How I Got My Own Personal Audio Describer for  the Lion King

A lion head with a huge shaggy mane

While I was watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade last month it was announced  the Lion King  was celebrating 25 years of its theatrical production. I recalled the first time I saw the Lion King. It was the animated version and I was totally sighted. I remember the incredible music and visual affects. A friend even purchased the original soundtrack and we would listen to it  during our car rides around town.

Missed First Production But Went to Second

Of course, this was many years ago and I am blind today. But my vision loss didn’t stop me. When I heard the theatrical production was coming to my local theater I had to go. The first time the production came I missed it waiting on a friend. By the time we got  to ordering the tickets it was sold out. I was very disappointed.

I promised myself next time to grab a ticket immediately and not wait around. So, when they came back again that is exactly what I did. Lesson learned. I was sitting on my sofa watching TV and the commercial came on announcing the Lion King was coming back to Atlanta. WooHoo! I ran to the phone and got out my credit card to buy a ticket. I didn’t even tell anyone, I just did it.

Excited About Live Audio Description

When I was purchasing my ticket the representative told me the production was available in audio description. I was elated. I was already familiar with how it brought movies and TV to life. I had also used audio description for plays  and musicals so I was aware of live audio description. It is very similar  to TV and movies but you get to engage with the audio describer right there in the theater. I would wear a headset to hear the description and the describer would be located nearby in the theater  giving me info on what was happening on stage. I was even more motivated to go. To see this wonderful production and then to have it audio described! Well, it just beat all.

Confusion About Audio Description

Two women have a sign language conversation at a table.

ON the day of the performance an usher guided me over to the deaf and hard of hearing section. I was confused because I am not deaf nor hard of hearing. Unfortunately, things like this happen all the time to me and my community. People lump the blind and deaf together as if we have the same disability. I have had friends  tell me of times people thought they needed a sign language interpreter. Or people talking really loud  to us as if we have  hearing loss. I mean it goes on and on. So, although I was confused I was not totally surprised.

I asked the usher about audio description and  now they were the one confused. I explained what audio description was and how it worked for the blind. The usher  didn’t know what to do so got a manager. While I waited I talked to the real time captioner for the deaf. I knew her from disability events where she  would do captioning. This type of technology reduces the need for multiple sign language interpreters  because the captioner would use a device to type and the words would appear on the screen for several deaf people to read at one time.

Got Personal  Describer

While we were chatting and catching up the manager came over to apologize. He told me there was a mistake and I was told wrong. There would be no audio description after all. He was deeply sorry for the misunderstanding and embarrassment. As I was processing this news another man came over to introduce himself. He told me he was a professional audio describer  and was here to observe the captioning process. He said he would be happy to audio describe the production for me. So, I went from major displeasure to major  happiness in a matter of a few minutes.

Described All the Sights and sounds

audience of people facing a stage watching a play. There is one person on stage surrounded by furniture.

We decided to move away from the crowd and sit closer to the corner of the room. It was a good spot for him to see everything  and to also talk in my ear without disturbing people around us. The production began with the animals coming down the aisle  moving toward the stage. It was just like in the movie  where all the animals  travel to Pride Rock for the ceremony of Simba. He described the vibrant and colorful costumes. He described the fluent body movements of the dancers  as animals. He described all the sights and sounds. It was amazing! Who knew I would have my own personal audio describer sitting right next to me.

He even described the dancers who pretended to be  grass and water. They were dressed in green. They had these fan-like objects in their hands also in green. This was to simulate the tall moving grass from the movie. It was the same set up for water. The dancers were in blue and moved their bodies simulating water flowing. He described other dancers dressed in animal costumes and how they moved around the stage just like the animal  they  mimicked.

A giraffe with an extended long neck

I was truly captivated by the creativity  of the production and talent of the dancers and actors. It was literally just like in the animated version. Since I was sighted when I saw the movie  I use my visual memories. Along with those memories and an excellent audio describer, I had a wonderful time. What started out as a disappointment turned into  an exciting moment for me.

Watched Movie on Disney+

Empish watching TV. She is sitting on sofa pointing remote control at TV.

This past week, to honor the 25th anniversary, I watched the movie again. It was available through Disney+ in audio description. Of course, it was different from the live theatrical production with my own personal describer. Who could match that? However, it was enjoyable all the same. Hakuna Matata!

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