Christophe Leclercq

Interview with Christophe Leclercq, show director of the production “The Lion Link: Rhythms of the Pride Lands”.

When did you start working on this project? 
The decision to launch the production of a brand-new show around The Lion King took place more than two and a half years ago. From there, everything was set up very quickly and I was appointed to stage this new production.

How did you develop the concept of the show? 
The first instructions I was given were to do something completely different from productions done in Disney Parks before. From there, I asked myself a lot of questions. I found “fan-arts” that just imagined the characters of The Lion King in human form. It inspired us a lot. In the end, The Lion King: Rhythms of the Pride Lands is an unprecedented show based on the history of The Lion King, as if a tribe had decided to put this legend on the stage and in music.

And this story is told through songs?
Absolutely. Due to the multicultural nature of our audience, we preferred not to use dialogues. These are the songs that tell the story. We scrupulously respected the order of the animated film. We also had the chance to add several iconic titles of the musical.

This show is titled The Lion King: Rhythms of the Pride Lands. How did you deal with this rhythmic dimension?
Our show is really based on the rhythmic aspect. With our arranger Steve Sidwell, we wanted to put the African traditions in the spotlight, while bringing a touch of modernity through new rhythms and new tempos, but always in the greatest respect. This dimension has not only inspired the music of the show, but also our decor, which consists of djembes on which the characters will evolve. All these interlocking percussion instruments create an incredible stage space on several levels, which offers many possibilities in terms of staging.

How did you use these different areas according to each song?
With Frontierland Theater, we are fortunate enough to have a real theater, with a real “black box”, that is to say, a closed performance space, with all that that allows in terms of immersion and treatment of the light. Thanks to our new equipment, I can focus the light on different areas of the scene and make each number a vignette, as in a storyboard, that I spread throughout the space. I can control every part of the scene that I want the light to focus on. This allows us to keep a lot of surprises.

You really use all the space!
Indeed. There are certainly artists on stage at different heights, but the scenery also evolves during the show: it turns, it swings and you have a few surprises! And then, there is the whole aerial dimension. Many things are going on in the air. It must be said that we installed in the hangers not less than 7 flying devices for acrobats, which means that during the 30 minutes of the show, they touch very little ground!

Can you introduce your creative team?
I had already worked with Bradley Kaye, Principal Art Director for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, on the Jedi Training Academy, and we figured it would be the right person to set the stage for our new show. For costumes, we turned to Mirena Rada, a well-known Disney and Disney comedy artist, including Tokyo Disneyland, who has already collaborated with us on the FanDaze event. For the musical arrangements, we called Steve Sidwell, who had already signed those of the Disney Dream Parade, and for the choreography, Cathy Ematchoua brought us her inimitable style. For the lights, we asked Pierre Leprou to bring a fresh look. As for the sound, we owe it to John Moine de Russi, known as “Papa John”. He proposed a brand-new audio broadcasting system for the Frontierland Theater offering a totally immersive experience.

How did you build your “tribe”, the cast of the show?
As for the singers, the castings started more than a year ago. We auditioned in London and Paris, as we often do. We have cast people who worked on The Lion King in the West End, others on the version of Mogador or on other musicals like Motown. So we have a panel of dazzling and experienced artists, people with craft and a lot of talent. For acrobats, some of them come from big houses like Cirque du Soleil, from The House of Dancing Water show in Macau or from air shows in Paris. The dancers were the last to be auditioned. Some of them had also made Mogador and meet today with other artists they knew years ago on other productions related to the Lion King. In all, our Cast brings together 11 nationalities!

Can you tell us about costume design?
The costumes are very important in our show. They are there to evoke the characters of the film through all sorts of references, especially in terms of color codes of animals. Take Rafiki. It is a mandrill, recognizable by its muzzle very colorful, blue, red, white, and we find the same colors in his costume. In the end, 400 costumes were made for a cast of 70 people.

According to the different stagings of The Lion King around the world, the character that changes the most is probably Rafiki. How did you approach it?
In the animated cartoon, it’s a male monkey, so the person who sings “Circle of Life” is a kind of independent voiceover. For the musical, they relied on the voice of this song to make Rafiki a female character. Leaving to do something different, I thought that our Rafiki could be a singer. In the end, it gives another dimension to the character. He becomes a sort of shaman, who leads the show and ensures the transitions between the numbers.

Timon and Pumbaa are also difficult to represent on the stage. How did you envision them? 
To enter into the concept of the show, it was also necessary to humanize them. So I went back into the cartoons and seeing this meerkat and the warthog, I immediately thought of Laurel and Hardy. This is how the costume of the character who plays Timon has tail but in the shape of a meerkat’s tail. He also has big clown shoes that are reminiscing of the legs of meerkats. And when it comes to casting, we have turned to performers who look totally different.

It is also this originality that makes Disneyland Paris shows unique. We still remember The Forest of Enchantment: A Disney musical adventure, which you also staged, with its totally new concept.
It’s always a challenge! But I think it’s also our role to offer the public original concepts and open it to other forms of entertainment. Always based on Disney stories.

In the end, the emotion is still there! 
Music is paramount in this show. There is of course the richness of the original material, but also the strength of this new version. There is also this striking decor. And then, the whole “live” side of the show: the songs, the choreographies, the aerial acrobatics. All this human side that touches the heart. It’s my role to put all these artists in harmony to create emotions. Especially since we are inaugurating a new theater, and to do so, I could not dream of a better story than The Lion King, with its power and spirituality. We are the first to live in this place. It’s up to us to make it sound from our voices and give it its soul!


  1. Hi, there! I’m from Brazil, and I’ll be at DisneylandParis on my 40th birthday with my family (a husband and 3 daughters). May I have my “magical birthday ever”? This include a character? How I order it? We’re ordering a 1day/2parks ticket, and we have a doubt about the time of Paris Express. It leaves Disnenyland at 8pm, is that time AFTER the fireworks and night parade? We’re very excited with this family travel,and we’ll be waiting ansiously for your reply

  2. Wonderful article, please more like this!

    I’ve never seen that castle elevation artwork before, could you post it in a higher resolution? Would love to thoroughly investigate the details of it.

    Kind regards
    Disneyland Paris Treasures

  3. Greate post. Keep writing such kind of information on your blog. Im really impressed by your blog.

  4. Appreciating the time and energy you put into your site and in depth information you present. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed information. Wonderful read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.|

  5. What’s the point of attracting adults and “reconnecting them with childhooh emotions and memories” if once they’re there you’ll treat them like they’re not welcome?
    Maybe the problem is not our perception is wrong. Maybe the problem is you really don’t want us to go.

  6. There’s a Santa Fe style hotel? Oh my! Will have to go back and stay there! Only hotel I had time to see on my first visit was the Disneyland Hotel on my way into the park to see Captain Eo after it re-opened in June 2010. I was on a one-day visit via the Eurostar from London (on holiday there from Australia) so very limited time – too limited. But I loved it.

  7. I’ve been 4 times to Disneyland Paris in the last 3 years and each time the service has been absolutely dredful and not even apologetic – would love to see how this changes.

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  12. Also my question:-) Is there a way to buy something although i’m not working at Disneyland Paris?

  13. So, so sad to see this icon show close! I first saw it in California in 1987 and was blown away by what was then incredible 3D technology, as well as Michael’s performance. When I visited Disneyland Paris for the first (and thus far, only) time on 24 June 2010 I was on a EuroStar day trip to the park from London which I was visiting for Michael Jackson 1st anniversary events with his UK fans. When I heard that Disneyland Paris and other Disney Parks were re-opening the film as a tribute to Michael, I HAD to make the journey across the channel to see it again. Needless to say, I made the most of the opportunity for repeat screenings on that day. And though I’ve since seen it repeatedly in Anaheim and Tokyo (shortly before it closed there last year) I’ll never, ever forget seeing it on the big screen for the first time since the 80s at Disneyland Paris. I’m not sure I want to go back now. 🙁

  14. It’s a shame this classic has to go, really!
    I’m glad I got the chance to experience it once again with the tribute performance.

    It was not quite the same since many of the original effects and the look and feel of the cinema were missing, still the old 3D glasses/technique and and analogue! print/and projector was used, which was and is kind of lazy from Disney. Also, the print was very worn out the last time I’ve seen it and should have been replaced long ago.

    But, still better than no Captain EO.

    Since Captain EO will never return to the Disney parks, please release a worthy blu-ray of this classic masterpiece (in 3D and 2D). I’m sure plenty of Disney-, Michael Jackson-, Anjelica Huston, Franics Ford Coppola- and George Lucas-Fans would buy it in an instant!

    I sure would!

  15. Why oh why is this closing?

    Have seen it several times at Disneyland Paris in the last couple of years and and each showing was packed out! Judging by everyone’s reaction on the way out, the audience clearly loved both the film and its effects.

    Bad decision, Disney 🙁

  16. The reason it has closed is that jardly anyone watches. Figures have dwindled and have been for years. It has been declining in the mast few years. Everyone moans and groans but it costs Disney to keep it running and if the audiences ain’t coming, who can afford to keep it.

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  19. We used these just after Christmas. Such a vast improvement since our last visit in summer 2014. Well done! I still had to wait from about 9am to get a good spot in the queue, but then we only waited about 10 minutes in the actual pavilion, as opposed to 70 minutes last time!

  20. We had a wonderfull new years evening at euro disney 2015 – 2016!!!!
    It was fantastic!!
    Thank you!

  21. Will the foliage be refurbished? Many leaves and small branches are missing and spoil the attraction so hopefully these will be refurbished.

  22. Hello We are a family of 4 with my husband and 2 children.I am 32 weeks pregnant.With the easy access card will I have access to attractions with my family.

  23. would changing the perception around DP to attract adults or a particular age groups not be at the expense of other age groups eg kids, teenagers.

  24. What a shame that they cast aside the park’s heritage, people’s memories and their love of DLP by destroying the named stones and replacing them with bland slabs.
    There were a few broken and loose ones, but surely they could have been kept and relayed to a better standard than they had previously.
    It has really dampened our DLP experience. What next? Removal of the castle?

  25. it’sasmallworld is more beautifulthan before.

    I will ride to it’s a smallworld during go to disneyland paris.

  26. i come to disney land for 20 years every year 2or3 times
    i am a real disney fan i collect it also but my complain is this year
    when y order to stay in the hotel why did they not mention
    that there is so many attraction close in the park you mention about the hotel but let also know about what happen in the park
    i hope you understand why i writhe this
    i hope that you will reply
    thanks yolande

  27. I want cast menbers . business chaienge back stage new shw works
    my challenge .
    U.S.A I want art work project menbers.

  28. Hello, I am staying at the Hotel on 9/23/16. That day is my daughter’s birthday. Do you have the opportunity to purchase a cake?

  29. Can anyone help with getting in touch with photopass for Disneyland Paris. Tried sending email through contact us but email keeps coming back undeliverable. All photos are not coming up and need them to find my photos.

  30. Not Impressed! Big Thunder mountain is one of my favorite Disney Rides! Shut! Simlarly, the Star Wars events are apparently unavailable.No mention of these attractions being shut when my booking was made in June. My grandson, for whom we arranged this trip, has extatically reached the height limit, and a star wars addict/devotee will now be denied these pleasures. Will there be a refund/discount offered?

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