A recent petition is challenging Disney for their decision to trademark the phrase 'Hakuna Matata.' The Lion King has been getting a lot of press lately thanks to the release of the first teaser trailer for the live-action remake. The teaser became one of Disney's most viewed trailers, getting 224.6 million views worldwide in just 24 hours. But while enthusiasm for the film is strong even over two decades later, not everyone is pleased with Disney.
The Lion King is the latest Disney film to get a live-action reboot. Since the film first appeared in theaters back in 1994, it has become one of the company's most beloved tales. Jon Favreau is set to direct, following his success with the live-action of Disney's The Jungle Book. The reboot boasts a star-studded cast, including Donald Glover voicing Simba and Beyoncé as Nala. But for fans of the original, they can breathe a sigh of relief that James Earl Jones will once again give his voice to Mufasa. Composer Hans Zimmer will also be returning, along with his memorable score.
Not everyone is pleased with Disney. Shelton Mpala has started a petition on Change.org, titled, "Disney Robs Swahili of 'Hakuna Matata," calling out the company for trademarking the Swahili phrase 'Hakuna Matata,' which means 'no problems' or 'no worries'. In the petition, Mpala asks for others to "Join us and say NO to DISNEY or any corporations/individuals looking to trademark languages, terms or phrases they didn't invent." The goal of the petition is to convince Disney to remove the trademark, stating that "Disney can't be allowed to trademark something that it didn't invent." As of this writing, the petition has gained over 47,000 signatures out of a goal of 50,000.
Disney applied for the trademark back in 1994, when the film was first released. The trademark was registered in 2003 and states that no one outside of Disney can use the catchphrase for commercial purposes. This, Mpala argues in a petition update, is called cultural appropriation. The problem with trademarking 'Hakuna Matata' goes beyond Disney. Mpala argues that "The trademarking of 'Hakuna Matata' also sets up precedence for other foreign corporations, businesses and individuals to do the same."
This isn't the first time The Lion King has been accused of taking something that doesn't belong to them. The film has long been seen as a remake of the anime series Kimba The White Lion, a claim Disney denies. This latest controversy has added to the debate of what is considered appropriation, with some fans defending Disney's choice to trademark a phrase they made popular. Mpala argues that just because Disney popularized it in America, doesn't mean they can claim the catchphrase is theirs. After all, 'Hakuna Matata' isn't just a line in a song, it's a part of a culture and should belong to the people who are part of it.
- The Lion King (2019) release date: Jul 19, 2019