We got to preview some of the amazing festivities and events taking place this holiday season at WDW! Join us as we look at some of the new snacks, merchandise, and more!
Disclosure: Disney hosted us for this event, but these opinions are our own!
While our roving movie reviewer Christian may not have felt The Lion King2019 edition was worth spending your money on, Disney IS putting their money to good use with several initiatives sending money to where real-life lions need it the most and Protect the Pride. And while I will be the first to admit, Disney tends to go overboard with the merchandise and promotion of all of their films, in this case, it is actually doing good along with the usual profits.
Disney recently invited us out to see some of the in-park celebrations and programs they have coordinated with the July 19th release of The Lion King. They hosted us for a day in the park and treated us to lunch as we experienced some of these offerings. As always, my opinions and views are my own, and I am posting about these initiatives because animal conservation is something near and dear to my heart, as is Animal Kingdom in general (and I get a bit defensive when people don’t enjoy the park on its own!).
It’s hard to believe, but in the 25 years since The Lion King first came out, half the lion population has been lost, and only 20,000 remain. To counter these facts, Disney launched The Lion King “Protect the Pride” campaign in conjunction with the Wildlife Conservation Network’s Lion Recovery Fund in an effort to double the lion population by 2050.
But this isn’t a new effort for Disney – since 1995, the Disney Conservation Fund has directed up to $75 million ($13M to projects across Africa) to save wildlife and protect the planet. Disney has already donated more than $1.5 million to the Wildlife Conservation Network’s Lion Recovery Fund and its partners. Now to celebrate the newest release of The Lion King, Disney is asking fans to help by taking part in The Lion King Celebration happening at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Lion King Protect the Pride campaign.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom – For every guest who rides the Kilimanjaro Safaris Expedition at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park in Florida during opening week of The Lion King film (July 19 – 25, 2019), Disney Conservation Fund will donate $2 (up to $350,000) to the Wildlife Conservation Network in support of the Lion Recovery Fund’s efforts to help double the number of lions across Africa by 2050. (Theme park admission is required.)
Disney Stores & U.S Parks – 40,000 Special Edition The Lion King 2019 Simba and Nala plush lions are available for purchase at Disney stores across the globe. Each of the 40,000 plush represents one of the lions for which Disney and the Lion Recovery Fund are working to ensure a future. For each Special Edition lion sold, Disney will donate US $5 to the Wildlife Conservation Network in support of the Lion Recovery Fund and its local partners. Visit Disney.com/LionKingProtectThePride to learn more.
The Lion King fun doesn’t end there. In addition to Protect the Pride, there are a lot of new offerings at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to help celebrate and really commemorate the spirit of The Lion King. The Hakuna Matata Time Dance Party (which is REALLY fun and I’m not usually a dance party kind of girl), photo opportunities featuring dimensional backgrounds (some you can see in this post), and “Rivers of Light: We Are One,” which is now reimagined with familiar animals from Disneynature films and classic moments from Disney animation. I have not personally seen the new show yet, but did love the original Rivers of Light when it first debuted.
A new Dooney & Bourke collection will be available at Mombasa Marketplace and Discovery Trading Company. The collection includes a satchel, crossbody and tote with a pattern featuring beloved characters such as Simba, Nala, Timon and Pumbaa. These handbags are available now while supplies last.
And of course, those adorable Simba and Nala collectible plush where $5 goes toward saving lions:
With the great success over in Epcot, there is a new hunt themed to, you guessed it, The Lion King. Characters from The Lion King are hidden around Harambe Village. We saw some on our visit and they are really cool but I won’t spoil their locations! Each time you spot one, add the corresponding sticker to your map. The map is available at the Outpost Shop, Discovery Trading Company, Island Mercantile, and Mombasa Marketplace for $6.99. Return your map to Mombasa Marketplace or The Outpost Shop by 9/28/19 or while supplies last for a “savanna surprise”. (which is actually a really cool hand-painted collectible!). If you just want to get the prize at the end, you can purchase the three for $6.99 a piece.
There are some snack and drink options that will really make you roar. These special drinks and snacks will be available through the end of the summer. All of the images below are ©Disney (except the first one, obviously not up to Disney quality haha). Most all of these snacks are extremely sweet, so go prepared to experience an extreme sugar rush. Not pictured are Simba and Nala waffles from Tusker House for breakfast, and the SImba Cupcake from Pizzafari.
Also recently added to Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the return of Animation Academy, which we all miss from Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The “new” Disney’s Animation Experience is over in Rafiki’s Planet Watch, accessible by train from Harambe and a short walk from the station. This is now the only thing in the building, so you must wait for the next session to start before being let in to choose a seat and a clipboard with paper and pencil. The seating is very tight and cramped but if you’re lucky, they’ll let you spread out so you have a little elbow room.
During our session, we drew Simba and it was much “easier” (if that’s possible for a total non-drawer like myself) with some lines and the main face circle already printed on the paper. If you love to draw, and love to pet animals like goats and pigs and llamas, definitely head over to Rafiki’s Planet Watch and stop by the petting zoo while you’re there.
All in all, I think this is a great example of Disney synergy used for good. Yes, there are new purses and snacks and even an extra ticketed event. [Circle of Flavors: Harambe at Night – an after-hours progressive dining event where each course is themed to a different African animal, with amazing desserts, and the opportunity to enjoy a Virtual Reality experience with the resident lions from Kilamanjaro Safaris – for $125 per adult on select nights]. Despite all of that, Disney is also highlighting the importance of conservation of lions and all endangered animals. What these new offerings did was allow me to experience Animal Kingdom in a whole new way. This is always great for a jaded local who was there on opening day. If it helps Protect the Pride, all the better.
What about you? Will you experience any of these Lion King Celebration activities? If you can’t make it down for the summer, what’s a favorite memory you have from Animal Kingdom? I’d love to hear it!
Disclosure: As mentioned above, Disney invited us to this event. They provided admission to the park, lunch, and gift cards to purchase snacks. Again, my opinions are my own. I think it’s important to note that I have an annual pass. I have also paid on my own to dine at Tiffins many times. If I didn’t like something, you’d know. But I also have to assume, if you are reading this, you are probably a Disney parks fan too. Thanks for reading!
As I’m sure you’ve heard and seen by now, Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs is now open. We shared video and photos over on our social channels and Christian and I discussed our thoughts on the highlights of this amazing new resort in our latest resort video. But there is something else you must see before you visit or check-in to Gran Destino Tower…
Salvador Dalí first met Walt Disney at a Warner Brothers studio party in 1945. He had come to Hollywood to work on a dream sequence in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound. The pair struck up what may seem to some as an unlikely friendship, but in reality made perfect sense. Disney had already been pushing the boundaries of art and animation for years. Pink elephants on parade from Dumbo, and the frightening forest scene from Snow White to name a few. Of course, Fantasia itself was a lesson in taking feature animation to a higher plane. So a common bond of creative envelope-pushing, combined with boundless self-promotion, naturally brought these two men together. The next logical step was to collaborate on a project combining Dalí’s surreal vision and Walt Disney’s gift for animation.
Here is an excerpt from Salvador-Dali.org about the origin of the Destino project:
On January 14, 1946, Salvador Dalí signed a contract with Walt Disney to make a short animated film entitled Destino. To work on the project, the painter installed himself in the Disney Studios in Burbank, California, where he set about drafting the screenplay and creating a series of drawings and oil paintings. The main characters, a dancer and a baseball player who is also the god Chronos, develop Dalí’s original concept, which revolves around the importance of time when we are waiting for destiny to enter into our lives. The song chosen for the soundtrack of the film, ‘Destino’, by the Mexican Armando Domínguez, was a major inspiration for Dalí in the development of his work.
The short, intended as part of a package film, was to have a running time of between 6 and 8 minutes, but only 15 seconds were made and it was not until 2003 that Disney resumed and completed the project on the basis of Dalí’s first ideas and original sketches.
Despite having 135 storyboards and 22 paintings from Dalí’s eight months in the studio, the project was abandoned when the Disney Studios could not continue funding it. The project was shelved and forgotten until Roy E. Disney, Walt’s nephew, discovered the artwork while working on Fantasia 2000. He secretly sent the project to be completed in France by a team of animators and a director, Dominique Monféry, who attempted and succeeded in continuing the story that Dalí and Disney (and Imagineer John Hench, who is credited as a writer as well) set out to tell. It was released in 2003, and nominated for an Oscar that year for Best Animated Short. If you haven’t seen it before, here it is below in its (2003) entirety:
If you happen to own the Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 Blu-Ray + DVD Movie Collection set, there’s a bonus. Destino is actually on the Fantasia 2000 disc! Also included is an 82-minute documentary, Dalí & Disney: A Date with Destino. There you’ll hear more about the collaboration between these two artistic geniuses.
Additionally, the always-impressive Taschen has published a few books on his elaborate dinner parties. Taschen Diners de Gala and the Wines de Gala, if you want to delve deeper. And of course, The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida is an amazing place to explore Dalí ‘s life and work. It’s also not too far from Walt Disney World, if you want to extend a vacation and see something new.
Getting back to Gran Destino Tower, when you first approach the tower from either the parking lot or the Lago Dorado side, the inspiration of Destino is more than apparent. The shapes and designs throughout the resort come straight from the art in the short. Dahlia, and her morphing into a bell shape in the film, is directly represented in the lamps in guest rooms, and the designs in the Dahlia lounge on the 16th floor. The Dahlia lounge in particular is entirely inspired by the film, with Dahlia’s hair represented in waves on the ceiling, the dandelion images in a painting on the wall, and the seed heads floating away and becoming the light fixtures on the ceiling.
So before you head to this gorgeous new resort, watch the 6 minute short, and then see how many representations you can see as you explore and discover. Whether Surrealist art is your thing or not, the artistic vision and creativity is undeniably impressive. Gran Destino is enjoyable and breathtaking even without viewing Destino, but seeing it and the inspiration, is, in my opinion, worth your time. I’m sure Disney history buffs, animation and art fans will agree. Kudos to the Disney team for transforming art into function and honoring the work of Salvador Dalí as well as Walt Disney. I’m so excited that Destino has been brought to life for all to see and enjoy in a new way.
Have you visited Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort? What was your favorite part of this newest area of Walt Disney World?
*Disclosure: some links above are affiliate links.
Today Christian and Gio are checking out the new ‘Lego Movie Days’ event at LEGOLAND Florida Resort! This event is happening on weekends in July and August.
For more info, including event dates and times, please visit: https://www.legoland.com/california/l…
Disclosure: LEGOLAND Florida hosted us for this event, but these opinions are our own!
… Or is there?
Before I begin, I think it’s important I say that, like all of the most recent films produced by Disney, I wanted this to do well. I want nothing less than the next great film from the most successful media company there has ever been. That being said, these are my opinions.
To start this review, I actually want to digress into a quick anecdote. One of my favorite new modern bands is a group called Greta Van Fleet. They’re a rock band that sounds pretty similar to Led Zeppelin. However, to quite a lot of people – including one notably scathing review on Pitchfork – they’re just a cheap Zeppelin knock-off, mooching off the successful sound of Robert Plant and the like. I personally like the band, and didn’t really understand why these people had such a strong hatred for them. That is, until I saw 2019’s The Lion King.
There’s no need to worry about spoilers in this review, as this is, beat-for-beat, exactly the same movie that was released 25 years ago. Visually, it obviously does look very different (and we’ll get to that in a second), but at least 95% of the scenes in this are unchanged from the original, even going down to random establishing shots that could have been completely unique.
Before we get much farther, it’ll be important to note that this review is much harsher than those I usually write. This movie made me mad that it exists. This is equally as much a review of The Lion King as it is a review of Disney’s presence in the modern box office. I can justify that because very little changed between this and the original, leaving very little to review – though I’ll go over what I can.
The vocal performances (acting-wise) feel very lazy. This is embarrassing, because this has got to be one of the most expensive casts for any movie outside of the MCU lately. Something about this movie makes the completely star-studded cast feel like a B-Team. This is not without exceptions though. Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen steal the show every time they’re on screen. But notable greats like James Earl Jones and Chiwitel Ejiofor feel like they delivered one pass on their lines and left the studio. Everyone else falls very flat.
Song-wise, I really can’t complain. The songs are good regardless of who’s singing them, and since the two leads double as Grammy-winning vocalists, it’s no surprise that they’re good. The songs are actually where I would have wished they’d stayed true to the original. The original soundtrack is fantastic, and the Broadway score only brings more life and material to it. I did enjoy the new Beyoncé track, I just thought it was oddly placed. And the lyric changes to Be Prepared weren’t really terrible, it was just weird that they chose to change that, but leave in the exact same shot of Simba walking past a spiderweb in the Elephant Graveyard.
The animation is something that will come up often in discussions about this film. I recently watched Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book for the first time, and it felt weird to me because of the juxtaposition between a human actor and uncanny valley animated creatures. The Lion King feels as weird somehow, without the use of a human actor.
I want to pause and say that while I have studied and practiced a bit of animation, I am by NO MEANS a professional. I didn’t care much for this movie, but I do give all the credit in the world to the incredible animation team. A lot of this movie does look absolutely amazing. I kept thinking that this would be a great demo reel for Samsung displays or something in the future. That being said, animators, please don’t kill me for the next section.
A lot of the problems I had with the vocal performances were that they were delivered as if it were a typical animated film. If you closed your eyes while watching this movie, I don’t think it would really feel out of place. The problem becomes introduced when the characters are hyper-realistic animals, which in the end, cannot convey complex emotion very well. The original Lion King works as an emotional experience (as do all hand-drawn films) because of how expressive the characters can be, even if they’re animals, or sometimes inanimate objects. When you take all of that facial expressiveness and cartoon performance out, it can be very difficult to connect.
Undoubtedly, people will feel emotions while watching this. Baby Simba is cute. Mufasa dying is sad. But that’s just the nature of animals themselves. I could have walked into the theater and been shown just a still-image of a baby lion, and still would have said, “Aw, cute”.
I really don’t understand why this was made the way it was, or who it’s for. Most of the audience watching this movie will remember the entire plot of the original, whether they grew up watching it, or just because it’s a big enough piece of pop culture to be ingrained in the minds of anyone who knows its name. So why, then, is it just exactly the same as the original?
My lasting impression was that it was just to make money off of people’s nostalgia, in the laziest (from an executive standpoint) way possible. The acting felt lazy and half-done. The screenplay was just copy/pasted by a temp. The score was legitimately just the original score with one or two new songs, which were moved to the credits.
There have been “live action” remakes in the past, and no, none have really been very good. But this one just feels like the most cruel of all. But they make them because they do make money. There definitely is an audience for these movies (whom I have not met). All I’ll say is that you vote with your wallet. Seven years ago, before it was even announced, I never thought I would be advising people against seeing a remake of one of my favorite Disney movies, but here we are.
Ultimately, this movie felt, to me, like a film-student’s final project. The animation is nice to look at, but it serves more as a weird gimmick than an entertaining movie. I could imagine myself scrolling through reddit and finding a post where someone re-animated The Lion King in Cinema 4D, and then it’s just the entirety of The Lion King (2019).
Today Christian and Zanna are checking out all the details of the brand new Gran Destino Tower at the Coronado Springs Resort in WDW. Let’s see what this new place has to offer!
For more info, and for current room rates, please visit: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/res…
Disclosure: Disney hosted us for this pre-opening stay and grand-opening celebration, but our opinions and thoughts are our own! We just really liked this new option at WDW. Thanks for watching!