Disneyland's pride and joy: Lion King and Jungle Festival review
I'm standing with a tired, hot four-year-old as she throws a full-blown temper tantrum that would put John McEnroe to shame on Wimbledon Centre Court.
The issue is that they only have blue slushies, and she has apparently decided she wants an orange one, even before there’s any talk of actually getting a slushy.
But wait, what’s this? Quicker than I can say, “You really should be more reasonable, Giorgia”, a knight in shining armour appears in the shape of Baloo the bear, he of Jungle Book fame.
We’re in Disneyland Paris for the launch of the Disney Lion King and Jungle Festival, it’s touching 40°C and my little girl, who is normally deeply sceptical for a child of her tender years, has just had her first taste of that famous Disney magic.
Giorgia’s not fully aware what Disneyland is but she has just met one of her favourite Jungle Book characters in the fur. And the icing on the cake, or the slushy in her case, arrives a few minutes later, when we arrive in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, bang in the middle of Disneyland Park, to see ‘The Jungle Book Jive’ in full swing.
It’s an all-singing, all-dancing affair, with Jungle Book favourites Baloo and King Louis the orangutan joined by Mickey and friends celebrating everything this classic tale is loved for. The characters are joined by performers from India for a spectacular, brilliantly choreographed and fun show.
And the crowd is lapping it up, with kids invited to try their hand on the bongos that accompany the show, as Disney-goers of all ages sing and dance along to tracks from the original soundtrack, including The Bare Necessities, I Wanna Be Like You, and my personal favourite, Trust in Me.
Giorgia gives me a curious look when singing along to that one, as she’s not so ssssssure about Kaa the Snake. But I carry on regardless as I’m transported back to being a young boy, a time when throwing a tantrum over the wrong-coloured soft drink got you little sympathy from the parents.
A few spins on the plethora of adrenalin-inducing rides later, and Giorgia and I are seeking solace from the heat in the swimming pool at Disney’s Newport Bay Club. She’s not learned to swim yet, but she’s just made it across the pool for the first time unaided, apart from a water wing on each arm.
She beams with unadulterated euphoria at her accomplishment, so I ask her what the favourite part of the trip has been.
“Swimming across the pool all by myself,” she says. “And apart from that?” I ask. “Balloon the bear and the Jungle Book Jive,” she replies.
She might know her blue slushies from her orange ones, but we’ll have to polish her movie trivia.
A quick nap at the hotel later and we’re back in the heart of Disneyland Park for the second big show of the festival, ‘The Lion King: Rhythms of the Pride Lands’ at Frontierland Theater.
It’s a jaw-dropping production, with the music from The Lion King performed with a fresh look at the story. Simba, Nala, Rafiki, Mufasa, Scar, Timon and Pumbaa are all there on stage, joined by singers, dancers, acrobats and drummers for a musical telling of what is now a Disney classic.
The show is more than a year in the making, and it tells. Like ‘The Jungle Book Jive’, it’s superbly choreographed. Giorgia is a little intimidated by the spectacle at first, but is soon getting into the swing of it, the acrobatics being a particular point of fascination for her.
And then comes what is the fourth-placed highlight of the weekend for my daughter (the swim winning of course, with the two shows closely tied)… Giorgia has her face painted. It’s nearly a repeat of the slushy incident though, as there is a queue — it’s getting late and Daddy is tired. But the face-painters are working their own Disney magic, and Giorgia is sitting proudly in the make-up chair in no time.
So which Lion King character does Giorgia choose to have her face painted? Not Nala or Sarafina, two of the lionesses, as you might expect. No, has to be Simba, the central character, the top cat in the tale. And for once, Daddy isn’t going to argue.
As part of the Lion King and Jungle Book Festival at Disneyland Paris, visitors can dance with Timon and Pumbaa to ‘Timon’s MataDance’, with the characters making their own special appearance in Adventureland.
Accompanied by dancers, they will ask guests to dance along with them, teaching them the craziest savannah routine.
There’s also the new ‘Djembe Joy’ Village, again hosted in Frontierland, offering an interactive experience devoted to the Disney classics. Inspired by Africa, this traditional village will be open to guests every day until 2pm, with the promise of unforgettable musical encounters and a chance to interact with King Louie from The Jungle Book.
Food and drink is also getting special treatment for the festival, as explorers tall and small can enjoy the sweet delights of exotic, fruit-flavoured Simba ice creams and lion’s paw biscuits at the Hakuna Matata restaurant.
Throughout the season, the Hakuna Matata restaurant will provide a unique table service experience with an African-inspired dish and Rafiki and Mickey meeting guests in special explorer outfits.
The Lion King and Jungle Festival is taking place at Disneyland Paris until September 22. Find out more at disneylandparis.ie
l Prices for a three night/ four-day package including Aer Lingus flights and Magic Shuttle Transfer to Disney’s Sequoia Lodge from €2,924, based on two adults/two children sharing a standard room, for up to four persons with two double beds.
Includes three nights accommodation at Disney’s Sequoia Lodge Hotel, four-day park hopper tickets with unlimited access to Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park. This price qualifies for up to 25pc off on your hotel and park tickets.
For more information about a family break to Disneyland Paris, or any other offers, call 01 605 83 83, visit disneylandparis.ie or contact your local travel agent. Price based on August 18, 2019, departure date, subject to availability. Terms and conditions apply.