You’ve probably seen the news by now: Seth Rogen has been cast as Pumbaa, and Billy Eichner as Timon, in Jon Favreau’s CGI-stuffed remake of The Lion King. Indeed, big budget reboots of Disney animated classics ain’t no passing craaaaaze!
Chances are, you remember the loveable anthropomorphic animals Timon and Pumbaa exclusively from the original Lion King (where Nathan Lane voiced Timon and Ernie Sabella was Pumbaa). They cheered Simba up when he was down, and taught him the mantra “Hakuna Matata” through the combined magics of song and slobbery.
But if you had a few obscure VHS tapes in your collection as a kid (thanks perhaps to the bargain bins at your local stores), you might also remember Around The World With Timon And Pumbaa.
This 70-minute spinoff – which seems to have fallen out of the public consciousness altogether – came out in 1996. It compiled a number of TV shorts, with a loose over-arching narrative tying together some odd tales involving the iconic meerkat and warthog. Actually, odd doesn’t even begin to cover it.
This videotape is a carnival of wacky concepts, and there’s a sense that Disney was willing to let the writers do whatever they wanted, so long as the end product was something they could sell. Read on, then, for 15 WTF Moments From Around The World With Timon And Pumbaa…
15. It Starts With Pumbaa Getting Struck By Lightning And Losing His Memories
You’ve gotta have a big opening scene, right? Hook those viewers in right from the off. To this end, Around The World With Timon And Pumbaa serves up a big fun montage to start thing off, set to “Hakuna Matata”, before transitioning into a dialogue scene.
Timon is chuffed that he’s got “no worries, no responsibilities” and that there’s “not a cloud in the sky!” Sadly, at this point the weather takes a dramatic turn. Clouds gather and turn black instantaneously, and rain begins to pour. Pumbaa is struck by lightning seconds later. He’s charred black and frozen in place, with a manic grin plastered across his face. That’s one way to get the kids’ attention!
Timon drags Pumbaa, by the tail, into a cave. Everyone’s favourite warthog warms by the fire, and becomes conscious again. “What’s a Pumbaa?” he asks, when Timon tries to strike up a conversation, making it clear that he’s lost every single one of his memories.
14. Pumbaa Becomes God-King Of A Small Island Community, And Makes Timon His Servant
The first story opens with our heroes in a wooden crate, washing up on a tropical island. Timon emerges from the box on a pair of skis, singing “Jingle Bells” as he whizzes around in his winter wear. It’s only when he gets stuck in a palm tree that he realizes he’s in the wrong place.
The pair agree to “hit the beach” in lieu of “hitting the slopes”, admirably putting a positive spin on a poorly planned holiday. While Timon pulls all manner of essentials out of a suitcase (including a pre-made sand castle and some deck chairs), it’s made clear to the viewer that natives in tribal masks are lurking on the periphery.
Before long, Pumbaa has gone missing. When Timon eventually tracks him down, Pumbaa is on a throne, wearing a crown and being bowed to, because the natives just so happen to worship warthogs as gods.
When Timon interferes, the natives carry him to a volcano and drop him in. He manages to survive, and a happy compromise is then reached: Timon waits on Pumbaa hand and foot, cleaning his hoofs, hoovering up after him, and topping up his mud baths.
13. The Natives Are University Students In Disguise
Things take a turn when Pumbaa fails to showcase any godly abilities. The natives chase the protagonists with spears, declaring Pumbaa an imposter.
“What are we gonna do?” Pumbaa cries. “There’s only one thing to do,” Timon decides: “Samba!” A dance sequence ensues, with the central duo busting out some moves alongside the people trying to kill them.
In all the rhythmic mayhem, Timon and Pumbaa manage to escape. The leader of the natives hits the three others with a stick. They take their masks off, revealing university students underneath.
“You know, I’ve had it up to here with being hit with that thing,” one of them says. “Yeah, these ‘be a native’ weekends are no fun anymore,” another adds. “Let’s get back to the university,” the third one suggests. They wander off.
12. Timon And Pumbaa Briefly Become Enemies, Because Of A Gold Nugget
Things are similarly weird in the next side story. It begins with Pumbaa using his snout to dig for treasures beneath some Canadian snow. “Once you strike gold, I’ll be set for life!” Timon enthuses, browsing a boat catalogue from the sidelines.
Pumbaa complains (as he has every right to do) that Timon isn’t doing any of the work. The meerkat flies off the handle, draws a line in the snow and remarks that anything he finds, Pumbaa can’t share, and vice versa. Moments later, Pumbaa finds a ginormous gold nugget and all Timon has is an old bottle cap.
Soon enough, Pumbaa is sat on another throne, being covered in confetti, admired by women and served an endless stream of hot cocoa. Meanwhile, Timon is outside, on the verge of tears, with icicles hanging off him.
Cosco Quint – a prospector with a red nose and a blatant evil agenda – turns Timon against Pumbaa. They team up to steal the nugget, with Timon putting on a one-man show to distract Pumbaa while Quint nabs the gold.
11. Timon Becomes Obese, As Part Of A Snake’s Evil Plan
In another story, Timon and Pumbaa are stranded in the jungle, starving, when they come across a lavish buffet. All their favourite bugs are available, displayed in bowls and on tables. Pumbaa thinks it’s a bit suspicious, but Timon is very much into it. As Pumbaa looks on, Timon guzzles his way through bowl after bowl.
Eventually, a rather goofy snake turns up. Still oblivious to the danger at hand, Timon addresses the snake as a waiter, thanks him for the bountiful feast and asks him to bring some ants. The snake meets up with his evil boss (also a snake), and they discuss their plan to filet and eat Timon and Pumbaa.
Then the action cuts to Timon on his back, with a huge pile of bowls behind him. While waiting for his ants to arrive, Timon has become morbidly obese.
10. A Piranha With A Chainsaw Chases The Snakes Away
Eventually, the snakes make their attempt to turn our heroes into food. Timon and Pumbaa are trapped in a net, but manage to escape. Then they hatch their own scheme, setting in motion a very grim ending to the story.
The pair set up their own restaurant, and perform a commercial for the snakes. “Natural selection getting you down?” asks Timon. “Tired of lesser species evolving into something that can easily evade your hunter instincts?”
The snakes lap it up, enticed by the rhetoric and a range of carnivore-themed special offers.
The snakes enter the front door of the restaurant, which actually leads to a river filled with piranhas. The snakes are nibbled at by a number of small ones, before one huge piranha with a ruddy chainsaw chases them off and tries to eat them.
9. The Musical Number With Creepy, Soulful Frogs
At one point, Timon laments that this iconic duo will never sing again, unless Pumbaa regains his memories. “We sing?!” asks Pumbaa, teeing up a cutaway to a lengthy music video segment. (You can watch this bit online, if you like.)
For the most part, this section is really fun, with Timon and Pumbaa singing Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” with a lot of added physical humour. Throughout the song, Timon instructs Pumbaa to stand by him, and an array of bad things happen to Pumbaa as a result: a stampede runs him over, a space shuttle falls on him, an octopus attacks him, he’s shot with a canon, he’s set on fire, and so on.
But the really WTF moment comes at the end of the video. As Timon and a heavily injured Pumbaa walk off, we pans down to three frogs. These characters (never mentioned before or after), finish off the song, dancing creepily on their hind legs and belting out soulful lyrics.
As a kid, there was something scary about this sequence, probably just because it’s so weird and unexplained (and those legs do look creepy, right?). It became a favourite for fast-forwarding, for this writer at least.
8. Timon And Pumbaa Are Adopted By A Gorilla
Timon attempts to hypnotize Pumbaa into remembering his childhood, but it backfires. The story that follows isn’t one of Pumbaa’s actual youth, but rather, a time more recently when he and Timon accidentally wound up pretending to be infants. As you do.
While running away from their red-nosed nemesis Quint (who’s first name has changed to Congo for some reason), Timon and Pumbaa trip and fall into some baby outfits that were hanging on a laundry line. Diapers and all.
Just when it looks like they’ve been captured by Quint, a gorilla in a bikini grabs him and beats him up. She immediately takes a liking to Timon and Pumbaa, believing them to be “precious little babykins”. Since she always wanted her own children, the gorilla claims this warthog and meerkat as her own.
The gorilla adopts them, takes them back to her place and plonks them in a pen. “This is perfect!” Timon proclaims when she steps out. “We make like baby apes, and we’re safe as houses!” Just some more totally normal behaviour.
7. Quint Disguises Himself And Attempts To Wed The Gorilla
Quint’s solution to this problem, obviously, is to dress up in a gorilla suit (and a top hat) and attempt to woo the female. He turns up with chocolates and a bunch of bananas (presented like flowers), and immediately wins the gorilla’s favour.
“I, an absolutely normal ape, have adored you from afar for countless years and now I have come to ask for your hand in marriage,” he proclaims. The real gorilla, understandably, is a bit flustered. But nonetheless she says yes, and excuses herself to get ready.
Just as Quint is formulating an excuse to take the babies for a walk, Timon jumps up and unzips his costume. The gorilla snaps back into angry mode, and literally ties Quin in knots before kicking him out.
Eventually, Pumbaa decides to tell the truth and explain to his adoptive gorilla mother that he’s not really an infant. It’s a lovely lesson for the kids at home… until the gorilla turns violent.
6. Getting Two Squirrels To Date Is The Primary Objective Of An Episode
Another story (it really does take a lot to jog Pumbaa’s memory) picks up with Timon and Pumbaa in a forest. They’re starving, because every time Timon climbs a tree to catch a tasty beetle, he falls off before grabbing it. At one point, a female squirrel bumps into Timon and knocks him to the ground.
Timon asks the squirrel to help him out, and grab some grub from the high branches. “You want something, so do I,” she says. “The one elusive thing I’ve desired for so long is… him!” At this point she looks to the sky, where a male flying squirrel is acrobatically darting around and singing as he goes.
So begins a plot where Timon and Pumbaa attempt to cook up some romantic chemistry between the two squirrels, in the hope that successfully pairing them up will save them from starvation. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.)
Eventually, there’s a romantic dinner with no shortage of sexual chemistry at play between the squirrels. Even as a kid, this felt like a weird storyline. Who knew these beloved comedy characters were in the forcing-romance-between-total-strangers game!
5. To Achieve This, They Trap One Of Them In A Cage
To achieve the task at hand and get the singing male squirrel to date the infatuated female squirrel, Timon and Pumbaa decide that kidnap is the best option. Rather than climbing up the trees to try and talk to the squirrel, they engineer some wacky ways to abduct him.
First, they use a trampoline and a baseball glove in a bid to nab him. When that fails, they go for a seesaw and a giant net. Next comes trickery: a giant sign that says ‘Stop! Fresh Nuts Below!’ positioned above a ginormous cage consisted of metal, wood and an electric fence.
Having captured the squirrel against his will, they lie to him, claiming he’s won a competition for a free dinner. Under this ruse, they lure him into the date.
When the two squirrels meet, the male one immediately falls for the female. Timon and Pumbaa definitely could’ve just told him what was going on, and saved themselves from some morally questionable activities. But where would the fun be in that?
4. Pumbaa Believes This Crocodile Is His Child
The final short opens with a pickup truck driving along, bearing the words “Farm Fresh Alligator Eggs” on the side. That’s always a recipe for disaster.
Sure enough, one of these eggs falls off, and ends up rolling underneath a sleeping Pumbaa. “Hey, I laid an egg!” he exclaims upon waking.
Timon spells that this isn’t possible, providing some stellar educational content for the kids at home. “And yet I made one anyways,” Pumbaa retorts. “And that makes it even more extra special!”
Timon fights back with a watertight argument: “Only chickens lay eggs.” Pumbaa can’t be convinced by Timon’s scientific expertise, though. When a little crocodile emerges from the egg, Pumbaa decides that this must be his his biological offspring. He names it Pumbaa Jr.
An awkward family dynamic is born, with Pumbaa Jr. repeatedly biting Timon. Also, Timon feels very left out when all the parent-child bonding is taken place. And Pumbaa starts getting annoyed by Timon’s lack of manners. It’s a tough emotional time.
3. They Send The Crocodile To Live In A Hen House, Causing A Massacre
Things come to a head when Pumbaa Jr. overhears Timon explaining once again that Pumbaa Jr. simply can’t be Pumbaa’s kid. He must be an ugly chicken, Timon insists. Pumbaa Jr. writes a goodbye note and leaves home, agreeing with Timon that he doesn’t fit in here.
Worried that Pumbaa Jr. can’t survive on his own, Timon and Pumbaa track him down. They find him larking around with a female crocodile. “Can you believe it? He’s found another chicken as ugly as he is,” Timon says.
Still believing that Pumbaa Jr. isn’t safe, Timon and Pumba send the crocodiles to live in a hen house, with what they believe to be his own kind.
In another dark ending to a story, yelps are heard and feathers fly, implying that Pumbaa Jr. and his girlfriend have immediately attacked their new housemates. One can only assume that this turned into a bloodbath.
2. It Ends With Timon Getting Struck By Lightning And Losing His Memories
It was the Pumbaa Jr. story that did it. Those cherished memories of his ugly chicken offspring allowed Pumbaa to regain his recall. His brain literally bulged with memories. What a victorious moment it was!
Then, Disney decided to remind the kids at home about the cruel, cyclical nature of life. Timon was jubilant about his friend’s recovery, even going so far as to perform a little one-man parade to mark the occasion. Then blam, lightning struck again. This time, Timon is the one that’s hit, and he loses all his memories just like Pumbaa did.
This 70-minute journey had been for nothing. Nothing! For this writer, the shock of Timon being charred to a cinder was real. It was traumatizing. That cheeky meerkat just spent ages helping his friend, and then he was reduced to a blubbering mess that can’t remember his own name. Sob…
1. Pumbaa Begs You To Rewind The Video At The End
“Oh, you gotta remember!” a teary-eyed Pumbaa exclaimed, shaking the blackened, lightning-struck Timon in his hands. “We were walking along, then the rain, then I got zapped by lightning, then you tried to help me remember… Remember?!”
“Nah-uh, doesn’t ring a bell,” Timon replied, a manic grin on his face and electricity still charging through his body. It looked a lot like this video was going to have a super downbeat ending. A real gut-punch. But then Pumbaa had an idea.
Breaking the fourth wall, Pumbaa looked straight at the young fans watching at home. “I think you kids better rewind the tape and start it from the beginning. It’s the only way to help Timon remember!” Then the credits rolled.
Not only is this a WTF moment, and a surreal ending to a very odd video, but it also convinced a lot of kids – or at least one Screen Rant writer – to rewind the tape. We can assure you, that’s a tough cycle to break.
What about you? Do you have any memories of this insane Disney video from the ’90s?