20 Things You Didn’t Know About The Lion King

It’s been 20 years since Disney’s The Lion King made its stage debut, making it one of the longest-running shows on Broadway and a global theatrical phenomenon. In honor of the musical’s milestone anniversary, here’s 20 facts you didn’t know about the production. 

1. Throughout its 20-year run, there have been over 8,000 performances given.
2. The Lion King is one currently the third longest-running show on Broadway, following The Phantom of the Opera and Chicago.
3. As of 2014, The Lion King has been the highest-grossing Broadway production with over $1 billion in ticket sales, surpassing The Phantom of the Opera.
4. It may be the most successful of Disney’s theatrical productions, but it was not the first. Beauty and the Beast opened on Broadway three years earlier, and stage adaptations of The Little Mermaid, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Aladdin, Tarzan and Frozen have since been made.
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5. The Lion King won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Choreography and Best Costume Design.
6. The costumes are noted for their intricacy and detail, like the cast’s corsets, each of which takes two days to hand-bead.

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Corsets worn by The Lion King cast.

7. The mask worn by Simba takes roughly 34 hours to make.
8. It is hand painted to look like it’s made of natural wood, though it is really made out of carbon fiber, a lightweight yet sturdy material.
9. The mask weighs the same amount as football.
10. Simba’s mane is made up of horse hair and hand-cut leather, whereas Mufasa’s mane is made from peacock feathers, mahogany and balsa wood.

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Simba’s mask.

11. Building all of the production’s costumes and puppets took the creative team over 37,000 hours.
12. The most traditional puppet in the show is hornbill Zazu, who is operated using three controls: one for the mouth, eyes, and wings, respectively.
13. Zazu’s distinctive neck is actually built using a slinky.
14. Each of his feathers are hand-cut and carefully applied to the puppet.
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15. The Lion King was the second Disney project for Samuel E. Wright, who originated the role of Mufasa on Broadway. Wright famously provided the voice of Sebastian in 1989’s The Little Mermaid.
16. There are over 230 puppets used in the show, including traditionally operated rod puppets, shadow puppets and full-sized ones. The majority of these can be seen in the dazzling “Circle of Life” opening number.
17. Arguably the hardest role to portray is that of a giraffe. It takes cast members six weeks to learn how walk on the costume’s stilts.

18. Over 13 million people have seen the show in London’s West End since it opened in 1999, which equates to a ticket being sold roughly every 40 seconds. 
19. Over 80 million have seen The Lion King across six continents.
20. That’s more than the combined populations of Switzerland, Singapore, Ireland, Australia, Sweden, Chile, Norway and New Zealand.