The Lion King Celebration was a parade based on the animated film The Lion King. It ran at Disneyland from June 1, 1994 to June 1, 1997 and was designed as though the story of Simba, the protagonist of The Lion King, was a tale passed down in Africa for generations. The parade featured six floats designed around different aspects of Africa, dancers dressed in animal costumes and a Pride Rock float featuring Simba and Nala. The parade was replaced by Hercules Victory Parade in 1997.
During a typical show, a total of 89 cast members performed in The Lion King Celebration. This included 56 dancers, 12 puppeteers, 10 acrobatic pole dancers, 6 musicians and 5 remote control operators.
The Lion King Celebration featured the first use of Audio-Animatronics in a Disneyland parade. It also featured the first use of "Puppetronics", a technique used to create the large, lifelike animal puppets featured on the floats.
The design of the parade has strong roots in traditional African artwork, featuring vibrant colours, tribal designs and dance routines based on traditional African dances.
African painter Betty LaDuke designed and painted a sculpture of three monkeys that sat behind Nala on the Pride Rock float.
Set to a mostly instrumental version of the song "I Just Can't Wait to Be King", the first characters to appear are two rhinoceroses, followed by tribal dancers and drummers and a float featuring Zazu and Rafiki with two giraffes. Zazu and Rafiki introduce the parade as it continues down Main Street, U.S.A..
A herd of gazelle dancers dressed in spandex costumes with hoods precede a float with tribal gazelle designs, pushed along by wildebeest dancers. They are followed by a group of tribal crane dancers, the elephant float and two remote-controlled crocodiles. The elephant float occasionally shoots a stream of water from its trunk. In the first year of the show, the larger 'mother' elephant was preceded by a smaller 'baby' elephant whose costume was similar to that of the previously mentioned rhinoceroses, only larger. Two pole dancers dressed in tribal bird costumes walk at the sides.
Leopard dancers dance around the Rain Forest float, which features monkey dancers on swings and Pumbaa on the back. Pumbaa talks to Timon, who follows behind chasing three remote-controlled bugs including a scorpion and a rhinoceros beetle.
Two tribal-bird pole dancers lead the Drum Dancer float, which features drummers, dancers and percussionists in colourful, vibrant tribal costumes.
The last float - Pride Rock - is led by a group of zebra and cheetah dancers, two tribal elephant dancers and two tribal bird dancers. Simba stands atop Pride Rock while Nala roars and drums out the beat with her paw at the foot of the float. Above them, Mufasa's face is represented in a spinning sun design. The end of the parade is marked by two tribal zebras holding a rope.
The parade eventually stops and Mufasa's voice is heard telling Simba to take his place in the circle of life. The song "Circle of Life" begins to play and the dancers dance and leap around the floats. At the end, Simba roars and white doves are released from one of the floats, symbolizing hope and peace.