Nathan Lane Reveals How 'Lion King's' Pumbaa Became First Disney Character Who Farts

Lane said he and his co-star “would record in the mornings sometimes” and “be a little sleepy,” resulting in a historic trait for the film's memorable warthog.

Nathan Lane still remembers giving his Lion King character some oomph.

The stage actor revealed in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that he and his co-star Ernie Sabella were exhausted from nightly Broadway performances while recording the voices for Timon and Pumbaa — and gave the warthog his flatulence.

“So, we would record in the mornings sometimes, and we’d be a little sleepy,” Lane told the outlet. “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,” he continued.

Pumbaa and his wiry meerkat companion arguably became the most memorable characters of the 1994 film, which is a loosely retold version of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet from the perspective of a young lion whose father is slain at the paws of his uncle. The film is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

It’d soon become an Oscar-winning classic, but the then-titled King of the Jungle was still an uncertain gamble when Disney approached Lane and Sabella. While the duo was performing Guys and Dolls on Broadway at the time, they took the job.

“So, we get there, and we’re pretty beat up from five shows, and to get the ball rolling, I just started making these sounds as he was reading his lines,” Sabella told EW. “He kept laughing, going, ‘Don’t do that, don’t do that.’ I said, ‘I’ll stop.’ And then kept doing it. That’s the story of how Pumbaa became the first and only Disney character with flatulence.”

Lane will perform several "Lion King" songs as Pumbaa at a 30th anniversary event this week.
Lane will perform several "Lion King" songs as Pumbaa at a 30th anniversary event this week.
Left: Richard Shotwell/Invision/Associated Press; Right: Disney Junior/Getty Images

Lane and Sabella initially weren’t even approached to voice Timon and Pumbaa specifically, as Disney only created those characters after their audition. The actors made history as the first duo to record their lines together for a Disney film, EW reports.

“Because we only got our pages, we didn’t know what the movie was about,” Sabella told EW. “We just knew that we were two funny guys and that warthogs and meerkats are small animals. I was doing a buddy movie.”

He explained: “I said, ’Alright, you’ll be Robert Redford, and I’ll be Paul Newman.”

The pair appear in Disney’s The Lion King 30th Anniversary — A Live-to-Film Concert Event at the Hollywood Bowl on the 24th and 25th of May, during which Lane and Sabella sing renditions of Hakuna Matata and Can You Feel The Love Tonight?


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