10 clever jokes in the original 'Lion King' you may have missed as a kid

·5 min read
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There are some clever lines in the Disney film. Disney

"He's as mad as a hippo with a hernia."

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Everyone can appreciate Rowan Atkinson's delivery of the hippo/hernia alliteration. Disney

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."

Zazu from The Lion King saying Cheetahs Never Prosper
The wordplay may have gone over your head. Disney

"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."

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The joke only works if you know the term and understand that the dodo is an extinct species of bird. Disney

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 understand that a dodo is an extinct species of bird.

"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."

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Scar basically says that he is smarter than Mufasa. Disney

After being confronted for missing Simba's 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!"

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It's a quick three-second joke in a movie filled with them. Disney

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've needed to work overtime to keep up.

Because Simba and Nala are lions, it's easy for adults to make the mental connection that "lyin'" and "lion" sound the same.

"Make mine a cub sandwich, what you think?"

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This one might be a little more obvious. Disney

This is another pun from the hyena scene that may seem obvious now, but only because you know now that a cub is a young lion and a club is a type of sandwich.

"It's a small world after all ..." "No! No! Anything but that!"

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Scar's reaction is totally relatable. Disney

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?'"

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Unless you knew Spanish, this probably went over your head. Disney

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?"

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The line was improvised by voice actor Nathan Lane. Disney

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.

But voice actor Nathan Lane's improvised line about using drag as a diversion so that Simba and Nala could sneak around the clan of vicious hyenas was probably overlooked by most 1990s kids.

"Are you talking to me? Are you talking to me? They call me Mr. Pig."

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You have to understand not one, but two older films to get this one. Disney

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.

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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