It’s hard to describe what Harambe Nights at Animal Kingdom was like. It’s definitely a celebration of the Lion King. It’s a party and a concert as one event. Also throw in dinner. Whatever category it fits in, it was an experience!
The night began with appetizers in the Welcome Reception. Spicy Durban chicken, Moroccan beef kefta, pickled fennel paneer cheese, and Safari Cheeseburger Rolls were the delectable treats. Also given was Lion Chow, a sort of snack mix. These were at stations throughout the Harambe area of Animal Kingdom’s Africa. Drinks throughout the night had special selections of wines and beers as well as the usual soft drinks, and a special Jungle Juice which also could come with some rum.
The welcome really began before the Welcome Reception. Cast members were stationed around entrances to Harambe, all saying hello and welcoming all to the festival. Wristbands designated guests that were supposed to enter, and also told where to sit. This was because of regular and premium seating. I chose the regular seats, which didn’t look dead on, but had a great view of everything without heads getting in the way. The premium were seats on the floor.
Following the Welcome Reception was the Concert in the Wild. It was a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Lion King, and had a celebrity narrator and live orchestra. The show was an hour long, which is just a little short of the full movie length. Music was interspliced with scenes from the movie. Narrators filled in the gaps of the story. The idea was telling Simba’s story in a way that shows how he is supposed to relate to all of us. The choir and orchestra went through each major song (the originals, by the way) and brought in some songs from Rhythm of the Pridelands, one of my favorite albums. The extra songs included “He Lives In You” and “It’s Time”. The narrator I was able to see was Montego Glover, who did a wonderful job especially in doing kid Simba’s voice.
The live orchestral score gave me goosebumps on several occasions, and having the choir helped with that as well. Having a very dramatic wildebeest stampede, “Be Prepared”, even “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” was amazing to have live. The orchestra did an incredible job as sometimes singing parts were taken from the movie, but the score was from the band.
The musical numbers officially listed were: Circle of Life, Story Circle – Welcome, I Just Can’t Wait To Be King, Be Prepared, Hakuna Matata, Can You Feel the Love Tonight, Shadowland, He Lives In You, Circle of Life Finale, and It’s Time.
Following the Concert in the Wild, it was time for dinner! The Street Party had several stations of Breads, Surf & Turf, Pap Slow-cooked, Basmati Slow-cooked, and desserts. Breads had a salad with fruits and veggies, kachumbari salad, roasted beetroot salad, mac and cheese, vegetable samosa, chicken legs, naan and other breads, and some dips to go with it all. Surf & Turf had another salad with mango as the key ingredient, a watermelon salad, coriander chutney potatoes, seared corvina fillet, and seared lamb chops. Pap Slow-cooked had peri bbq pork and vegetarian masala, served over goat cheese pap. Basmati had butter chicken and vegetarian heirloom wat, served over basmati rice. Desserts contained pinapple with coconut, apples and caramel, melon with minted lime yogurt dip, rice pudding, caramel salted Tanzania coffee bite, chai cream with zebra stripes, and an assortment of ice cream novelties…yes, those ice cream novelties.
The food was excellent! It fit Animal Kingdom’s variety of delicacies.
The Street Party lived up to its name. A band and DJ helped create the right atmosphere of entertainment. Dancing came out of these performances. Families participated in some great, upbeat songs. Stilt walkers paraded around the grounds. Characters of the likes of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Rafiki, and Timon all were available for pictures. Merchandise was available for purchase. Seating was available throughout the whole venue.
I was actually afraid that seating would be a problem. As I walked around, I noticed just how much Harambe Village was open. The Tusker House had food stations as well as some more quiet seating. Also, all the way down by the Harambe Theater was more quiet tables. The actual Street Party part did have seats and standing tables for eating.
Several representatives of African culture were on hand to answer questions and educate guests. I spotted a musician and a wood carver among them.
As guests walked out of the party, music filled the pathways adding to the dramatic atmosphere. Towards the end there were puppeteers from Festival of the Lion King. Guests were able to get up close and personal with the puppets.
Now, I’ve been to many Disney events, both extra tickets and not, and this was one of the great ones! I thought I’d be disappointed by the concert or the food or the atmosphere or all of those. It turned out that I wish I could do this again! The party was truly a party. I found myself dancing a little with excitement. The food was excellent. I especially liked the Basmati tables and Breads tables. I’m a sucker for butter chicken and mac and cheese. Having the ice cream novelties was another treat for me. Besides this, the appetizers were some of the best I’ve had. I liked the burger roll and the chicken.
Back to the atmosphere. Every inch was a great place to be, whether full of music or a quiet lounge type area. It was nice to be at the park late at night. Believe me, this is a rare opportunity to be at the park this late (although it should change in the future with the River of Lights coming soon). The music was bouncing, and the performers on the street were helping add to the atmosphere.
As for the concert, chills and goosebumps! The dancers were terrific, and the choir and orchestra made this movie come alive in ways never before. The movie scenes were crisp and clear, as well as cameras on the stage itself. This experience, alone, was worth paying the extra ticket.
It also helped that there was quite a selection of drink choices. The juice was my favorite, whether with rum or without. I experienced both.
I was so hesitant to leave, but eventually did. To my surprise they made the trail back an experience as well! Like I said, there was music to help guide us. And, it was a surprise to have more stilt walkers and the puppets to get pictures with. Disney went all out for this. I enjoyed every part of it!
If you are able to experience it within these next couple of months, I highly suggest shelling out the bucks to do it. It’s worth every penny! This is a very rare opportunity and one of the best to experience.
Until next time, have a marvelous day!