6 Ways to Turn 'The Lion King' into an Escape Room
In the words of my girlfriend, “It’s a once-in-a-generation event! Kind of.” That’s right: The Lion King, a.k.a. Savannah Hamlet, roars back on to the silver screen this week in a sort-of live-action remake of the 1994 classic. At the time of writing, critics are divided on whether it’s a new and improved version, or simply one big CGI tech demo that lacks the heart of the original cartoon. Once everyone has stampeded to the cinema to see it (trampling countless Mufasas, or Mufasae, in the process) the debate will blaze even more furiously.
But what if – and hear me out here – what if all the critics are asking the wrong question? Stuck in the Hollywood media squall of whether remakes can ever outstrip the originals, whether Disney has lost its originality and sold its soul to well-trodden cash-grabs, critics are failing to ask the most important question of all: if The Lion King were an escape room, what would it be like?
Well, never fear, avid puzzlers, because we’ve got you covered. Here are 6 ways to turn the events of The Lion King into an escape room. Beyoncé, if you’re reading this, we’ve got your next project lined up.
First things first, there’s something about the film that urgently needs to be addressed. Every escape room has a certain fantasy attached to it: for example, you might be a budding superhero, or filling in for Sherlock Holmes, or perhaps you’re on a mission through the great unknown of space. For the escape room version of The Lion King, it’s important that you should play the room as the hero of the story. And that hero, of course, is this guy:
That’s right. Rafiki. From his wisdom to his cool staff, his martial arts prowess to his dominion over the occult, it’s Rafiki who’s the true protagonist. It’s no coincidence that Rafiki is the one chosen to ordain Simba as the heir to the throne, and who – at the conclusion of the film – anoints the next leader of the Pride Lands. Everything in the film progresses as the voodoo baboon wills it, and in the escape room you play as the smooth-voiced monkey himself, puppeteering the key moments in Simba’s life. The lions are mere pawns in his game. The room itself is a recreation of Rafiki’s quarters, with cave paintings and all sorts.
Now let’s think about some of the puzzles.
🦁 The Circle of Life
It’s one of, if not the most iconic moment in the film. The choir is singing, the music swells, and then the moment comes: Rafiki lifts the young Simba over the precipice of Pride Rock, and the animal kingdom shows fealty to their future king. The Cirrrrrrrrcle of Liiiiiife! Obviously, as the best song in the film, The Circle of Life is playing on a loop for an hour. There’s a statue of a young Simba in the room, and when the line comes, a player steps on to a facsimile of Pride Rock, and lifts the statue of Simba. An invisible laser fires, reflecting off a mirror in the eyes of the Simba statue, and triggering a compartment to open in the wall. Inside the compartment is a stone tablet engraved with the letter H.
🦁 Everything the Light Touches
It wouldn’t be The Lion King if there wasn’t a beautiful sunset, and who can forget Mufasa’s solemn proclamation to his son, laying out the true scope of his destiny, and his responsibility to rule fairly over the Pride Lands. On the wall of the escape room is a map of the Pride Lands, illuminated by a light on the opposite wall. Players must find the correct sheaf of paper that excludes the shadowy place where Scar rules and place it in front of the light, thus showing the borders of Simba’s future kingdom: everything the light touches. Behind the map on the wall are a series of photodiodes which, when a certain number of them are activated, open a compartment containing a stone tablet engraved with the letter A.
🦁 Be Prepared
When I said that The Circle of Life was the best song, I was lying. Maybe we can compromise and say that Be Prepared is the best villain song in the Disney canon. Players will find small sections of the lyrics around the room, as well as various items. Their task is to fulfil the directions of the lyrics in order to solve the puzzle. For example, Pumbaa’s bum will be sticking out of a wall, and the players will find a small vial of water under a rock. By pouring water on to Pumbaa, they’ll complete the portion of the puzzle which talks about being as “wet as a warthog’s backside.” There will also be a doll’s house with various light switches. By switching on all the downstairs lights, but making sure “the lights are not all on upstairs,” the players will fulfil that part of the puzzle. When enough are completed, they’ll have access to a stone tablet engraved with the letter N.
🦁 Trample Mufasa
Ooh, now this is a fun one! There’ll be a glass cabinet in the room depicting the iconic moment of Mufasa hanging off the edge of a cliff, with Scar looming above him. By pressing a button – in effect, stabbing Mufasa’s paws with your claws – you release Mufasa to the stampede below. By jumping up and down enough on pressure pads beneath the floor, you can finally fulfil your wildest dreams of trampling Mufasa to death. Just me? Anyway, you get a tablet with the letter E. Long live the king.
🦁 Can You Feel the Love Tonight?
After his sojourn in the wilderness, Simba is reminded by Nala of his responsibility to rule over the Pride Lands, and the two of them fall in love to the dulcet sounds of Can You Feel the Love Tonight. Translated into a puzzle, the players are able to dim the lights in the room, revealing a series of UV hearts on the floor, which leads them to a secret compartment unlocked by dimming the lights. Inside is a tablet with the letter Y.
🦁 The Fight Against Scar
Once the five prior puzzles have been completed, a door unlocks, leading into a room that replicates the ruined version of the Pride Lands under Scar’s pestilent reign. The ground is blackened by ash and dead grass, and lightning strikes in the distance. In the middle of the room is a statue of Scar himself, with five holes around the base. You realise that the tablets you’ve been finding can fit in the holes, but must do so in such a way to spell Scar’s demise. Then – it all comes together! The tablets can spell H-Y-E-N-A, the creature of Scar’s ultimate downfall. Once you do so, the statue lets out an ear-piercing roar, and another door unlocks. You step through to the rejuvenated Pride Lands, and reap the reward for your (that is, Rafiki’s) hard work in overcoming the usurper king. The room is complete!
In a few year’s time, when every Disney film has been remade, there might finally come a time when they ship their intellectual property to escape rooms around the world. When that happens, please write to them and make it clear that The Lion King is raring to go. Would you play a room like this? What else could make for a good puzzle? Which other Disney film do you think would make for a good escape room? Let us know!