Festival of the Lion King for Highly Sensitive Kids: a Show Review and Rating
Are you planning a trip to Disney World and wondering if your highly sensitive, sensory sensitive or anxious kids will enjoy Festival of the Lion King? Or will they be scared and overwhelmed, resulting in meltdowns instead?
Hopefully you can find your answer here!
Get ready to read a thorough overview of one of Disney World’s shows—Festival of the Lion King.
There are lots of things that you experience at Disney World that could trigger a meltdown in sensitive kids. It could be sudden noises. It could be how loud something is. Maybe it’s being in the dark. It could be being exposed to bright or flashing lights. Or it could be how fast something is, or seeing “scary” visuals.
Sometimes, these seemingly “minor” things can result in sensory overload meltdowns. This is especially true when there is a barrage of overwhelming things to process throughout the entire day.
If you don’t like to read spoilers and it’s your first time going to Disney World, STOP reading now! The reason for creating these reviews and ratings in the first place is to make sure there are NO surprises. If your kids are anything like mine, they are probably not the biggest fan of surprises.
We want you to feel fully prepared and aware of what you and your family are getting yourselves into.
But continue on if you’d like all the details about Festival of the Lion King, and want to know whether or not it would be considered scary for your sensitive or anxious kids.
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Festival of the Lion King Show Info
Festival of the Lion King is found in the Africa section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, one of Walt Disney World’s four theme parks. It is a 30 minute Broadway style show featuring music from, you guessed it, the Lion King! The show takes place in Harambe Theater. It is right around the corner from Tusker House restaurant—a popular character dining restaurant at Animal Kingdom.
This amazing show first debuted at Animal Kingdom on April 22, 1998, on the opening day of Disney World’s fourth theme park! The show does not retell the plot of the movie. Instead, it is presented as a tribal celebration of The Lion King. The music, costumes, floats, puppetry, lighting effects, singing, dancing, stilt-walking and acrobatic stunts are all extremely engaging. I can understand how this opening day attraction continues to be popular to this day.
If you’re familiar at all with different theatre stage types, the one used for Festival of the Lion King could be called theater-in-the-round or an arena stage. Essentially, this means the stage is in the center, and the audience surrounds the stage on all sides. This means there is really no “bad view” in the house!
Because this is a show, there is obviously no height requirement. No matter your age, you can include all of your travel party on this attraction for your Animal Kingdom itinerary.
Festival of the Lion King Genie+
Festival of the Lion King is not one of the attractions open during Early Entry. But you do have the option to purchase Genie+ to utilize the Lightning Lane. This means you’ll have guaranteed seating for that show time. The show typically starts running at 10:00AM. It then continues throughout the day at 11:00AM, 12:00PM, 2:00PM, 3:00PM, 4:00PM, and 5:00PM. *show times subject to change.
Seating is NOT guaranteed if you don’t have a Lightning Lane. So, make it a priority to get in line at least 30 minutes beforehand (or even earlier if you are there during a busier time of year).
Even though Festival of the Lion King is a fan-favorite show among Disney goers, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be enjoyable for highly sensitive, sensory sensitive or anxious kids. Let’s get into the details and find out if this show will be too overwhelming or scary for your highly sensitive kids.
SUDDEN NOISES IN FESTIVAL OF THE LION KING 3/5
Highly sensitive, sensory sensitive, or anxious kids can really struggle with sudden noises. It is extremely common for noise sensitivity to be a trigger, especially when they come on suddenly or unexpectedly. And there are so many instances of sudden noises throughout Disney World. Whether it’s the fireworks, various safety announcements over the loudspeakers, or special sound effects throughout the rides… it can be a lot.
Festival of the Lion King is no exception. There are definitely instances of sudden noises throughout the show. This includes things like: the audience cheering, animal noises (Simba roaring, elephants trumpeting), and the unexpected thunder sound right before the ‘Be Prepared’ song.
However, as this is a musical show, there is continuous sound throughout. So, these “sudden” noises aren’t quite as unexpected as it might be if it were coming from a silent moment.
If your kids are also able to follow along with what’s going on with the performers, a lot of the noise will make sense in its context and isn’t SO startling.
NOISE LEVEL IN FESTIVAL OF THE LION KING 5/5
Disney World is loud. Plain and simple. The constant auditory stimulation can be overwhelming, especially if the volume level is cranked up real high.
Festival of the Lion gets a 5 out of 5 for noise level because it IS loud throughout the entire show. As mentioned earlier, there is music, there is singing, there are animal noises, there are sound effects, there is cheering from the audience. None of this is particularly frightening, but it can still feel overstimulating to a sensory sensitive child.
The show doesn’t retell the plot of the movie, but it does feature many of the songs we have grown to love. It starts with their version of Circle of Life, then I Just Can’t Wait to be King, and Hakuna Matata. Then, they feature the popular Tumble Monkeys doing fun acrobatic tricks with a trampoline. Be Prepared is the next number, which is the “scariest” of them all. Then it’s followed by Can You Feel the Love Tonight, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, and the Celebration Finale.
The singing and instrumentals can feel a bit loud, but it’s generally pleasant on the ears. If noise level is a big trigger, be prepared with some kind of noise protection.
DARKNESS IN FESTIVAL OF THE LION KING 4/5
Fear of darkness is pretty common among kids in general. But I feel like it can be amplified in highly sensitive, sensory sensitive, or anxious ones.
Festival of the Lion King is an indoor show, which does make the overall atmosphere fairly dark. But, there are lightning effects used throughout the show that prevent it from being pitch black dark. The lights are dimmed further during the Be Prepared section of the show. With the addition of the smoke effects during this section, it could feel extra spooky to some sensitive kids.
If your kids are extra sensitive about being in the dark, this might be one that you should skip. Or be ready to provide extra support during the darkest parts of the show.
BRIGHT & FLASHING LIGHTS IN FESTIVAL OF THE LION KING 2/5
Some highly sensitive children may have difficulty with too much visual stimulation, especially when it comes to lighting. Bright and flashing lights can literally be painful for those who are sensitive to light.
Festival of the Lion King does use lighting effects to add to the overall vibe of the show. It is not ever excessively bright during the show. Throughout the show, the stage lighting is used to shine light in different parts of the stage, to change colors, and add visual interest to the show.
However, be mindful of the Be Prepared part of the show. A big thunder sound and flashing lights are used to mimic the look of lightning during a storm. There is also a fire twirling act that can be seen as bright. As this is really the only time that there is a lot of flashing lights, we give this a 2 out of 5.
SPEED IN FESTIVAL OF THE LION KING 0/5
The fast speed of some Disney attractions can be overwhelming, especially to those who are sensory avoiders. Luckily, Festival of the Lion is a show that doesn’t involve a moving stage or seats. Hakuna Matata (no worries!) here for the speed department!
DROPS IN FESTIVAL OF THE LION KING 0/5
Just like the speed, the dropping feeling on many Disney attractions could be too much for a child with a very sensitive vestibular system.
The vestibular system is related to your sense of balance and your sense of movement in space. So if your child is prone to motion sickness, dislikes swings and slides, and is afraid of riding elevators/escalators, they may be more sensitive to vestibular input.
Since Festival of the Lion King is a show where you simply sit in your seat, there are obviously no dropping sensations that you need to be concerned about!
“SCARY” VISUALS IN FESTIVAL OF THE LION KING 3/5
What is considered “scary” is so subjective and dependent on each individual child. However, things like violence, conflict, or villains are usually scary to many highly sensitive or anxious kids.
The scariest part of the Festival of the Lion King is the Be Prepared part of the show. This is when the actor who represents the character Scar from the movie sings this song. Anyone familiar with the plot of Lion King knows that Scar is a villain. And this can definitely add to the “scare” factor.
The style of singing combined with the darker environment, the thunder and lightning effects, and the fire and smoke, can feel scary. Anxious children may also worry about the fire twirler getting burned, and seeing the fire spread across the stage.
If your kids are also startled by people dressed in unfamiliar costumes and face paint, Festival of the Lion King could be a little scary for them.
My oldest used to have a fear of people on stilts. She would’ve had a hard time seeing the stilt-walkers during the show at a younger age.
The larger-than-life puppetry of Simba, Pumba, a giraffe, and an elephant on the floats could be a scary for some little ones as well.
But overall, there isn’t any overt violence or conflict during the show. There is no reference to the scene in the actual movie when Mufasa dies.
I feel that it helps that it is NOT a retelling of the story. But instead it is a celebration of all the wonderful things that make up Lion King. So, we give “scary visuals” a 3 out of 5 mostly due to the part of the show with Be Prepared and the fire twirler.
PROXIMITY TO OTHERS IN FESTIVAL OF THE LION KING 5/5
Being in crowded places and in close proximity to others can be overwhelming for highly sensitive and anxious kids. Maybe it’s the feeling that they can’t escape. Or maybe it’s all the sensory input that comes from being around a ton of people. Either way, it can feel like a lot.
Because Festival of the Lion King is a show (and a popular one, at that), you are pretty much packed in there. The seating is bleacher-style, so the cast members encourage you to slide all the way down to accommodate as many people as they can. Because these are bleacher seats without a back that separates you from the row above and below you, it does make you feel like you are a little bit closer to others.
If maintaining your own personal space is really important to you or your child, Festival of the Lion King will be a tough in this department.
STRONG SMELLS IN FESTIVAL OF THE LION KING 0/5
Disney is known for making their attractions, shows, and rides more immersive by appealing to all senses. That even includes smell!
Highly sensitive or sensory sensitive kids are more likely to be bothered by strong smells, even if they are seemingly pleasant ones. It can cause headaches or even nausea.
Luckily, there are no “smell effects” in the Festival of the Lion King that you need to worry about!
WETNESS IN FESTIVAL OF THE LION KING 0/5
Some kids don’t enjoy the sensation of getting wet on Disney rides and attractions, especially getting wet unexpectedly. Getting wet can totally contribute to sensory overload in highly sensitive or anxious kids. However, there is no chance of getting wet while watching the Festival of the Lion King! (And yes, there are actually shows where you could get sprayed with a bit of water…)
How do we understand this rating? A LOWER score means LESS sensory overload. A HIGHER score means a greater likelihood of being overwhelmed and overstimulated. This is helpful when deciding which rides or attractions might cause sensory overload meltdowns in our sensitive kids.
Because Festival of the Lion King is a show, you won’t find those movement-related thrill factors that could cause overwhelm in our kids. If your child does not like speed or drops, this show (and most other shows!) would be a great one to do. What I LOVE about Disney is that there really is something for everyone. So even if you’re not a “ride person”, there are lots of shows and immersive experiences that add to the magic during your vacation.
Some highly sensitive children have an affinity for music, dance, and costumes. Since they have great depth of processing, they are often the ones that appreciate the beauty in these details. And if they’re familiar at all with the Lion King songs, they could really enjoy this artistic representation of these songs from the movie. I still remember my daughter at 4 years old, having tears in her eyes watching the ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ segment with the bird characters dancing.
However, if being in a crowded dark theater is a challenge, the Festival of the Lion King may not be the best choice for your family. It is also very loud throughout the show. It’s very possible that your noise sensitive child will need to wear some kind of noise canceling headphones or ear plugs to help reduce the auditory input. Be especially mindful of the section when ‘Be Prepared’ is sung, which comes right after the Tumble Monkeys. This is arguably the “scariest” part of the show. A sensitive child may be scared of the thunder and lightning effects, smoke, the lights dimmed down to be even darker, the fire twirling, and the vibe of the actual song.
Even though there is a lot of potential for sensory overload while watching Festival of the Lion King, it is definitely a personal favorite of mine. And it explains why it’s so popular! I think for most families, this is a good one to do, as long as you can provide the right supports and accommodations for your sensitive kids during the scarier parts of the show.
PRO TIP: Get in line for either the first show of the day (10:00AM) or the last one (5:00PM), so you don’t have to wait as long.
What has YOUR experience been at the Festival of the Lion King? Do you or your kids love it or hate it? If you haven’t been yet, will this ride be on your list of must-dos at Animal Kingdom?
If you need extra support and want to find community with other parents of highly sensitive or anxious kids going to Disney, I encourage you to join my Facebook group!
You can ask all your questions and get feedback from a wonderful group of Disney-loving parents who are also looking to better manage the meltdowns and maximize the magic during their Disney World vacation.
Lastly, don’t forget to download your FREE copy of my must-have Disney ride planner tool! Use it so you can easily keep track of which rides you want to avoid and which you want to try with your highly sensitive kids. It will make planning your park days SO much easier!