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Disneyland Paris' new "Roars of the Lion King" seems to be winning over audiences.

Disneyland Paris' new "Roars of the Lion King" seems to be winning over audiences.

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If you visited Disneyland Resort Paris this year, you couldn't escape the fact that the European resort is celebrating one of Disney's most beloved animated features ever, "The Lion King." Ten years after its original theatrical release (and in conjunction with the release of the special 2-disc DVD set), Disneyland Paris's Entertainment Division went completely overboard and decided that 2004 should become 'the year of The Lion King'.

A first glimpse of this yearlong celebration could be had during the annual Carnival season. Up to 4 times a day, guests could experience a immensely colourful celebration of life on a specially constructed Pride Rock that was located right on front of Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant. This Circle of Life ceremony - which was immensely popular with the park's guests - was nevertheless only the tip of the iceberg.

The thing that fans had most been looking forward, which only premiered only a month ago was a musical adaptation of this Disney classic which follows the story of the original 1994 animated feature pretty closely.

Expectations were admittedly very high. But I'm happy to report that "Roars of the Lion King" delivers, winning over audiences in a heartbeat with its unique mix of atmosphere, music, characters and story. The show - which is staged up to 5 times a day at the theatre/restaurant Videopolis in Discoveryland - incorporates all the songs from the film and even some of the songs featured in the "Lion King" Broadway musical. These songs play an important role in telling the story as the dialogue is kept to an absolute minimum in order to ensure that the many non-English/non-French speaking visitors wouldn't be left in the dark and could enjoy the show just as well.

Thus, as these songs are a key ingredient as to whether the public could relate and enjoy the show, it is only logical that DLP tried to contract the crème de la crème of the musical industry. And they succeeded:

  • In the role of Simba, guests can recognise Gino Amnes and Roger Wright. Wright should be recognised by many UK Disney fans as the original Simba in the London West End production of "The Lion King" musical.
  • For the role of Rafiki the casting department laid their eyes on Augustinus Hope who could recently be seen in the West End version of "Ragtime."

In addition Vasile Sirli, Disneyland Paris' musical director, composed a brand new score based on the soundtrack of the original movie. A full-blown orchestra of 60 performers was gathered in Los Angeles to record part of this score. This number of performers is rather unique for a theme park show, as even most shows on Broadway on in London's West End don't even make use of such an elaborate orchestration.

As far as the technical side of the show is concerned credit has to go to Barnd Arnould, the set designer of the resort, and Olivier Lecolle, the head of special effects.

Arnould really shines in his work on the show as he ordered an extreme makeover of the original Videopolis stage covering the whole set in detailed rockwork. The depth and details of the set not only seem to intensify the atmospheric lightning that is used throughout this musical adaptation, but also create a certain mood that engrosses the audience even more in the experience.

As for the special effects, they are abundant. From the clever use of smoke screens in the Elephant Graveyard, to the bursts of fire during the final battle between Simba and Scar. The thing that is most noticeable though is the huge water screen that has been erected on stage and on which scenes from the movie are projected to flesh out the story.

For example: the wildebeest stampede was not really something that could be done in real life on stage. So, a scene of the stampede of the movie is projected on the water screen with the show Simba running in slow motion in front of it. A real treat for the eye and very effective as well.

When you read all of this, you wouldn't be surprised that DLP's management had to chuck out some serious dough in order to get this show to its feet. In fact, this show has had the biggest budget ever for a show created at Disneyland Paris.

But the quality shows and the guest notice it too. In a survey conducted by DLP a few days after the show premiered, more than 80% of the interviewees praised the show and bestowed it with words like "amazing." "wonderful" and "truly magical."

And if the waiting times are any indication, guest's opinion hasn't changed much over the course of July. Don't bother trying to show up just in time for the show to begin. You won't have a seat if you didn't arrive up to 1 1/2 hours in advance. This all seems to indicate that this stage production is quickly becoming one of DLP' guests favourites.

In a way, this musical staging of "The Lion King" could be seen as a symbol that the magical touch is indeed returning to the European Magical Kingdom. This is not in a small way thanks to the new chairman of Euro Disney SCA, André Lacroix. He's been rather busy trying to spread some pixie dust all over the park with new shows premiering (EX. "Peter Pan To the Rescue," an all new show that is staged on the anchored boat of Captain Hook's Galley in Adventureland), new shows in development (I.E. A new show for the Castle Stage featuring all of Disney's beloved Princesses), the updating of attraction (FYI: In 2005, the flagship attraction of DLP, Space Mountain, will get a complete overhaul including a new theme) and the extensive refurbishment all over the resort which were much needed after the years of neglect caused by the previous management.

This is great news. Don't you think?

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