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Disney’s Cultural Appropriation Quest For “Hakuna Matata”

Disney’s Cultural Appropriation Quest For “Hakuna Matata”

By CultureBanx Team

  • Disney’s Hakuna Matata trademark was granted in 2003

  • The Lion King is the highest-grossing entertainment property in history at $8.1B

The mouse house has received a lot of backlash after trademarking the Swahili phrase “Hakuna Matata” which was made popular in its Lion King animated film. More than 138,000 people have signed an online petition asking Disney (DIS +3.08%) to drop the trademark and stop this pursuit for commercial ownership of the phrase. Does their brand benefit from having the phrase trademarked or does it get damaged from bad publicity?

The Lion King.jpg

Why This Matters: Disney’s exploitation of African culture is on full display with this burgeoning trademark issue. The Swahili phrase is commonplace in several African nations which loosely translates to “no problem,” is being robbed by corporate America.

Disney told CNBC the trademark only applies to T-shirts, and will not prevent others from using the phrase. They also stated the trademark is only applicable under the context of Disney’s “Lion King” franchise. In reality, Disney’s trademark has not stopped the pirating of its intellectual property.

Although the Disney trademark was granted in 2003, the controversy has gained force recently because of next year’s planned release of a computer-animated remake of The Lion King, starring Beyoncé,  Donald Glover, Alfre Woodard and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

The Lion King is the highest-grossing entertainment property in history at $8.1 billion

The Lion King film has made $968 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. Forbes reported The Lion King is the highest-grossing entertainment property in history at $8.1 billion, more than all the Star Wars films combined. Walt Disney Studios stated the Broadway production of the movie is one of six musicals in history to run for more than 10 years. This phenomenon is in its 21st year, after debuting in 1997.

What’s Next: Disney is set to release a live-action remake of the animated movie in July 2019. Let’s see if the company’s language piracy continues in the new version.

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