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Donate to our Emergency Care Efforts today.

Disney’s The Lion King’s Zazu Lands at the National Aviary


Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Media Contact:                           National Aviary Media Contact:

Robin Elrod, Director of Communications                           Molly Toth, Communications Specialist | 724-766-0564                           | 412-258-9456


Disney’s The Lion King’s Zazu Lands at the National Aviary

Zazu actor Greg Jackson and CAPA students meet African avian species,

including real Red-billed Hornbills, the inspiration for the Disney character Zazu

(Pittsburgh, PA) September 10, 2019 – The circle of life was on display at the National Aviary Tuesday, where Greg Jackson, the actor who plays ‘Zazu’ in Disney’s The Lion King on Broadway, had the opportunity to meet two Red-billed Hornbills, the charismatic bird species that inspired his character in the classic Disney tale. Students from the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) Magnet school joined Jackson for a tour of the National Aviary’s Wetlands habitat, where the Red-billed Hornbills reside, and watched as he met a Grey Crowned-crane chick, another bird species native to Africa.

“The National Aviary is thrilled to put ‘Zazu’ face to face with the species that inspired his iconic character,” said Cathy Schlott, Curator of Behavioral Management and Education for the National Aviary, who led the tour. “Red-billed Hornbills in real life are every bit as engaging and energetic as Zazu is in The Lion King! They are smart, social birds. Soon, visitors to the National Aviary will have the chance to hand-feed this dynamic species.”

Disney’s The Lion King, one of Pittsburgh’s best-loved musicals, returned to the Benedum Center for a month of shows in September. The original run of the show in Pittsburgh broke records for attendance in 2013. Greg Jackson joined the cast of the reprisal in 2018, playing ‘Zazu,’ the high-strung Hornbill assistant to Mustafa. Previously, he performed in the Tony Award® winner for Best Musical, A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder.

While at the National Aviary, Jackson also enjoyed a special close encounter with one of the Aviary’s newest residents: a Grey Crowned-crane chick native to Africa. The chick hatched at the National Aviary on July 27 and is practicing for its role as an education ambassador. Jackson hand-fed the chick, and watched with CAPA’s Theater Department students as the chick, which will reach its full height of over three feet tall in about two months, stretched its long legs in the historic Rose Garden.

Tickets for Disney’s The Lion King are available through the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust by calling 412-456-6666 or visiting



The National Aviary is America’s only independent indoor nonprofit zoo dedicated to birds. Located on Pittsburgh’s historic Northside, the National Aviary’s diverse collection comprises 500 birds representing more than 150 species from around the world, many of them threatened or endangered in the wild. The National Aviary’s large walk-through habitats create an intimate, up-close interaction between visitors and free-flying birds, including opportunities to hand-feed and to meet many species rarely found in zoos. Hours of operation are 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily. For admission rates and more information visit

The Red-billed Hornbill, a distinctive species widespread across sub-Saharan Africa. The National Aviary’s Wetlands habitat is home to two adult Red-billed Hornbills. In May, the pair successfully fledged three young, which are now practicing for their roles as educational ambassadors for their species. In the coming months, visitors will be able to meet and hand-feed the young Red-billed Hornbills during immersive experiences.




Tickets at

After 21 landmark years on Broadway, The Lion King continues ascendant as one of the most popular stage musicals in the world.  Since its premiere on November 13, 1997, 25 global productions have been seen by more than 100 million people.  Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions (under the direction of Thomas Schumacher), The Lion King has made theatrical history with six productions worldwide running 15 or more years.  Performed in nine different languages (English, Japanese, German, Korean, French, Dutch, Spanish, Mandarin and Portuguese), productions of The Lion King can currently be seen on Broadway; London’s West End; Hamburg; Tokyo; Madrid; on tour across Japan and North America, with a separate production touring internationally, for a total of eight productions running concurrently across the globe. 

Having played over 100 cities in 20 countries on every continent except Antarctica, The Lion King’s worldwide gross exceeds that of any film, Broadway show or other entertainment title in box office history.          

The Lion King won six 1998 Tony Awards®:  Best Musical, Best Scenic Design (Richard Hudson), Best Costume Design (Julie Taymor), Best Lighting Design (Donald Holder), Best Choreography (Garth Fagan) and Best Direction of a Musical.  The Lion King has also earned more than 70 major arts awards including the 1998 NY Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, the 1999 Grammy® for Best Musical Show Album, the 1999 Evening Standard Award for Theatrical Event of the Year and the 1999 Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Choreography and Best Costume Design. 

The show’s director, costume designer and mask co-designer Julie Taymor continues to play an integral part in the show’s ongoing success.  The first woman to win a Tony Award for Direction of a Musical, Taymor continues to supervise new productions of the show around the world.

The Broadway score features Elton John and Tim Rice’s songs from the Lion King animated film along with three new songs by John and Rice; additional musical material by South African Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor and Hans Zimmer; and music from "Rhythm of the Pride Lands," an album inspired by the original music in the film, written by Lebo M, Mark Mancina and Hans Zimmer.  The resulting sound of The Lion King is a fusion of Western popular music and the distinctive sounds and rhythms of Africa, ranging from the Academy Award®-winning song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” to Lebo M’s rich choral numbers.

The book has been adapted by Roger Allers, who co-directed the animated The Lion King feature, and Irene Mecchi, who co-wrote the film’s screenplay.  Other members of the creative team include:  Michael Curry, who designed the masks and puppets with Taymor, Steve Canyon Kennedy (sound design), Michael Ward (hair and makeup design), John Stefaniuk (associate director), Marey Griffith (associate choreographer), Clement Ishmael (music supervisor) and Doc Zorthian (production supervisor). Anne Quart serves as co-producer.

For more information, visit, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


Greg enjoyed a thrilling Broadway run in the Tony Award® winner for Best Musical, A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder, covering Jefferson Mays’ mammoth role(s) as the many-(dis) membered D’Ysquith family. Off-B’way: The 39 Steps, Duet! Go-Go Kitty, GO! Regional: Cleveland Playhouse, Barrington Stage, Geva, Cape Playhouse, Dorset Theatre Festival, Weston Playhouse, St. Louis Rep, Triad Stage, Portland Center Stage, Pioneer Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre of NJ, Orlando Shakespeare, Alabama Shakespeare, Tantrum Theater, Theatre Squared. NYU Grad Acting alum. Love to my Aunt Gail who lives in me, watching over everything I see.



The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has overseen one of Pittsburgh’s most historic transformations: turning a seedy red-light district into a magnet destination for arts lovers, residents, visitors, and business owners.  Founded in 1984, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is a non-profit arts organization whose mission is the cultural and economic revitalization of a 14-block arts and entertainment/residential neighborhood called the Cultural District.  The District is one of the country’s largest land masses “curated” by a single nonprofit arts organization.  A major catalytic force in the city, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is a unique model of how public-private partnerships can reinvent a city with authenticity, innovation and creativity.  Using the arts as an economic catalyst, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has holistically created a world-renowned Cultural District that is revitalizing the city, improving the regional economy and enhancing Pittsburgh’s quality of life.  Thanks to the support of foundations, corporations, government agencies and thousands of private citizens, the Trust stands as a national model of urban redevelopment through the arts. | @CulturalTrust on Facebook · Instagram · Twitter


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