Petition Launched Against Catchphrase From Disney’s ‘The Lion King’

Disney's The Lion King 2019 Trailer Screen
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These days it seems that “everything the light touches” belongs to Disney. There are the huge properties like ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Marvel’, and within another particular property there’s also the Swahili-born phrase “Hakuna Matata” – the catchphrase-turned-melody made infamous through the magic of song in Disney’s animated 1994 classic ‘The Lion King’.

“Hakuna Matata” means “no trouble” (though it was popularized as “no worries” in the movie), and while of course Disney didn’t invent it, they did have it trademarked back in 1994 and have retained the rights ever since.

Now, though, according to NPR.org, a petition that opposes Disney’s trademark has started to circulate. So far, it has attracted more signatures than there were Pride Land animals present at Simba’s birth – around 30,000 to be precise.

According to NPR.org:

A years-old Disney trademark on the use of the phrase “Hakuna Matata” on T-shirts has stirred up a new debate among Swahili speakers about cultural appropriation.

The words mean “no worries” in Swahili, a language spoken in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Estimates for the number of speakers vary widely, from 60 to 150 million.

“Hakuna Matata” is the title of a song from the 1994 Disney film The Lion King. Disney applied to register the words in a trademark that year to protect the phrase from being printed on T-shirts. According to public records, the trademark was approved for registration in 2003 and is still active — meaning that Disney can sue companies that use the words on a shirt if it looks like a Lion King knockoff.

As the petition will likely be ongoing, 2019 will see Timon and Pumbaa’s problem-free philosophy become even more popular than ever, as the sun will rise on Jon Favreau’s live-action reimagining of the animated classic in July.

The movie – destined to be a box office juggernaut if Favreau’s 2016 reboot of ‘The Jungle Book’ is anything to go by – stars Donald Glover as Simba and Beyoncé Knowles as Nala, while veteran actor James Earl Jones returns to Pride Rock to reprise his role as Mufasa.

Disney's The Lion King 2019 Simba Poster
Simba will once again take his place in 2019

As for everyone’s favorite meerkat and warthog, Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner will provide the voices this time around, but whether or not the movie will include their infectious “Hakuna Matata” is yet to be seen.  If it doesn’t, though, much like ‘The Jungle Book’ opted for only select songs from its animated counterpart, it will probably have nothing at all to do with the petition.

In the meantime, if you just can’t wait to see the king, the trailer – which stampeded through the internet last month like a herd of wildebeest – might be enough to keep you holding on until next summer.

Source: NPR.org

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About the author

Dan

Dan is a freelance writer from the UK. When he’s not penning fiction or blogging about the latest films, he's travelling the world and visiting the Disney resorts with his wife. He also writes for Disney tribute sites Disneydreamer.com and Disneyfanatic.com, and writes about film locations for Homeyhawaii.com. His all-time favourite Disney movie is 'Toy Story'.

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  • If anything the movie was a promotion of their culture, not appropriation. Aren’t we as a society supposed to embrace other cultures? But now if you do it is considered cultural appropriation, what does that mean? If somebody who isn’t Italian opens a pizza shop, is that cultural appropriation? Disney did a wonderful thing to bring this culture to the forefront of everybody, especially young children. They honored the Swahili saying and brought nothing but positiveness to it. I support Disney and I am against any claims of cultural appropriation as we should be invited to embrace each others cultures.

  • Just think of the good things that could be accomplished by those “supporting” this effort if they were to expend their energy on something that means something.

  • For millennia, cultures freely borrowed from each other and benefited from doing so. Now, all of the sudden, it is called “cultural appropriation” & is called a sin. Most of the times, when people wear clothing or costumes, create music, etc. inspired by other cultures, it shows appreciation of that other culture, not mockery. This PC garbage has got to go, & we shouldn’t let the PC elite enforce it on the rest of us anymore. The least we can do is not play along with them and continue to “culturally appropriate”.

    However, if the real issue is that notoriously copyright-crazy Disney is preventing Swahili users from using their own motto on tee shirts and other products, threatening to sue them if they do, now then I can get behind those signing the petition.

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