On November 13, 1997, Disney brought the staged, musical adaptation of its animated smash, The Lion King, to Broadway. Fifteen years later, it is now the the fifth longest-running musical in Broadway history, contains to sell out nightly and consistently has one of the top box-office intakes out of the dozens of theatrical offerings on Broadway alone.
As a thank you to the tens of millions of theater-goers who have seen the show as well as the millions more who will, Disney Theatrical has produced a free, time-limited exhibit appropriately titled ‘Inside The Lion King.’ Located at the corner of 42nd St and Sixth Ave in Manhattan, the exhibit gives visitors unprecedented access to not only ‘The Lion King,’ but the entire theatrical process. From concept design to modeling and mock-ups to fully realized costumes, the exhibit virtually makes the visitor part of the backstage experience itself. Here, photography is not only allowed, but encouraged, as is the ability to touch the costumes themselves and explore how they are constructed.
The individual displays are arranged around the exhibition by logical groupings as evidenced by the free exhibition ‘guide map’ handed out. Although the map has sections laid out in a circle, life appears to be more of a square. The map also encourages photos in particular with the Rafiki and Scar wax figures (on loan from Madam Tussauds) along with the adult Simba costume, but the truth is every step along the way is a virtual photo-op here, in particular with Zazu and Bertha, the elephant.
As guests travel around the exhibition, they’ll encounter several exhibition staff members willing to share information and enthusiasm about the musical. One of the several facts I personally heard over and over was that it takes four performers to operate Bertha [the elephant] — that’s one in each leg. In addition to the staff, there are two interactive touch-screen operated kiosks located towards the exit which offer up a wealth of information about the show across several categories.
While costumes and other artifacts make up the perimeter of the exhibit, the center portion of the room is dedicated to show merchandise — it is Disney after all. Virtually every item that can be purchased while attending the show is available to purchase here, though to be honest, the items are available through limited online channels as well. In either case, it’s a far broader offering than the limited theatrical merchandise one would find at the Disney Store in Times Square, making this a great place for a last-minute holiday gift or Christmas tree ornament. There is, however, one exclusive tshirt for the exhibit itself, offered only here. On a confusing side note, purchases seem to show up on statements as ‘Sister Act merchandise.’ From what I am told there are no discounts beyond Disney Cast Member, but there is a purchase with purchase offer: a reusable ‘The Lion King’ tote for $5 with any purchase. That said, it might be worth checking in towards the close of the exhibition just to be sure on any of the 2012. Another reason to stop by the exhibition is that tickets to the shows’ performances are being sold at the exhibit’s exit.
The exhibition will also play host to several workshops geared towards children aged six and up. For more information and for the current schedule, you can visit the official exhibition page.
‘Inside the Lion King’ is open daily from now through December 16 from 10 am – 8 pm, with limited hours on December 3 for private events. Admission is free.
Below is our gallery of images from the exhibit which represent a sample of what’s available to see hands-on, along with a video showing some of the highlights.