The Noxious Origins of the 'Lion King' Farts

How Pumbaa became Disney's first to pass the gas
The Noxious Origins of the 'Lion King' Farts

All kids agree: The original Lion King was a gas. That’s mostly thanks to the hilarious antics of meerkat Timon and his flatulent warthog buddy Pumbaa. But the two characters — and their delightful farts — almost weren’t in the movie at all. 

The characters’ voice actors, Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella, were starring in Broadway’s Guys and Dolls when Disney went looking for talent. Lane and Sabella were called in to audition for hyenas in what was tentatively called King of the Jungle. Lane asked if the actors could read together for the tryout, he told Entertainment Weekly. Lane’s reasoning: "It'll be easier to do since it's three different characters, and we know each other. So, we went in and we improvised a bit and had a lot of fun."

Lane and Sabella hopped into the recording booth and got busy. "We read the material and knowing our rhythms and comic timing, we just took off,” says Sabella. “When we got done, I looked up and I saw (the film’s original director) Roger Aller, and his mouth was open. He was just staring at us."

Guess we bombed, the actors thought. But Disney called back months later to say that plans had changed based on their audition. "They said they were developing these new characters called Timon and Pumbaa, a meerkat and a warthog, for us," says Lane, "and that we would be the comic relief in this Shakespearean tale of lions." (Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, and Jim Cummings eventually voiced the cackling cats.) 

As for the farts? That goes back to the comic actors’ roles in Guys and Dolls. They were still yukking it up on Broadway while recording Lion King, a schedule that had the two men bleary-eyed. "So, we would record in the mornings sometimes, and we'd be a little sleepy,” says Lane. “And Ernie, to entertain me during the recording, would make flatulent noises. While he was doing his dialogue, he would make fart sounds to make me laugh. And they eventually incorporated that into the character and the song."

 “I just started making these sounds as he was reading his lines,” remembers Sabella. “He kept laughing, going, 'Don't do that, don't do that.' I said, 'I'll stop.' And then I kept doing it. That's the story of how Pumbaa became the first and only Disney character with flatulence."

Can you smell the love tonight?


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