The Lion King may have been released in 1994, but it is safe to say that the film has not aged a day in the hearts and minds of Disney fans. So much so that the Mouse House decided to bring this story back to life in a 2019 remake starring Donald Glover and Beyonce.
Despite the fact that Timon and Pumbaa are nearly universally beloved Disney characters, fans do not know a lot about them. With so much excitement and nostalgia surrounding The Lion King once again, it is time to revisit some facts about two of its most important characters and learn more about them.
11 TIMON AND PUMBAA’S VOICES ALMOST WENT TO DIFFERENT CHARACTERS
This may come as a shock to many The Lion King fans, but Nathan Lane (who voiced Timon) and Ernie Sabella (who voiced Pumbaa) were initially brought in to audition for the roles of the hyenas in the movie. However, the film’s directors were apparently worried that Lion King was turning out to have too dark of a tone.
After Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella auditioned for Disney, the studio started to get different ideas for the movie as a whole. During an interview with the Huffington Post, Sabella explained: “There was something in our ad-libs that made [The Lion King director] Roger think that we could maybe be the voices of these comic characters that hadn’t even been developed yet.”
All in all, it is safe to say that the idea for Timon and Pumbaa originated from Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella’s audition for the roles of the hyenas.
10 HAKUNA MATATA ORIGINALLY HAD A VERSE EXPLAINING TIMON’S BACKSTORY
We all know that “Hakuna Matata” explains not only what this catchphrase actually means, but also provides a little bit of backstory as to where Pumbaa came from. While we have all come to accept this wonderful, fun song as it is… It still begs the question: why didn’t we also get Timon’s backstory?
As the story goes, “Hakuna Matata” originally did have an entire verse explaining Timon’s backstory, which sounds just like the verse about Pumbaa. However, the verse was eventually cut out of the song because it was considered to be too long.
9 PUMBAA WAS THE FIRST CHARACTER TO EVER FART IN A DISNEY MOVIE
This may come as a surprise to many, but Pumbaa actually holds the very important title of being the first-ever character to fart on screen in a Disney movie. That’s right: before The Lion King in 1994, no character had ever farted in an animated feature produced by Disney.
It is safe to say that, if there was ever a character that was able to break the stigma of passing gas in a Disney film, that was certainly Pumbaa.
8 TIMON DISCOVERED THE GREEN JUNGLE PARADISE WHERE THEY LIVE
You know the green jungle paradise where Timon and Pumbaa live, where they introduce Simba to “Hakuna Matata” and eat slimy things for dessert? Well, according to The Lion King 1 ½, it was Timon who found that incredible place.
After 1994’s The Lion King, it was implied that Timon and Pumbaa moved to Pride Rock to be alongside Simba in his kingdom. However, the Disney Channel television series Timon & Pumbaa took place almost entirely in the jungle, meaning that these characters moved back eventually.
Fun fact: in the Kingdom Hearts II game, it is established that the lionesses of Pride Rock knew of this jungle paradise, but were blocked by Scar to move there.
7 IN SWAHILI, PUMBAA MEANS “LAZY”
Many of the words and character names used in The Lion King came from the Swahili language, which is considered the common language of various parts of Africa, including Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania, to name a few. For example, “Hakuna Matata” comes from Swahili, where it literally means “no worries.”
Like many other names and terms in The Lion King, “Pumbaa” is also a word in Swahili. According to translators, “Pumbaa” means things like “lazy,” “careless,” and even “ignorant.” Needless to say, Pumbaa’s name was really painting a picture for what the character would be.
6 TIMON AND PUMBAA HAVE LAST NAMES
It is not uncommon for fictional characters to have full names that fans were never actually aware of. That is because, most times, animated movies only focus on a character’s first name, making it easier for audiences to remember it.
Because Timon was developed as a character that had Jewish ancestry, it makes sense for his name to have a Jewish origin. In the Disney Channel spin-off series Timon & Pumbaa, it was revealed that Timon’s middle name is Leslie, and that his last name is Berkowitz. In the same TV series, it was also revealed that Pumbaa’s last name is Smith.
5 PUMBAA RUBBING HIS BELLY WAS INSPIRED BY A PREGNANT WOMAN
One of the most memorable Pumbaa moments in The Lion King is when the character rubs his belly as he, Timon, and Simba are stargazing and discussing what the stars in the sky really mean. Well, it turns out that the inspiration behind Pumbaa’s belly-rubbing came from animator Tony Bancroft’s pregnant wife, who used to rub her belly that exact same way while he was working on the film.
According to Tony Bancroft, Pumbaa rubbing his belly is one of his favorite scenes in The Lion King. During an interview with MovieWeb, the animator stated, “It was something that I thought added a little life to [the scene] and made it more relatable.”
4 TIMON HAS TWO KNOWN RELATIVES
Even hardcore Disney fans have failed to watch The Lion King 1 ½, but a lot of Timon’s background was actually revealed during that film. For example, it is now canon that Timon has two known relatives: his mother, which is officially known as Ma, and his uncle, who is named Max. However, it is not clear to audiences whether Uncle Max and Ma are siblings or in-laws.
Ma is a caring and supportive mother who fears for Timon’s safety but also wants him to succeed in life. Uncle Max is more of an irritable character who is often scared and negative, often reminding Disney fans of an early-on Marlin from Finding Nemo.
3 MEERKATS DON’T ACTUALLY WALK ON THEIR HIND LEGS
It is very common for animated studios to change certain things about animals in order to make them work for the big screen. One major change that the team behind The Lion King decided to make early on was to make Timon walk on his two hind legs as opposed to following the actual physicality of meerkats.
That is because, in the real world, meerkats actually walk on their four legs. They only stand on their two hind legs when surveying their surroundings, and then proceed to walk on all fours once again. In The Lion King, however, Timon is mostly seen walking like a human being.
2 SETH ROGEN AND BILLY EICHNER WERE THE FIRST CHOICES FOR THE 2019 REMAKE
Director Jon Favreau was not shy about making it clear that Beyonce was his first choice for the role of Nala, but many people may not realize that the director already had a clear vision for Timon and Pumbaa in the 2019 remake of The Lion King.
From the get-go, Jon Favreau wanted Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen to play Timon and Pumbaa, respectively. However, that casting decision did not come easy. For instance, the director asked Eichner and Rogen to go to a black-box theater and run through the entire script three times, the last of which without having the script on hand.
1 RECORDING THE VOICES FOR TIMON AND PUMBAA TOOK A DIFFERENT APPROACH
It is pretty standard for studios to conduct individual sessions when recording the voice of an actor for an animated feature. Essentially, this means that nearly all of the dialogues that you’ve seen in an animated movie were recorded at different times and then edited together.
However, that was not the case for Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella in the 1994 The Lion King, and that was yet again not the case for Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen in the 2019 remake. In both cases, Disney actually requested for both actors to record their scenes together, in the same room and at the same time.