gallon saltwater main aquarium, and play games that help them learn about the many threats turtles face, like getting entangled in trash and fishing line.


Starting on World Turtle Day and continuing through the nesting season, guests visiting Conservation Station at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, The Seas at Epcot, and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort can help turtles by adopting a sea turtle nest. Guests receive an adoption certificate complete with the date of adoption, the date the nest was laid, the species of sea turtle, and the nest number so they can track their nest online, a Squirt keychain and a Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) hero button.


Disney guests have adopted nearly 700 turtle nests so far, resulting in nearly $18,500 contributed to sea turtle conservation in Florida. Since its inception in 1995, the DWCF has contributed more than $1.2 million to sea turtle conservation around the world.

Upcoming 2014 events for connecting families with nature (as always, dates subject to change):

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom:

  • June 10: Pollinator Day
  • July 29: Big Cat Day
  • August 5: Primate Day
  • September 23: Elephant and Rhino Day

At The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot:

  • June 4: World Ocean Day
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‘Festival of the Lion King’ Cast Get a First Look at the New Harambe Theatre

posted on May 8th, 2014 by Shawn Slater, Communications Manager, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Creative Entertainment


The Harambe Theatre is nearing completion in the Africa section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. When it opens in June, the theater will be the new home for the immensely popular show, “Festival of the Lion King.” We tagged along recently, as the cast of “Festival of the Lion King” got a first look at their new theater, both onstage and backstage.

The cast is busy rehearsing in the Harambe Theatre now, getting everything ready for the triumphant return of this thrilling, musical extravaganza in just a few weeks!

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Wildlife Wednesdays: Colorful Macaws Take Flight in New Experience Coming This Summer to Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on May 7th, 2014 by Dr. Mark Penning, Director of Animal Operations, Disney Parks

I am thrilled to share first with Disney Parks Blog fans news about a new animal experience coming soon to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Stars of the show are flocks of macaws in a kaleidoscope of colors flying over and around the heart of the park — Discovery Island. Brought to you by the fantastic team that inspires and delights guests at our Flights of Wonder show in collaboration with Disney Creative Entertainment, “Winged Encounters — The Kingdom Takes Flight,” will debut this summer.


The macaws, with wingspans up to 60 inches, are now making short flights in the early morning hours at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in preparation for the debut of the new experience, which features six types of macaw: hyacinth, green-winged, blue and gold, scarlet, blue-throated and military.

In addition to seeing these colorful birds in flight, during up-close encounters, avian experts will share conservation stories about the macaws, the majority of which are endangered in their native Central and South America.

Be sure to watch Disney Parks Blog for more information about this new experience in the coming weeks.

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In Search of Yeti at the Expedition Everest Challenge at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on May 6th, 2014 by Robert Hitchcock, PR Manager/Content Producer, runDisney

More than 5,000 runners came in search of the Yeti during the Expedition Everest Challenge this past weekend. Participants braved the elements and conquered their fears as they ran 3.1 miles throughout Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The nighttime adventure included obstacles like jumping over hay bales and crawling under nets. After completing the 5K runners went back into the theme park for a scavenger hunt. Once participants solved four clues they were allowed to cross the finish line and receive their commemorative Compass finisher medal. It was a real “wild” night.

With the exception of few participants dressed as Yetis, there were no actual confirmed reports of a “real” Yeti sighting, and all runners are accounted for. We call that a success.

Here is a look at this year’s Expedition Everest Challenge and we hope to see you at next year’s event.

If you didn’t get the chance to join us this year and are interested in experiencing Disney in a whole new way by participating in events like these, you can visit and sign-up for the runDisney email and receive notifications about upcoming events. We also invite you to follow us on runDisney Facebook, Twitter @runDisney and on runDisney Instagram for exciting news and future opportunities.

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