Cast member shows off unique puppet costumes featured in Disney's Lion King

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Friday, May 17, 2024
Lion King cast shows off unique, hand-painted puppet costumes
The Lion King will be performing at DPAC until June 9.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- One of the brightest jewels in Disney's crown is reaching a big milestone this summer.

"The Lion King" will celebrate 30 years since the animated movie's release in 1994.

ABC11 spoke to Puppet Supervisor Michael Riley during his national tour with the cast of "The Lion King" musical.

"There are three of us in the puppet department and we have 230 puppets," he said. "So it's a lot, and we have to take care to make sure they look just like they did on opening night seven years ago."

Riley said each of the puppets is unique and hand-painted.

"Even Zazu, who has a backup Zazu, is very different. And we tailor-make them to the actors," he said.

The puppets are made from a mold of the actor's heads and then a mask is attached to the mold. Riley said tailoring puppets to the actors is important because their ability to express things through the puppets must be individual.

Instead of hiring puppeteers for the Broadway show, Riley said they hire singers, dancers and actors and teach them how to be puppeteers.

He said up until the curtain rises and during the show, he and his team are looking over the puppets and making repairs.

"The reward is definitely the stage...getting those puppets on stage and seeing the 'Circle of Life', there are 50 puppets ... It's pretty spectacular," he said.

"The Lion King" will be performing at DPAC until June 9. For more information click here.