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Julie Taymor's 'Lion King' costumes join Smithsonian collection

September 24, 2009 | 11:17 am


Costumes from the Tony-winning Broadway production of "The Lion King" now have a permanent home in one of country's largest museums.

The Smithsonian National Museum of American History has acquired objects from the musical's costume wardrobe designed by Julie Taymor. The gift from Disney Theatrical Productions includes items worn by the characters of Simba and the tribal shaman Rafiki.

Simba's lion mask and headdress plus Rafiki's costume, custom shoes and hat will join the museum’s permanent entertainment collections. 

The gift from Disney was made on the occasion of the show's reaching the 50 million worldwide attendance mark. "The Lion King" has been produced so far in 13 countries, including Canada, Great Britain, Japan, Germany, Holland, France, Mexico, Australia, China, Taiwan, South Africa and South Korea.

Taymor, who won two Tonys in 1998 for her work on "The Lion King," and Michael Curry designed the masks for the show.

According to Disney, the Simba mask-headdress is made of lightweight carbon graphite, paint and polyester fibers. The Rafiki costume is made of cotton fabric and decorated with metal amulets. It also features a horsehair collar. The hat is made of textured kente cloth, and the shoes are made of rubber.

-- David Ng

Photo: Costume elements from “The Lion King” — Simba’s lion mask and headdress and the costume, custom shoes and hat designed for Rafiki — have been donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Credit: Courtesy of the National Museum of American History.

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Rafiki is not a tribal shaman, but rather a wise old mandrill baboon. The costume is not complete without painting the face as this is what makes the character recognizable as a baboon. The oval "placemat" in the back also represents a prominent recognizable physical feature of the baboon, but the face painting is what really gives it away. There are no people in the lion king.


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