Lion King Signature Lunch at Hakuna Matata – Review

For the duration of the Lion King and Jungle Festival (30th June – 22nd September 2019) a special Lion King character lunch is offered at the Hakuna Matata restaurant in Adventureland. This menu is the meal included in the special Lion King Signature Experience with the Disney Hotels over the summer, but can be booked separately for €39.

The menu is decidedly simple, there are essentially two options to pick from. The adult menu features a Yassa Chicken, Plantain, Beef Meatballs, sautéed shrimps, vegetable salad with a peanut dressing; the Vegan menu which contains a Vegan sauté with tomato sauce, plantain and a vegetable salad with the peanut dressing.

Ordering takes only a few minutes and the meal is presented on a tray much like a standard quick service meal, once you have tray in hand you will be taken to a seat by a Cast Member.

The food is actually delightfully tasty. The chicken dish is nothing particularly special but is a cut above all other quick service chicken dishes; where this meal delivers on flavour is the delightful plantain – a cooked banana – this is both very tasty and unique, more importantly, it was cooked very well allowing all the flavours of the banana to be tasted. The meatballs in sauce were also very good.

The whole dish worked really well together, each part of the main having its own very unique flavour and texture. It felt more like a tasting platter where I got to try a little of everything and I came away wanting more of everything on the regular menu.

Major points go to the presentation of the plates, the bamboo plate and cutlery added something quite special and unique. It’s refreshing to see such effort going into a quick service meal; of course this also helps it be elevated above any of the other quick service meals.

For desert the coconut and banana flavour ice cream which has a number of flavours on it and a Simba motif – this was exceptional, a real themed snack that is Instagram heaven. Whilst it looks really good, it also tastes brilliant, the banana flavour is really evident and refreshing – add in that the ice cream is actually surprisingly large, we have a winner here.

The character meet and greet element to the meal is also super relaxed and chilled – just like the signature packages last year – Mickey, in a very cute new adventurer outfit – and Rafiki will walk casually up to your table and you have a very relaxed pace meet and greet, there’s no time pressure and the characters are brilliant.

Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend this lunch to anybody who loves the Lion King, or who just wants to be further immersed in this wonderful season. This is one not to skip during your visit, you will not be disappointed!


The Lion King Signature experience lunch runs daily from 30th June – 22nd September 2019. It is priced at €39 for adults and €35 for children. Dining reservations can be made by phoning the Disneyland Paris dining reservations line on +33 1 60 30 40 50.

Interview with Steve Sidwell – Musical Arranger, Rhythms of the Pridelands

Steve Sidwell

As a special preview for the upcoming Disneyland Paris Lion King and Jungle Festival, the Disneyland Paris teams sat down with the Musical Arranger for the Rhythm of the Pridelands show and Grammy award winner, Steve Sidwell, to discuss how the music came to be and the influences for the show. Steve has worked extensively at Disneyland Paris before, most notably for the music of the Once Upon a Dream Parade which premiered during the 15th anniversary in 2007.


How did you approach The Lion King and the Rhythms of Pride Lands?

For this show, we tried to develop new ideas, which is always difficult when you are working on such a famous story. It has been successfully treated in a variety of forms, which makes things more complicated. But Disney knows how to collaborate with creators to breathe new life into its stories. And, in fact, the concepts and models of this show have inspired the music immensely.

With such a famous soundtrack, how did you find the balance between respect for this musical legacy and bringing fresh air?

It was a real challenge. It is always very difficult to change such an iconic work. Balance is hard to find. It’s been 25 years now that The Lion King has been released. It has become a timeless classic, but at the same time, we wanted to consider it with a new look. The decor of our show being based on musical instruments, it was a key element of our approach. We took some risks, but always with immense respect for the original work. In addition, our show lasts only half an hour and is played in a very particular context: our guests are in a Park and they try to do a lot of things. It was therefore necessary to offer them a particularly exciting experience. To do this, I made sure to keep a great energy throughout the show, while providing for quieter moments with the ballads, so that children and adults can enjoy the show.

Rafiki stands against a yellow background in the Rhythm of the Pridelands official show poster

How does music fit into this show?

From a general point of view, music is an art based on collaboration. In a live production, there is always the visual aspect, and in addition to technology, there is dance, staging, singing and costumes, all of which create an atmosphere. I am very inspired by all these elements. In The Lion King and Rhythms of Pride Land, music plays a vital role. When writing for a show like this, you must be aware that music accompanies a performance: singers, acrobats and dancers, with this superb aerial choreography. Everything has allowed me to create a truly unique music, whose originality has been praised by Disneyland Paris teams. This is the best compliment I could get.

From what material did you work?

We used elements of the animation classic as well as the musical, from the magnificent instrumental score of Hans Zimmer, especially for the final fight scene, to the songs of Elton John and Lebo M.

For the wildebeest stampede and the final fight, I had access to the orchestral scores of the film. This allowed me to study very precisely what had been done for the film, and I tried to recreate the same atmosphere, while adding some novelties. And for the songs, to the extent that they had to be cut in order to fit into our format, I started from scratch. It allowed me to develop a different, unique concept. I tried to make them exhilarating, modern and original, while preserving their African influences.

What type of orchestra did you use?

A traditional orchestra, except for percussion. I was fortunate to have at my disposal a large symphony orchestra, a big band and a huge rhythm section. We had djembes, tamas or “talking drums” from West Africa, kalimbas or “thumb pianos” from sub-Saharan Africa, a kora, an instrument from Mali, congas and bongos. We used as many African instruments as possible. It was impressive to see all these instruments brought together during the recording at the famous Angel Recording Studios in London. Extraordinary! I learned a lot on this occasion. Working between Paris and London, I had the opportunity to meet many experts because African drums are really a specialist business. For the fight scenes and wildebeest, we also had a big chorus typical of Hollywood that sang in Latin, and a Gospel choir that sang in Swahili. We even had a specialist of this language with us to make sure of the pronunciation. The best conditions were brought together.

How did you manage the “live” dimension of the show?

It’s something I’ve done many times. Of course, the show has a soundtrack, but I did not want the audience to be aware of it. I wanted all the musical elements to blend into each other. The recorded music has been designed in such a way that it leaves a space for live singers. We also took into account the unique audio system of our theater, which greatly influenced the way we recorded and mixed the music. In fact, everyone in the audience can enjoy perfect stereo. Wherever you sit, you will be surrounded on all sides by the music.

In this show, it’s the songs that tell the story, not the dialogues.

Many things had to be reworked to fit the format of the show. This is one of the reasons why there is no dialogue. It’s up to the music to fulfill that role. It’s a way of doing that I know well. It’s more enjoyable as the script is written with talent and precision.

You’re saying that The Lion King and Rhythms of Pride Land was an artistic and emotional experience?

That’s my motto: making music to share emotions. And on The Lion King and Rhythms of Pride Land, it was not difficult because it is such a magnificent show, both from the point of view of writing and staging. The emotions came naturally. I just had to deal with tension and relaxation. The Disneyland Paris teams are so talented; it’s a joy to work with them. They guided me very easily in the right direction. I’m only more impatient to discover the reactions of the public!


Rhythm of the Pridelands takes place during the Lion King and Jungle Festival at Disneyland Paris from June 30th – September 22nd 2019.

Toy Story 4 Review – The toys still have it

When rewatching Toy Story 3 in the lead up to seeing Toy Story 4, you have this sense that it was the perfect ending to a wonderful franchise, how could you top that? We had, with those final scenes, a bow being put on top of the franchise when the torch was passed from Andy to Bonnie.

Toy Story 4 doesn’t quite top Toy Story 3, but it does a very good job at telling an emotional story that also feels like a logical next step in this series – and yes, you will need tissues because the ending will break you.

The Toy Story franchise is an odd one in where it sits itself, having been around since 1995 it has found itself grappling with the audience and its adolescence and now young adulthood; and, much like the previous outing, it manages to balance this wonderfully. The plot isn’t overly revolutionary – toys start off happy, something happens, toys go off on an adventure, then the film serves up an emotional kick at the very end. It’s simple and it works.

This new installment introduces interesting new characters with Gaby Gaby as well as Ducky and Bunny (who provide the comedic relief) and Duke Caboom. Of course the star new character of the film is Forky and, whilst I did enjoy watching the character, I do wonder what larger role Forky could have played, it does feel that there is some lost potential. Bo Peep returns, and with it the explanation as to why she was not in Toy Story 3; it is very clear that she is not the same character as she was, and with it she has become a much more developed character with a good deal of depth and the Toy Story franchise is all the better for it.

For all the Pixar fans out there (myself included) keep an eye out for a number of really quite brilliant references and throwbacks to previous films and shorts including Up and Tin Toy. These hit a brilliant sweet spot and fans will really get a kick out of these moments.

The thing that really works for the Toy Story films is the emotional connection we have to the characters, and that is the genius of the original creators of Toy Story: taking inanimate objects that we can all connect to, and giving us an emotional connection to them. Here we are, 24 years on and it still works.

Toy Story 4 is not the best of the Toy Story films (for me, that’s still the original Toy Story) but it does do an excellent job of being a funny, emotional and enjoyable film. These Toy Story films are very likely the closest we have to a perfect film franchise, they don’t skip a beat.

Behind the scenes during the Phantom Manor refurbishment

Between January 2018 and May 2019, Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris went under an extensive 16 month refurbishment. Whilst many things in the Manor did change following the refurbishment, one thing remained constant: the dedication of the Disney Imagineers to their craft and creating the best illusions to surprise guests.

To celebrate the reopening, Disneyland Paris have released a 17 minute documentary which goes behind the scenes with some of the key creative figures involved in this magnificent refurbishment.

Review: Breakfast with the Disney Princesses

Pastries next to a menu during the Disneyland Paris Princess breakfast at the Auberge de Cendrillon

Who doesn’t want to wake up with breakfast in the heart of Fantasyland with the Disney Princesses? From July 1st 2019 this popular breakfast offering is returning to Disneyland Paris, I had the chance to try it during its Spring 2019 run and it was such a wonderful experience that I’m so glad is making a permanent return to the park.

The food

Upon arriving at the Auberge de Cendrillion in Fantasyland, a friendly Cast Member will take you to your table in the restaurant; already set up on the table are a range of pastries including Croissants, Pain au Chocolat, Breads. These pastries tasted fresh and were a great way to open up the meal.

Pastries next to a menu during the Disneyland Paris Princess breakfast at the Auberge de Cendrillon

At this point you will also be brought your choice of hot drink and fruit juice. These are pretty basic, but fine, they are never going to be the highlight of the meal.

After a few minutes, you will be brought a selection of sweet items including yoghurt, salmon and a few other bits. These felt mostly forgettable in the great scheme of the breakfast, an afterthought and not the most tasty one at that.

A breakfast dish at the Auberge de Cendrillion including an egg, 3 sausages, potatoes and assorted vegetables. The plate is finished with a Mickey Mouse waffle

The main dish is a good mix of eggs, sausages, potatoes and a Mickey waffle. These were all delicious and tasted like the premium offering that this meal is. The potatoes are cooked in butter and taste richer for this, whereas the sausages are the usual veal sausages that you’ll find in the hotel breakfasts. Whilst I enjoyed the Mickey Waffle, and it does make for a good photo, it would have been nice for some form of accompaniment to it, perhaps some maple syrup? Without it, the waffle lacks something.

The Disney Princesses

Whilst a delicious breakfast is one part of the breakfast, you’re really here to meet some of the Disney princesses! At the breakfast 3 princesses will be present – no princes or other characters. Whilst this is not a large number of characters, you never feel rushes in your interactions, it always feels relaxed and that the princess has time for a good conversation.

Aurora posing in a medieval castle looking doorway at the Auberge de Cendrillon at Disneyland Paris

Cast Members will always be walking around to ensure that you get to see each of the 3 as well, you’ll never be caught short. On my visit I had the chance to meet Aurora, Cinderella and Snow White. Getting 3 princesses in quick succession with no wait time can be worth its weight in gold during the peak seasons!

I felt that 3 was the optimum number, I came away feeling both satisfied with my meets but also that I had the chance and opportunity to have a relaxed breakfast meal.

Practical Information

The Princess breakfast at the Auberge de Cendrillion returns on 1st July 2019. Bookings can be taken via your travel agent or via the Disneyland Paris dining line.

The meal is priced at €49 (with annual pass discounts applicable as usual) and is broken into two sittings – 8:30am and 9:45am.

Should you do this meal?

If you are wanting to have a more upper-end breakfast or meet the Disney Princesses without the wait, then almost certainly yes, you should make time for this. The Princess Breakfast is a truly special experience and will make many faces light up with joy.

It would be nice for the breakfast to have photographers with the characters to add to the Disney PhotoPass+ service, but unfortunately this does not happen – make sure you bring your camera to immortalise those memories!

An empty dining room in a castle-like setting at the Auberge de Cendrillon in Disneyland Paris

Cépages: Restaurant Review

Cépages wine - Villages Nature Paris

On the Lakeside Promenade at Villages Nature Paris sits a cluster of a few restaurants. From my reading and research, a lot of excitement and hype seems to surround the Cépages Wine Bar and Restaurant. Luckily, as part of the InsidEars Hotels and Resorts Discovery Weekend, I was given the chance to take a look around Villages Nature and the chance to try a meal inside this restaurant.

From the outset, Cépages is a distinctly French affair playing loud live performances of French music outside as you approach. But this is no traditional old bistro, Cépages is distinctly modern in both look, food and sounds.

Cépages at Villages Nature

Design with a modern French flair

Cépages, as previously mentioned is very modern in outlook, this suits the Lakeside Promenade down to the ground; everything here is about the large glass fronts allowing for enjoyable vistas over the main lake. The airy modern feel means that you never really feel like your fellow diners are on top of you.

The wine cellar at Cépages, Villages Nature

For those wanting a private dining experience, there is the private wine cellar area. This closes off to be protected from the rest of the restaurant and offers intimate group dining away from the crowds.

Food that prioritises shared experiences

Food at Cépages is a very traditional affair. Most dishes are inspired by classic French cuisine with plenty in the way of sharing dishes.

For starter, I opted for the Butternut soup. The dish was plenty big enough for a starter portion and had a very rich and creamy taste. I was unsure about having the seeds inside the soup dish, I ended up eating around them and leaving them. This was slightly annoying as it obviously caused avoidable food waste; whilst the seeds are good from a presentational perspective, I think practically it does not work so well. However, the taste was very good and overall I still enjoyed the dish.

For my main course I opted for the Bœuf Bourgignon which was served on top of a bed of Tagliatelle  pasta. Mains are presented in sharing hot pot dishes which you are able to share amongst your table; the concept works really well and encourages a shared dining experience – as a quirk of this restaurant, I think this is a great idea and adds something quite fun into the mix.

Taste wise, this dish was sublime. The beef was delightfully tender, the vegetables and potatoes were slow cooked until soft and the sauce flavouring was rich.

Bœuf Bourgignon at Cépages - Villages Nature
Desert, for me, was the Pomme façon tatin (Apple in the tatin style). Having expected the presentation of this to have been more like a tart, this was a bit of a surprise. The apple, in a caramelised sauce on a bed of ice cream, pastry and crumble tasted delightful. As a picture, it looks a bit messy; but don’t let the photo deceive you, the taste of the warm, soft apple really does work well. It’s not a tart, but it is good.

Obviously, in a wine bar you’d expect to have a range of wines on offer. Cépages is no different, as part of the tour we had a red wine – selected by the restaurant – to try (unfortunately I did not manage to catch the name I’m afraid); the wine was light and packed a good taste. I would be confident in saying that Cépages would be able to guide you to the right wine for your meal and for that wine to be of a good quality.

Cépages wine - Villages Nature Paris

Final thoughts

Cépages is a restaurant to try if you are passing through Villages Nature. Its location, close to all the central facilities of the resort, means that even if you are just passing through for a day that this is a viable option for a meal.

Inside you will have an enjoyable meal in a sleek modern environment which mixes modern French life with its traditional past. I look forward to one day returning and trying even more dishes.