It doesn’t matter if you’re an adult or a child, Disneyland Paris never fails to stir up magic. On my visit to the dreamland, I experience The Lion King & Jungle Festival. By Priyanka Chakrabarti

“A dream is a wish your heart makes…” — the popular song from Cinderella starts playing in my head when I reach Disneyland Paris on what is my first visit to the theme park, country and continent. The gigantic pastel-pink castle with little white balconies and powder-blue window panes takes me back to my childhood. All I want to do is meet Disney characters, buy cotton candy and wear Mickey’s large velvety ears on my head. Not one to shy away from my whims, I buy the Mickey ears the moment I see them!

Disneyland Paris
Culinary treats embody the theme as well.

This is not how I expected the trip to go. Before I reached Disneyland Paris, I had visualised the moment a million times in my head—walking inside the park like an adult (I’m 31), taking photographs and talking to the crew about their latest shows, The Lion King: Rhythms of the Pride Lands and The Jungle Book Jive. I had been invited there to witness these musicals, after all. Instead, I find myself chasing Goofy, taking multiple servings of ice cream (with Mickey Mouse-shaped choco-chip cookies), playing with a soap-bubble gun and buying Disney merchandise.

Disneyland Paris
The Indian spirit seems to have got to Goofy.

My first official immersive experience is The Jungle Book Jive. Paris is scorched by a heat wave during my visit and the mercury is at an unlikely 44º Celsius, but enthusiasm levels soar high among the spectators in the Central Plaza. At about 11.30 am, Mickey, Minnie, Baloo, King Louie and friends make a stellar entrance on bright yellow and turquoise vehicles, blowing kisses at the crowd. All those present—from two-year-olds to 60-year-olds—shriek with joy. But this is no ordinary Disney show. Soon, pulsating bhangra beats fill the park and the stage is occupied by an Indian ensemble—men clad in colourful dhotis, ornamented jackets, and turbans; and women decked in vibrant silk lehengas and dazzling Indian jewellery dance on desi beats. With authetic costumes and choreography, India comes alive in the middle of Disneyland Paris.

Disneyland Paris
Simba shakes a leg in The Lion King: Rhythms of the Pride Lands.

The timeless tale of The Jungle Book has shaped many lives, but to witness this classic saga unravel with an Indian twist alongside a global audience is a spectacular experience. It will stay with me for a long time. The show concludes with a fountain of colours that touches the sky, painting Disneyland Paris’s canvas in hues of lavender, fuchsia, lime and crimson.

Disneyland Paris
The talented performers of The Lion King: Rhythms of the Pride Lands.

As the world gears up to revisit Simba’s story in cinemas, the premiere of The Lion King: Rhythms of the Pride Lands sees a full house at Frontierland Theatre. Hollywood actress Katie Holmes inaugurates the show. The curtain rises slowly, bright orange lights flicker on the edge of the stage, drum beats get louder, and the silhouette of Rafiki takes centre stage, singing, “Nants ingonyama bagithi baba…” Talented singers, dancers, drummers and acrobats keep me on the edge of my seat for nearly 25 minutes with their thrilling acts. The storytelling retains celebrated moments from the classic tale, but with the unique treatment of the story coupled with fine detailing of the costumes, choreography and art direction, The Lion King is reborn in a spanking new avatar. The entire musical is performed in chansigne (visual transcription of the lyrics synced with the music) too for the specially abled. Emotions run high through the show as we croon to iconic songs like The Circle of Life, I Just Can’t Wait to Be King, Hakuna Matata, Can You Feel the Love Tonight, He Lives in You, and more.

Disneyland Paris
Immerse yourself in African traditions at Djembe Joy Village. Inspired by elements of Africa, this village in Frontierland is dedicated to The Jungle Book. Visit this space if you want to meet King Louie, the legendary orangutan. Thetraditionalvillageisopento visitors every day until 2 pm.

The show leaves me famished, so I prowl the jungle-themed dining options at Frontierland and Adventureland. From exotic fruit-flavoured Simba ice cream to traditional African rice and beef curry, from animal-printed doughnuts to gigantic cheeseburgers—there’s plenty of choice here for every palate. An Indian food corner even serves paani puri! Dinner is beautifully complemented with live African dance performances.

I walk back from the park to the Disney Village bus stop in a euphoric daze and hop on a shuttle to reach my hotel, Disney’s Newport Bay Club. My magical day ends with Disneyland’s iconic fireworks, Disney Illuminations, at 11 pm. As I hit the sack, some memorable words from a legendary fable come back to me: It’s the circle of life, and it moves us all.

Disneyland Paris
Guests at Hakuna Matata bond with Mickey over a meal.

SPEND A DAY PROWLING THE PRIDE LANDS

Disneyland Paris is always a good idea, even more so while The Lion King and Jungle Festival is on.

GETTING THERE

You can take a taxi, shuttle bus, or a train from Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport to reach Disneyland. The most popular choice is the TGV train that takes about 45 minutes (including 30 minutes of wait time).

Disneyland Paris
Disney’s Newport Bay Club Hotel is a stone’s throw away from all the magic in the parks.

STAY AND TICKETS

Disney’s Newport Bay Club: This four-star hotel creates a luxurious coastal setting for its guests. The ambience reflects classic 90s nautical vibes—think marine-themed decor, old-school wooden furnishing, and restaurants serving delectable French cuisine. Nestled next to Lake Disney, the hotel is a 15-minute walk from the main Disneyland parks. You can avail free shuttle rides to the parks. Stay at Disney’s Newport Bay Club for one night in August with two-day access to both Disney parks (access to all attractions and shows included) at INR 69,861; The Lion King and Jungle Festival is on till September 22, 2019.

DINE

Dine at the Hakuna Matata restaurant—indulge in African-inspired dishes while Rafiki and Mickey keep you entertained. Don’t forget to grab a lion’s paw-shaped biscuit from here.

Related: The Real Reason Why Disneyland Paris Is THE Place For A Fairy Tale Wedding