Protect the Pride: A Celebration of The Lion King

Melissa RichesonAnimal Kingdom, Blog

Festival of the Lion King

“The greatest magic of all is the magic of nature.”

-Dr. Scott Terrell (Director of Animal & Sciences Operations at Disney Parks)


The new live action Lion King movie was released on July 19th, and Walt Disney World is coordinating some amazing conservation efforts to coincide with the film.


On Friday, a couple members of our WDW Magazine team had the opportunity to visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom for an inside look at all the new Lion King themed activities, snacks, and merchandise. Huge thank you to Disney for inviting us to the Protect the Pride media event so we can give you this inside look.*

We’re excited to share all that we learned and saw with you!

Kilimanjaro Safari

Disney will donate $2 to the Lion Recovery Fund for every person who rides the Kilimanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom from now until July 25th. Photo by: Courtney Reynolds


We started our day with a ride on Kilimanjaro Safaris, and let me tell you, most of the safari animals are early risers! I’ve never seen them so active before—incredible! We also got to see Dakari, Kamari, and Kinsey, Animal Kingdom’s resident lions, lounging together in their habit.

Kilimanjaro Safari

At last week’s Protect the Pride media event, we learned all about how Disney is working to help save the declining lion population. Photo by: Courtney Reynolds

This was a special safari trip because Disney wanted to let us know about the Lion Recovery Fund (LRF), a part of the Wildlife Conservation Network. Since the release of the animated version of The Lion King, half of Africa’s lions have disappeared—only around 20,000 remain. The goal of the LRF is to restore the population of lions across the continent by the year 2050.

Kilimanjaro Safari

On the Kilimanjaro Safaris, you’ll see wild animals like giraffes, rhinos, and lions, much like you would see on an actual safari in Africa. Photo by: Courtney Reynolds

From now until July 25th, Walt Disney World will donate $2 to the LRF for every person that rides Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Kilimanjaro Safari

A rhino blocking traffic along the Kilimanjaro Safaris. Photo by: Courtney Reynolds


Throughout the late morning, we were able to enjoy several special Lion King themed activities throughout Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The whole park is filled with so many fun new things to do!

Here are a few things we discovered:

  • Conservation Station – A new Animation Experience, where you can learn to draw a character from The Lion King.
Animation Experience

The Animation Experience at Conservation Station is a new addition to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Photo by: Courtney Reynolds

Animation Experience

Learn how to draw your favorite Lion King characters at the Animation Experience at Conservation Station. Photo by Courtney Reynolds

  • Discovery Island – A wild Hakuna Matata dance party complete with Lion King character interaction.
Hakuna Matata Time

Dance with your favorite Disney characters, including characters from The Lion King, Jungle Book, Tarzan, and more during the Hakuna Matata Time Dance Party. Photo by: Courtney Reynolds

Hakuna Matata Time

You can dance with Timon from The Lion King each day during the Hakuna Matata Time Dance Party. Photo by: Courtney Reynolds

  • Gorilla Falls Trail – A new Lion King Wilderness Explorer badge.
  • Africa – A fun new Lion King scavenger hunt throughout the streets of Harambe.
  • Rafiki’s Planet Watch – A 20 page activity booklet to take home with you. (Tip: This would provide great entertainment for kids while waiting for a table service meal.)
  • Throughout the Park – Several new Lion King backdrops perfect for photo ops.
Lion King Photo Ops

Look for special Lion King-themed photo backdrops throughout the park. Photo by: Courtney Reynolds

Lion King Photo Ops

Look for special Lion King-themed photo backdrops throughout the park. Photo by: Courtney Reynolds

  • Rivers of Light – New Lion King elements added to the show.
Mombasa Marketplace

Mombasa Marketplace at Animal Kingdom has plenty of new Lion King merchandise, including a new scavenger hunt. Photos by: Courtney Reynolds


To beat the heat, we took a few opportunities for shopping throughout the day, and we found lots of incredible Lion King merchandise.

Ziwani Traders

Ziwani Traders also has some new Lion King merchandise. Photo by: Courtney Reynolds

Spirit jerseys, backpacks, lion ear headbands, coffee mugs, fashion tees, beach towels, toys—there’s something for everybody with roaringly good taste!

Lion King Merch

You can find Lion King merchandise at various locations throughout Animal Kingdom, including Mombasa Marketplace and Ziwani Traders in Africa. Photo by: Courtney Reynolds

There’s even an exclusive designer print from Dooney & Bourke available for a short time.

Lion King Dooney & Bourke

There’s even a new Lion King Dooney & Bourke collection! Photo by: Courtney Reynolds

Our favorite merchandise find was the colorful, limited edition Simba and Nala plushes though. Only 40,000 of these cute plushes exist, one for each lion in the ultimate Lion Recovery Fund goal.

Nala & Simba Plush

Disney will donate $5 to the Lion Recovery Fund for every Special Edition Nala & Simba Plush sold. Photo by: Courtney Reynolds

These plushes are available in Animal Kingdom and in Disney stores worldwide, and for each purchase, Disney will make a $5 donation to the LRF.

Nala & Simba Plush

Disney will donate $5 to the Lion Recovery Fund for every Special Edition Nala & Simba Plush sold. Photo by: Courtney Reynolds


We sampled some delicious Lion King treats throughout Animal Kingdom!

Simba Cupcake

For a limited time, find this Simba Cupcake at Creature Comforts on Discovery Island. Photo by: Courtney Reynolds

My personal favorite was the new Simba cupcake, a vanilla cake with rich vanilla filling, a thick layer of yellow buttercream icing, and an adorable candy topper complete with a frosting mane.

Other snacks include a Bugs & Grubs Ice Cream Cone, a huge Simba Ice Cream Sandwich, a fruity new Dole Whip treat, and more!

Circle of Flavors

A new progressive dining experience, Circle of Flavors: Harambe at Night, is coming to Animal Kingdom. Photo by: Courtney Reynolds

At lunch time we learned about a brand new dining experience coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom called Circle of Flavors: Harambe at Night. This unique progressive dining experience draws inspiration from the “big five” animals throughout the park—leopards, buffalo, elephants, rhinos, and lions.

Lion S'more Pop

The Lion S’more Pop is a lion-shaped chocolate pop filled with marshmallow and graham cracker crumbs. Photo by: Courtney Reynolds

Guests will be treated to gourmet food and beverage selections at multiple stops on their journey, and they’ll even be able to experience a virtual reality trip to the savannah!

Brownie Pot de Crème

The Brownie Pot de Crème comes with whiskey caramel and is topped with a leopard print chocolate piece. Photo by: Courtney Reynolds

This experience is available on select Wednesday nights starting July 24th, and the price is $125 for adults and $99 for kids. We had the privilege of trying some of the desserts featured in Circle of Flavors, and I guarantee this is an experience that animal loving foodies will not want to miss!


This deconstructed S’more comes with a s’more-flavored macaron, served with fruit jam, chocolate creme, homemade marshmallow, and flame-shaped merengue. Photo by: Courtney Reynolds

It was so wonderful to be a part of this Protect the Pride event. Be sure to follow our Facebook and Instagram accounts so you don’t miss out on future live coverage.

If you’d like to get involved in conservation efforts sponsored by the Lion Recovery Fund before your next trip to Walt Disney World, check out the social media hashtag #ProtectThePride or visit the Protect the Pride website for more information.

*We received park tickets, dining cards, and meals during this hosted media event.

About the Author

Melissa Richeson

Melissa Richeson is a contributing writer for WDW Magazine. If Melissa were a Disney character, she’d be Belle, the book-loving, dreamy-eyed optimist. As a mom of four, Melissa knows that for most of us, bargain hunting must always go hand in hand with magical memories, and she’s always delighted to share a Disney tip (and a cup of limeade) with a friend. In addition to her insatiable love for Disney, Melissa also enjoys writing, paddle boarding, and throwing impromptu family dance parties.