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Why Disneyland’s New Tale Of The Lion King Show Is The Most Inclusive Version Of The Story So Far

The Tale of the Lion King performers
(Image credit: Disneyland Resort)

In nearly 100 years of making movies, The Lion King is without question one of the most popular stories that Disney has ever told. The animated original is one of the animation studios’ most successful movies. The recent Lion King remake was also a box office champ, and the Broadway musical has continued to be a huge success to this day. Now, The Lion King is back on another stage, at the Disneyland Resort, but this version of the story is unlike any that have come before, because it’s the first time the tale has been told with an exclusively Black cast.

CinemaBlend recently had a chance to speak with Paul David Bryant, the show director for the brand new Tale of the Lion King show at Disneyland. We asked him what made this version of the story stand out from those that came before, and he explained that, unlike the previous Lion King adventures on screen and stage, this one was designed not only to have an entirely Black cast, but also allowed the performers to be themselves in a way that the previous version of the show did not. Bryant explained…

We’ve got an all African-American cast. We’ve got brand new sets, brand new costumes. And the fun thing is, this time around with our principal costumes and performers, we’re actually allowing our performers to use their own natural hair. So we’re really sitting into the cultural aspect of Tale of the Lion King, so we’re excited about that.

The Tale of the Lion King was previously performed at Disney California Adventure, but this new show isn’t simply the same show over again. As Paul David Bryant told us, the sets and costumes are new, and the performers were allowed to represent themselves in a way that they were not before. The fact that previous performers were not allowed to showcase their own hair is certainly something that many would never even realize, but it’s great to see that oversight being rectified. Whether this change was brought about by the wider decision to broaden what Disneyland Cast Members are allowed to look like, or a specific goal to let culture shine through in this specific performance, it’s great to see either way. 

Every time we’ve seen The Lion King story told it’s been done in a new and creative way way. Whether we’re talking about the realistic CGI of the Lion King remake or the creative costumes and puppets used in the Broadway show, Disney has never simply done the same thing over again. With this version of Tale of the Lion King, the audience will get the story they know, but it will be told with a fresh voice, Bryant continued…

The story will always be the same, no matter who’s telling it, but we’re telling it our way with our voices and we’re very proud that Disney is taking this on.

The decision to use exclusively Black voices in this Lion King story is part of a larger initiative from Disney called Reimagine Tomorrow, an attempt to amplify diverse voices within the company. In the DIsney Parks we’ve seen the Jungle Cruise at both Disneyland and Disney World undergo a much needed update. The much discussed Princess and the Frog update to Splash Mountain is also still on the horizon, with potentially a plan to have Splash Mountain updated by 2024.

The Tale of the Lion King is now being performed multiple times a day at the Fantasyland Theater at Disneyland. 

Dirk Libbey
Dirk Libbey

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.