Why Does Pumbaa Fart in “The Lion King”? Original Voice Stars Reveal Real Reason Behind 'Flatulent Noises'

Ernie Sabella and Nathan Lane explain the origin of Pumbaa's farts in Disney's 1994 'Lion King'

<p>AJ Pics/Alamy</p> Pumbaa and Timon in 1994

AJ Pics/Alamy

Pumbaa and Timon in 1994's The Lion King

Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella are shedding light on Pumbaa's penchant for flatulence in The Lion King.

Lane, 68, and Sabella, 74, voiced the meerkat Timon and Pumbaa the warthog, respectively, in Disney's 1994 animated classic. The pair told Entertainment Weekly that the origins of the warthog's farting stemmed from recording their lines while also working together on the 1992 Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls.

"We would record in the mornings sometimes, and we'd be a little sleepy. And Ernie, to entertain me during the recording, would make flatulent noises," Lane recalled. "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."

Sabella recalled that he started making the noises to entertain Lane "and to get the ball rolling" after a long weekend of Broadway performances. 

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

Related: Mufasa: The Lion King Director Explains Why Casting Beyoncé and Blue Ivy Carter ‘Absolutely Worked’ (Exclusive)

<p>Frazer Harrison/Getty; Vincent Sandoval/FilmMagic</p> Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella

Frazer Harrison/Getty; Vincent Sandoval/FilmMagic

Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella

As the two actors told EW, the Timon and Pumbaa characters were not even created until after they initially auditioned to play hyenas in Lion King, which was the highest-grossing movie of 1994 at the domestic box office.

Lane said the pair "improvised a bit and had a lot of fun" while auditioning for the three low-level villain roles, but figured they did not land any part in the movie until Disney reached out and said they wanted to write new characters tailor-made for the duo.

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"They said they were developing these new characters called Timon and Pumbaa, a meerkat and a warthog, for us," Lane added, "and that we would be the comic relief in this Shakespearean tale of lions."

Related: The Lion King Cast: Where Are They Now?

<p>AJ Pics/Alamy</p> Simba, Timon and Pumbaa in 1994's The Lion King

AJ Pics/Alamy

Simba, Timon and Pumbaa in 1994's The Lion King

Though the characters are integral to lead character Simba's (Matthew Broderick) journey in the first Lion King movie, Sabella recalled that they were not clued into the rest of the movie's story.

"Because we only got our pages, we didn't know what the movie was about," he 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. I said, 'Alright, you'll be Robert Redford, and I'll be Paul Newman.' "

The Lion King marks its 30th anniversary on June 15 and is currently streaming on Disney+.

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