Uproar over Disney move to trademark ‘Hakuna Matata’ phrase


Uproar over Disney move to trademark 'Hakuna Matata' phrase
A CGI re-imagining of Lion King. Photo/courtesy Walt Disney

In Summary

  • This is especially after a petition by Zimbabwean activist Shelton Mpala to have Disney remove the trademark has, as at the time of publishing, garnered over 36,000 signatures.
  • Disney first applied for the trademark in 1994 and was approved for registration in 2003.
  • The debate has now caused a stir online with most Twitter users agreeing with Mr. Mpala and urging the American film production powerhouse to drop the trademark.

A decision by the Walt Disney Company to trademark the phrase ‘Hakuna Matata’ which was popularised in their ‘Lion King’ film has drawn ire online.

This is especially after a petition by Zimbabwean activist Shelton Mpala to have Disney remove the trademark has, as at the time of publishing, garnered over 36,000 signatures.

Disney first applied for the trademark in 1994 and was approved for registration in 2003; this means those who print the phrase ‘Hakuna Matata’ – which translates to ‘no worries’ in English – on their t-shirts are liable for a law suit from the film production company.

Mr. Mpala, however, likens this to “colonialism and robbery, the appropriation of something you have no right over.”

“Join us and say NO to DISNEY or any corporations/individuals looking to trademark languages, terms or phrases they didn’t invent,” says the activist in his petition.

He further adds: “If we were to go that route, then we owe the British royalties for everyone who speaks English, or France for when we speak French.”

‘Hakuna Matata’ is a phrase that has been largely used in Kiswahili-speaking countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The phrase is also the title of a song released in 1984 by Kenyan band ‘Them Mushrooms’ that is still reportedly used to welcome tourists into the country at major hotels today.

The debate has now caused a stir online with most Twitter users agreeing with Mr. Mpala and urging the American film production powerhouse to drop the trademark.

This comes after Walt Disney announced a live action remake of the ‘Lion King’ film set for release in 2019 directed by Jon Favreau and featuring global icons such as Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jon Oliver, Keegan-Michael Key, and pop star Beyoncé

Below are some of the reactions:

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Story By Ian Omondi
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