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Thursday, 24 September 2009 12:06

"The Lion King" Roars Into The Smithsonian as Costume Elements Join Museum's Permanent Collection



In a special ceremony today, Disney Theatrical Productions donated objects from the Tony® and Olivier award-winning musical THE LION KING to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.  Costume elements from the show’s protagonist Simba, and the tribal shaman Rafiki, will join the ranks of iconic objects from Broadway musicals Cats, Rent and The King and I.  The stylized lion mask and headdress of Simba and costume, custom shoes and hat designed for Rafiki will be added into the museum’s permanent entertainment collections.  This landmark musical event recently surpassed the 50 million mark in worldwide attendance, becoming the first American musical to reach that milestone.

The costume components designed by Julie Taymor, and the mask (co-designed by Michael Curry) were conceived for the original Broadway production of THE LION KING, which opened on November 13, 1997.  Taymor, a designer and director, has garnered acclaim for her innovative productions combining actors, masks, puppetry, ritual and large theatrical landscapes.  Entrusted by Disney Theatrical Productions president and producer, Thomas Schumacher, Taymor became chiefly responsible for the transformation of the 1994 Disney animated film into a first-class Broadway musical.  The costume elements are representative of Taymor’s achievement, which blend elements of African art and Broadway artisanship to depict the anthropomorphic animal characters.  In 1998, Taymor won the Tony Award® for Best Costume Design and Best Direction of a Musical for THE LION KING.  The directing honor made Taymor the first woman in theatrical history to win the coveted award.

“Taymor’s designs bring the story of Simba the lion cub, fulfilling his destiny to become King in the African Pride Lands, to life,” said museum director Brent D. Glass.  “This donation is a significant addition to the museum’s entertainment collection and joins materials representative of Broadway hits.”

“It is a tremendous honor to see Taymor’s groundbreaking creative vision recognized by a world-renowned organization like the Smithsonian,” said Thomas Schumacher, producer and president of Disney Theatrical Productions. “‘The Lion King’ is more than a musical—it has become a global phenomenon, and this donation forever seals its place as an icon of American culture in one of our country’s leading history museums.”

The Simba mask-headdress is made of carbon graphite, a lightweight but durable material cast from a silicone mold, paint and polyester fibers.  The Rafiki costume is made of cotton fabric, decorated with metal amulets, and a horsehair collar.  The hat is made of textured kente cloth and the custom shoes are made of rubber.

Now in its 12th year, Disney’s THE LION KING continues to reign as one of the most popular shows on Broadway and around the world.  The global phenomenon is the winner of more than 70 major awards worldwide, including the 1998 Tony Award® and NY Drama Critics Award for Best Musical, the 1999 Grammy® for Best Musical Show Album, and the 1999 Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Choreography and Best Costume Design. 

To date, the show has been presented in 13 different countries (US, Canada, UK, Japan, Germany, Holland, France, Mexico, Australia, China, Taiwan, South Africa and Korea).  The Broadway production will play its 5000th performance this November and the London company will celebrate its 10th anniversary in October making THE LION KING one of only five musical productions in theatre history to play for ten years or more on both Broadway and the West End.  In addition to Broadway and a North American tour, THE LION KING can also be seen on stage in London, Hamburg, Paris and Tokyo.  In May 2009, a sit-down production of THE LION KING opened at Mandalay Bay Theatre – the first ever Disney Theatrical Production to be launched in Las Vegas.

THE LION KING began as a 1994 animated feature-length film developed and produced by the Walt Disney Company.  The story, a coming of age parable set among animals indigenous to its setting, the African veldt, tells the tale of Simba, the lion cub who rises to be the King of the jungle.

Julie Taymor, along with designer Michael Curry, created hundreds of masks and puppets for THE LION KING.  Scenic design is by Richard Hudson; costume design is by Julie Taymor; lighting design is by Donald Holder.  Choreography is by Garth Fagan.  The book has been adapted by Roger Allers, who co-directed the animated feature and Irene Mecchi, who co-wrote the screenplay of THE LION KING

The score features Elton John and Tim Rice’s music from the animated film along with three new songs by John and Rice, additional musical material by South African Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor and Hans Zimmer and music from an album inspired by the animated film, "Rhythm of the Pride Lands," written by Lebo M, Mark Mancina and Hans Zimmer.  The resulting sound of THE LION KING score is a fusion of Western popular music and the distinctive sounds and rhythms of Africa, embracing the Academy Award®-winning “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” and the haunting “Shadowlands.”   

DISNEY THEATRICAL PRODUCTIONS (DTP), a division of Disney Theatrical Group, operates under the direction of Thomas Schumacher and is among the world’s most successful commercial theatre enterprises.  Reaching a global annual audience of more than 10 million people in over 40 countries, DTP produces and licenses Broadway musicals around the world including Grammy®, Tony® and Olivier-award winning The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Elton John & Tim Rice’s Aida, TARZAN ®, Mary Poppins, a co-production by Disney and Cameron Mackintosh and The Little Mermaid.  In 2007, DTP launched the professional touring stage version of Disney’s High School Musical.  In addition, DTP licenses musical titles for local schools and community productions through Music Theatre International and on its recently launched website,  Disney Theatrical Group also delivers live entertainment around the world through its partnership with Feld Entertainment, producer of Disney on Ice and Disney LIVE!, including Celebrations! and Rockin’ Road Show.

THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN HISTORY collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history.  To learn more about the museum, check  For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY).



Last modified on Friday, 25 September 2009 21:31