- “The Lion King” originally premiered 26 years ago in June 1994.
- Like most classic Disney animated films, the movie includes quite a few jokes that were not necessarily written for children.
- There were plenty of puns like “Make mine a cub sandwich” and adult jokes like “What do you want me to do, dress in drag and do the hula?”
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“The Lion King” was first released 26 years ago in June 1994.
From double entendres to obscure pop-culture references, the classic Disney film has plenty of lines that were seemingly written for parents and not their children.
Now that you’re perhaps old enough to understand them, here are some jokes and references from “The Lion King” that you may have missed as a kid.
“He’s as mad as a hippo with a hernia.”
Zazu says this to Scar, in reference to Mufasa, after Scar intentionally skipped Simba’s anointing ceremony on Pride Rock.
It’s probably safe to say that most kids watching in the mid-1990s had absolutely no clue what a hernia was. And if you’re still unsure, it’s when an organ or piece of soft tissue pushes through a tear in the muscle or tissue surrounding it.
Most kids probably laughed anyway because the timing made it sound like a joke – and because they could appreciate Rowan Atkinson‘s delivery of the hippo/hernia alliteration.
“Cheetahs never prosper.”
“The Lion King” is full of animal-related puns, but most don’t require knowledge of a centuries-old idiom to be fully appreciated.
You may have picked up on the cheetahs/cheaters wordplay during Zazu’s morning report to Mufasa, but the concept of dishonesty negating prosperity may have been a step too high for your younger self.
“I’m the king’s majordodo.”
When Zazu and the young lions are trapped by the hyenas in the elephant graveyard, Shenzi refers to him as “Mufasa’s little stooge.”
He quickly, and perhaps unwisely, corrects her by sharing his official title: “majordodo.”
Zazu’s quote is a play on the word majordomo, which is the title for the head steward in a royal house. The joke only works if you know the term and also understand that a dodo is an extinct species of bird.
The writers either really trusted the breadth of knowledge of their audience or they snuck that one in to make themselves giggle.
“Well, as far as brains go, I got the lion’s share. But when it comes to brute strength, I’m afraid I’m at the shallow end of the gene pool.”
After being confronted for missing the anointing ceremony, Scar’s snarky response nearly starts a fight between him and his brother Mufasa.
When Scar says that he “wouldn’t dream” of challenging his brother, a disappointed Zazu asks why not. He retorts by basically saying that he is smarter than Mufasa but concedes that he is no match physically.
The “lion’s share” part is clever for obvious reasons, but the phrase “shallow end of the gene pool” is a more sophisticated metaphor that takes a few more seconds to land.
The gene pool refers to all the genes within a certain species’ population. So, Scar is saying that he wasn’t born with many of the physical traits that some lions have.
“We can have whatever’s lion around!”
While menacing over Zazu, Simba, and Nala, the hyenas are distracted by their own food-related puns. Banzai’s emphasis on the word “lyin'” points out the silly wordplay, but as a kid, your brain would have needed to work overtime to keep up.
Simba and Nala are lions, so as an adult, it’s easy to make the mental connection that “lyin'” and “lion” sound the same.
“Make mine a cub sandwich, what you think?”
This is another pun from the hyena scene that you definitely quoted long before you really understood it.
“It’s a small world after all …” “No! No! Anything but that!”
When Scar tells Zazu to sing a song with more “bounce” to entertain him, the imprisoned hornbill starts to sing the tune from “It’s a Small World,” a boat ride at various Disney parks around the world.
The repetitive song is a huge earworm, and Scar’s annoyed reaction is one that any adult who’s sat through the ride can relate to.
“I said Mufa … uh … I said ‘Que pasa?'”
In this scene, hyena henchman Banzai makes the mistake of uttering Mufasa’s name in the presence of Scar. The film’s villain quickly turns to scowl at him and asks “What did you say?”
Rather than repeat himself and risk facing the full wrath of Scar, Banzai attempts to pass off his error as a Spanish colloquialism.
Unless you had a good grasp of informal Spanish, Banzai’s use of the phrase “Que pasa?” – which translates to”what’s up?” – probably went over your head.
“What do you want me to do, dress in drag and do the hula?”
With the rise of popular shows like VH1’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” kids today might have at least a basic understanding of what drag is or what it looks like.
“Are you talking to me? Are you talking to me? They call me Mr. Pig.”
When Timon and Zazu are cornered by the hyenas, Pumbaa finds the courage to come to their rescue – tusks blazing and relevant movie quotes at the ready.
A cartoon warthog yelling anything before charging at hyenas is pretty funny, but as a kid you were probably laughing for the wrong reasons. After all, there are levels to this joke.
First, you have to get the reference to “Taxi Driver” (1976), in which Robert De Niro repeats “Are you talking to me?” to himself in a mirror.
Then you have to get the slightly more obscure reference from “In the Heat of the Night” (1967). In the film, Sidney Poitier has the iconic line, “They call me Mr. Tibbs!”
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