This forgotten Lion King spin-off paved the way for changes at Disney parks!

1995's Circle of Life film at Epcot was not only a fun show but helped change the way Disney used IP at the parks!
Photo: Disney's The Lion King - Walt Disney Pictures
Photo: Disney's The Lion King - Walt Disney Pictures /
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As The Lion King celebrates its 30th anniversary, the legacy of the Disney animated hit is being reappraised. But it’s easy to forget one part of The Lion King’s legacy, which is how it inspired an Epcot attraction that would set a new standard for Disney parks!

Even Disney seemed taken aback The Lion King exploded into such a hit in June of 1994. They expected a success but not the highest-grossing film of 1994. Fans could not get enough of the film, and Disney was quick to add a puppet/music show, Legend of the Lion King, at the Magic Kingdom. 

But that still wasn’t enough and Disney realized they had an opportunity to use the show to spark up a pavilion at Epcot. And in doing so, they set the stage for more transformations to come. 

The original Symbiosis

As great as the original EPCOT Center was, it could also be pretty dry in the presentation. A good case in point was Symbiosis, a movie at The Land pavilion. The 17-minute film focused on the environment, man’s connection to it, and the attempts to correct pollution. 

The movie was good in the detail but…well, it was pretty boring. The music was good and some fantastic vistas yet it felt too dull in the scientific details and environmental stuff. Also, by the mid-1990s, much of the science was already outdated thanks to technology and the coming of global warming. 

Playing to half-full (at best) audiences, the movie was pretty forgettable. With Disney already planning to spark up Epcot in the mid-1990s, a change was needed. That included how The Land shifted sponsors from Kraft to Nestle. Thus, using characters from the biggest Disney hit ever at the time made total sense.