Over the years, my family has repeatedly enjoyed riding on the Kilimanjaro Safaris® Expedition at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park. Each time, the adventure is unique and tells a different “story.” We all have our favorite animal to find, whether hippos, wild dogs or white rhinos. However, I find myself most eager to see one particular animal every time. Just before leaving the savanna, as we turn the bend, we find a rock formation. On that rock formation typically sits my favorite animal on the safari ~ the lion. Sadly, the population of lions in the wild is decreasing rapidly and the circle of life is suffering because of it. During a recent familiarization event with Disney, I learned just how the Disney Conservation program is working to improve that picture with the Protect the Pride campaign.
I was invited to participate in a Disney FAM event where I was treated to park admission, various attractions, lunch and a bag of fun goodies. The opinions expressed in this post, however, are mine and mine alone. This post does contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure policy for more information.
Disney’s The Lion King Celebrates 25 years
It’s hard to believe that it has been 25 years since the animated version of Disney’s The Lion King was released. I was just a few years out of high school at that point and remember seeing the movie in theaters. As a music major, I fell in love with the songs and score and enjoyed the coming-of-age story that it told, primarily because I was just entering adulthood myself.
Since that movie’s release, however, the population of lions in the wild has decreased dramatically. This actually came as a shock to me. I had no idea and became intrigued, as well as concerned, as the facts were shared. In 1994, there were approximately 40,000 lions in existence. Now, they number approximately 20,000. The question is, why does this number matter? It matters because the entire Circle of Life depends upon the presence of lions in the wild and, as living beings with resources, we have the power to make a difference.
What is the Circle of Life – Really?
We learn in The Lion King film and from Biology Class way back when that the Circle of Life is an interconnection of living things. For instance, plants are eaten by herbivores (which includes antelopes and zebras). The carnivores (lions, leopards, etc.) then eat the herbivores. When the carnivores die, their bodies decay and become nutrients for the plants that will then be eaten by herbivores~ and thus the cycle continues. Each living thing plays its part in the biological process.Mufasa: Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance...we are all connected in the great Circle of Life ~ Disney's The Lion King Click To Tweet
However, with the increase in poaching, loss of prey and destruction of habitats, the top of the food chain is fading quickly and, in return, the circle, as well. As a company that takes tremendous pride in caring for animals, Disney has stepped up to participate with the Wildlife Conservation Network’s efforts to alter the course of events for the better. How? That’s where my special day at Disney begins!
The Protect The Pride Event
I received a very special invite a few weeks back to attend an event hosted by The Disney Parks, Experiences & Products Team. They were bringing in a selected group of writers and social media influencers to learn about Disney’s efforts towards protecting the pride and increasing the population of lions in the wild.
We gathered very early in the morning on July 19th, the same day Disney’s The Lion King “live-action” movie was being released in theaters. After a quick breakfast and opportunity to mingle, we moved on to a full day of learning, exploring and magic.
What did we do?
During the course of the event, we rode Kilimanjaro Safaris, visited the newly renovated Rafiki’s Planet Watch, learned how to draw a character from The Lion King and found multiple themed snacks and activities around the park. During lunch, we had the opportunity to hear from Disney conservationists and other involved Cast Members about how Disney is intricately connected to the network and program concerned with growing the pride.
NOTE: A group of lions is called a Pride, which is why the campaign is entitled “Protect the Pride.”
So, what is Disney doing to help this cause?
Disney has already donated more than $1.5 million to the Wildlife Conservation Network’s Lion Recovery Fund and its partners, but the efforts do not stop there. The plan is to make additional grants, as well as invite Guests and Fans to help double the donation for a contribution up to $3 million. How? Disney has created some unique experiences and products they hope Guests and Fans will enjoy this summer. By participating in these celebratory experiences and purchasing these special edition products, Guests can become a vital part of the Protect the Pride campaign.
- The Disney Conservation Fund will donate $2 (up to $350K) to the Wildlife Conservation Network for every Guest that rides Kilimanjaro Safaris® Expedition at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park in Florida during opening week of the film (July 19th to the 25th). This money will go towards the Lion Recovery Fund and efforts to increase the lion population and protect the health and well-being of the savanna, wildlife and communities who live among them.
- Also in honor of the movie, 40,000 Special Edition The Lion King 2019 Simba and Nala plush lions were created to represent the 40,000 lions efforts hope to see in the wild by the year 2050. For each of these plush lions purchased (Disney Stores, Shop Disney app or at US Disney Parks), Disney will donate $5 to the Wildlife Conservation Network’s in support of the Lion Recovery Fund and its local partners. That’s 25% of the purchase price ($19.99)!!!
Other Ways Disney is Helping Protect The Pride
Who doesn’t love learning about the background of creating a movie, never mind a Disney movie? Disney Publishing Worldwide has just released a new book, “The Art and Making of The Lion King” and, with its release, will partner with the Disney Conservation Fund to collectively donate $25,000 to the Wildlife Conservation Network. These funds will support the Lion Recovery Fund in an effort to “Protect the Pride” through efforts that engage communities to ensure there’s a future for African wildlife and their habitats.
Disney Cruise Line is also roaring onto the scene. To support the recent The Lion King PremEAR at Sea on July 19th, Disney Cruise Line contributed $10,000 to the Wildlife Conservation Network’s Lion Recovery Fund. (Pssst – how did I not know they were doing The Lion King at Sea now???)
**Have you seen my review of the new movie? If not, check it out here.
Enjoy The Lion King In and Around the Park
Throughout the summer, Disney will have themed merchandise and events for Guests of all ages to enjoy. Some are new, some are revised and some events are just fan favorites. The point is there is something for everyone!
For the Littles:
- A NEW Wilderness Explorers Badge – A Simba badge has been added to the experience for Young Explorers to collect.
- Face Painting ~ Add a little Simba swoosh to your face while roaming through the park.
- Scavenger Hunt – Go in search of The Lion King characters around Harambe. Once you’ve found them all, go collect your prize!
Specialty Themed Treats and Beverages
What can I say except YUM!! This is a great way to satisfy that sweet tooth or keep yourself hydrated! Here are just a few of the delicious options available and where:
- Simba Cupcake – found at Pizzafari
- Bugs ‘n Grub Waffle Cone – found atAnandapur Bus and Trilo-Bites
- Simba Ice Cream Sandwich – found at Tamu Tamu
- Asante Slush – found at the Shave Ice Cart Near Harambe Market
- Simba’s Sunset Dole Whip – found at Tamu Tamu
- The Lion King themed popcorn buckets and cups – available later this summer at various outdoor vending locations throughout the Park.
- and sooooo much more!
Dessert and Dining Packages
SPECIAL AND UNIQUE DINING EXPERIENCE: Circle of Flavors: Harambe at Night
This is a dining experience centered around the sights, sounds and cuisine of African culture. It’s family inclusive and includes tons of food, story telling, music and more. The Circle of Flavors: Harambe at Night experience is designed to be a salute to the “Big Five” – leopards, Cape buffalo, African elephants, rhinoceroses, and the hero of the event, the lion – and takes participating Guests on a journey starting at the train station in Harambe, moving to Rafiki’s Planet Watch and then back to Harambe Market.
The evening’s menu is packed with African-inspired cuisine and is family-friendly. It was created to complement the stories Guests will hear about the animals being honored. For instance, there is a story about the African Elephants and their intruding upon a farmer’s land. Disney conservationists stepped in and instructed the farmer to put up a fence with beehives strategically placed. Elephants are afraid of bees, so they will steer clear if they sense their presence. What this does is protect the elephants from harm and protects the farmer’s land. As a bonus, it provides the farmer with an added income with the honey produced.
The food representing this story is the honey-lacquered pork belly.
FOOD ALLERGY NEWS: For my food allergy crew and those managing other dietary restrictions, specialty dietary requests can be accommodated. Bonus!!!
Okay – so here are the other details….
Time and Location
- Select nights from Wednesday, July 24 through October 23, 2019: 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
- Check-in: Train Station at Harambe in Africa
- Adults: $125† (ages 10 and up)
- Children: $99† (ages 3 to 9)
- Valid theme park admission to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park is required and not included
BONUS INFO!!!! I don’t think this is on the website, so listen carefully. Hee, hee. Guests participating in this dining experience will experience something unique. While visiting Rafiki’s Planet Watch, not only will you have opportunity to pose for pictures and sign autographs with Timon and Rafiki, but you will also be able to participate in some fun family activities. Guests will have the chance to enjoy a virtual reality experience that takes them up close and personal with the lions on the savanna!
PS – I tried this…..AND LOVED IT!!!!
Other Summer Additions and Adjustments
Just in time for summer, Disney Imagineers reworked the vibrantly entertaining Rivers of Life. The final product is titled Rivers of Life: We Are One. The new nighttime water and light show now incorporates more familiar characters and music for Guests to enjoy.
The Tree of Life also received an upgrade as Simba’s journey is now a part of this beautiful and creative light display.
Learn how to draw a character from The Lion King up at The Animation Experience at Rafiki’s Planet Watch (just like we did!!)
Be sure to snap that photo memory in front of one of two The Lion King backdrops found in the park!
On Discovery Island, Guests can find Timon and other Disney characters having a dance party at scheduled times throughout the day! Don’t miss out on joining the festivities over there (and then grab a Bugs ‘n Grub Waffle Cone!!!)
Of course, do NOT forget to watch The Festival of the Lion King!!! This show creatively celebrates the Circle of Life and Simba’s coming-of-age story. It entertains like no other show! This is how we ended our media day with Disney Parks, Experiences and Products ~ watching this was the perfect celebration of the movie’s release!
So, why am I sharing Protect the Pride with you?
I love lions ~ as cubs they are adorable and as adults they are mighty, strong and fierce. I also absolutely love what Disney does to be a part of positive change in the world. Along with several other writers and influencers, I had been invited to learn more about Disney’s conservation efforts and the ways everyone can help keep the circle of life intact out in the wild. By introducing us (via film) to the three lions who call the park home (Dakari and sisters, Kinsey and Kamari), giving us a taste of what Guests can enjoy this summer at Walt Disney World and providing us with insightful information, we walked away with more reason, cause and inspiration to bring this initiative to you.
So, if you’re visiting Walt Disney World this summer, make it a point to:
- Ride Kilimanjaro Safaris (FastPass or Stand-by ~ Disney’s donations made through July 25th and up to $250L)).
- Purchase a plush lion (while supplies last) .
- Enjoy the various activities, events or specialty foods celebrating the release of Disney’s The Lion King.
You can also follow The Lion King, Disney Conservation Fund and the Lion Recovery Fund on social media. Stay up to date on the #ProtectThePride campaign by following:
- Instagram: @Disney @LionKing @LionRecovery @WildNetOrg.
- Twitter: @Disney @DisneyLionKing @LionRecovery @WildNetOrg.
- You can find them on Facebook, as well.
- Hashtags: #TheLionKing #ProtectThePride.
If you’re curious and want to learn more about the Protect the Pride campaign, visit: Disney.com/LionKingProtectThePride
Check out this Walt Disney Studios video on the #ProtectThePride global initiative:
Looking for more posts celebrating Disney’s The Lion King? Check these out!!
- Have you seen Disney’s The Lion on Broadway? Check out my review of the production and my interview with member of the cast!
- Looking for something fun to do with the Littles? Here’s a Lion King related post with a word search!!!