Sunday, July 15, 2012

New location for Festival of the Lion King at DAK?

Disney is moving the meet and greet "character trails" from Camp Minnie-Mickey over to Discovery Island, to the Beastly Bazaar shop. This was announced to Cast Members back in June, so that much is certain. But this bit of news has led to much well-founded speculation. Why move the characters? The obvious implication is that they need the land for something else--Avatar, which is slated to start construction in 2013 and be done in 2016, when the next cycle of movies for the Avatar universe will be arriving in theaters (presumably with much hype).

That matches the chatter. Insiders whispered that the two plots of land considered for Avatar were behind Everest (an area once considered for Australia) and this land on Camp Minnie-Mickey. The current land was once slated for Beastlie Kingdomme, which is why the park's logo has a dragon on it and there's a stone dragon along the river, and the footprint for Beastlie Kingdomme was even bigger than Camp Minnie-Mickey. There's more space to the outsides, especially pushing out "into" the parking lot. That bump also looks enticingly like maybe an operational advantage. Could they keep this section of the park open later than everything else, and just funnel people out to the parking lot directly?

But for all of that to happen, they will need to remove the Festival of the Lion King arena. Will they just end the show? That seems unlikely. This show has the highest Guest satisfaction of ANY show in Walt Disney World; people just like the songs and react well to the themes. I agree. It's a great show.

So if not removing the attraction, one assumes they will MOVE it. But move it where? Some online musings suspected an area behind Tusker House, presently backstage. I'm not sure that's large enough.

I think they will build a new theater in the space "between" Africa and Asia, and call it part of Africa (where the Lion King is set). That makes more sense for a location for this theater anyway--why was it part of the Adirondacks-themed Camp Minnie-Mickey? (Answer: convenience).

If you're familiar with this path, it's "behind" the Tamu Tamu quick service window. There's a side path here that leads to a hut sometimes used for character interaction, but it's not a well-traveled path. And for those of you who know the park really well, you will remember there was a side path off the side path - a completely unpaved trail through the forest. It was a real break from the usual Disney experience; it was "wild" and that was the point. You even walked across a stream or two. Several years back, that unpaved trail was deemed operationally to be undesirable, so they used plants to close off the entrance to the trail (it's now hard to find). You can still see the pavers across the stream, though. 

This is the area that is likely to be the home to the new Lion King show. It's a good location, and will draw traffic to this corner of the park. All good news! 

Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.