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Tune Thursday: Why "The Lion King" gets the lion's share of the attention on the Las Vegas Strip

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Tune Thursday: Why "The Lion King" gets the lion's share of the attention on the Las Vegas Strip

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In a town like Las Vegas, where virtually every building screams “Look at me!” …

Las Vegas Strips's neon lights and casinos
Copyright 2009 Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. All Rights Reserved

… how do you stand out from the crowd? Cut through all that visual clutter?

That was the challenge that Disney Theatrical & the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino faced when they decided to bring “The Lion King” to Las Vegas earlier this year.

The Lion King in Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas Nevada
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

To their way of thinking, it wasn’t enough to just retool the entrance of the old Mamma Mia! Theatre so that it could then have a Broadway-style marquee which trumpeted the arrival of this Tony Award-winner.

The Lion King theater box office in the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay
Photo by Jim Hill

I mean, sure, it made sense to slap “The Lion King” ’s logo up on the Mandalay Bay’s video marquee (Not to mention regularly running a clip from the show on that giant LCD screen that faces out onto the Strip) ...

The Lion King marquee at the Mandalay Bay Las Vegas hotel
Photo by Jim Hill

... as well as placing a few lit-from-behind “Lion King” posters around the registration desk.

The Lion King signs are everywhere in the hotel, even on columns
Photo by Jim Hill

But given the number of high profile Broadway hits (i.e. "Avenue Q," "Hairspray," "The Producers," "Monty Python's Spamalot") that have come into Vegas over the past few years with lots of flash & hype ... only to then have surprising short runs ... the folks at Disney Theatrical & Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino knew that they had to do more here. They couldn't just promote "The Lion King" as if it were some other show on the Strip. They had to get across the idea that the arrival of this Tony Award-winning musical in Las Vegas was a truly significant event. That Vegas visitors had to get seats to “The Lion King” was this show wasn't just a show. It was once-in-a-lifetime theatrical experience.

So the promotions department at Mandalay Bay went all out. They took that bold, stark yellow-and-black logo that Disney Theatrical had created for "The Lion King" back in 1996 when this acclaimed musical was first getting ready to open on Broadway and put it everywhere. You saw it in the airport. On the top of taxi cabs cruising the strip. Even on the Mandalay Bay Hotel's key cards.

The Lion King Stage show was even on the hotel key cards
Photo by Jim Hill

They also set stand-alone displays around the Hotel & Casino that showcased the show’s merchandise. As if to remind Guests that -- they wanted to show off to friends that they got to see "The Lion King" while they were vacationing in Vegas -- then these folks should drop by one of the three shops at Mandalay Bay that were dedicated to selling "Lion King" merch.

Lion King merchandise in the hotel shopping area
Photo by Jim Hill

But perhaps the most ingenious bit of on-site promotion was "“The Lion King Exhibit." Which Mandalay Bay hyped heavily out on the casino floor.

The Lion King logo on the side of rows of slot machines in the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay hotel
Photo by Jim Hill

This display was set up in Mandalay Place (You know, that upscale boutique mall that connects Mandalay Bay to the Luxor?) ...

Manadalay Place Lion King display
Photo by Jim Hill

... and features many of the models that Julie Taymor created back in the mid-1990s when she was initially trying to get a handle on how to translate Disney’s 1994 Academy Award-winning animated feature to the stage.

The Lion King Exhibit in Mandalay Bay hotel and Casino in Las Vegas
Photo by Jim Hill

Now you have to understand that this was a pre-existing asset. Something that Disney Theatrical lent the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino with the hopes that it would help hype the show. But -- as it turns out -- "The Lion King Exhibit" has turned out to be this huge draw for Mandalay Place. Managers from those 41 shops & restaurants located inside of this report a significant spike in sales (not to mention a huge increase in foot traffic) from all those people making special trips to Mandalay Place just to check out “The Lion King Exhibit.”

Of course, one of the nicest aspects about partnering with Disney Theatrical is that the Mouse is always looking for new & different ways to raise the profiles of its musical. Which is why -- yesterday -- in honor of "The Lion King" passes 50 million in worldwide attendance, Disney Theatrical flew the Las Vegas Company of "The Lion King" out to Southern California ...

The Lion King cast performing on the Dancing With The Stars Results show
The Las Vegas cast of "The Lion King" as they appeared
on this week's "Results Show" for  ABC's "Dancing with
the Stars." Photo by Adam Larkey.
Copyright 2009
ABC Television Network. All Rights Reserved

... where they then performed "Circle of Life" live on stage at Raleigh Studios during last night's broadcast of “Dancing with the Stars”  results show.

The Circle on Life number from Disney theatrical's The Lion King as performed on DWTS
This Macy's "Stars of Dance" number featured the greatest number of performers
ever to appear on the "Dancing with the Stars" stage.
Photo by Adam Larkey.
Copyright 2009 ABC Television Network. All Rights Reserved

Truth be told, ABC viewers got kind of a "Lion King" twofer last night. For -- following the Las Vegas cast's live performance of "Circle of Life" -- that Academy Award-winning song popped up yet again on the new sitcom that immediately followed "Dancing with the Stars," "Modern Family." Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) blared that Elton John tune on the stereo as -- just like Rafiki presents Simba to his subjects at the very start of the movie & the stage musical -- this proud new father carried his recently adopted Vietnamese daughter, Lily into the room to present to the Pritchett family.

Eric Stonestreet in ABC's Modern Family
Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) and his new daughter
on ABC’s “Modern Family.”
Photo by Ron Tom.
Copyright 2009 ABC Television Network.
All Rights Reserved

It’s times like this – when the millions of people who were watching ABC last night thought to themselves that “Maybe I should finally get around to buying some tickets for ‘The Lion King’” -- that the folks at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino are obviously rather happy that they had partnered with Disney Theatrical to bring this acclaimed musical to Las Vegas.

The Lion King ticket desk at the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay hotel and casino
Photo by Jim Hill

But -- by now -- I’m thinking that you already knew that.

Your thoughts?

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  • Am I missing something here?  I kept scrolling down waiting for the killer hook, it never came?

    I'm not seeing anything 'special' being done to promote this show.  A few displays and a TV appearance?

    Either way, I hope it works out for the show.  Vegas is so competetive!

  • Perhaps it would have been more helpful if the ever-ditzy Samantha Harris would have said that the Lion King performers were from the Las Vegas cast instead of announcing that the performers were from the Broadway cast.  There was no mention of Mandalay Bay either.

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