Study Guide

The Lion King Timon and Pumbaa (Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella)

Timon and Pumbaa (Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella)

Timon and Pumbaa are a pair invented for comedy: one's a tiny, wisecracking meerkat, and the other is a giant, emotionally honest warthog. Timon sounds like a used car salesman, while Pumbaa sounds like what would happen if John Goodman got swallowed by a giant pig. They brought the world "Hakuna Matata," delighting generations of children—and driving their parents absolutely insane.

When we first meet Timon and Pumbaa, it's under (darkly) hilarious circumstances: Timon is literally riding Pumbaa through the desert in search of carrion. When they find Simba, the big-hearted Pumbaa asks: "Can we keep him?" Timon eventually concedes, and the two teach Simba how to eat bugs and burp threateningly loudly.

Simba loves their freedom—according to Timon, "home is wherever your rump rests"—and their comic versatility. We find out that Timon can rock a hula skirt and Pumbaa can do a mean De Niro impression.

But Timon and Pumbaa are more than comic relief—they provide Simba with crucial emotional support at the moment he needs it most. In fact, if they hadn't found poor, exiled Simba roasting in the desert, he might have died out there. And when it comes time to take back Pride Rock from Scar and his cronies, Timon and Pumbaa are ready and willing.

In a way, these two are the unsung heroes of the film, a pair of Horatios to Simba's Hamlet.

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