In the midst of the hype for The Lion King’s live-action remake, Disney is facing backlash over its trademark ‘Hakuna Matata’.
The petition that was launched recently urges Disney to renounce its trademark of the popular phrase, which means ‘no worries’ or ‘no problem’ in the Swahili language. It is also often used in eastern Africa.
It was in 1994 when the House of Mouse first applied for intellectual property right on the saying. The phrase was released in the animated film, in which characters Pumbaa and Timon sing the song that prominently features the expression.
Even though this has long been a topic of argument, the debate started again amid the upcoming release of The Lion King live-action remake.
Splashing in on the conversation is Shelton Mpala, Zimbabwean activist, who launched the petition that calls Disney out and urges people to say no to ‘any corporations/individuals looking to trademark languages, terms or phrases they didn’t invent.’
He wrote: “While we respect Disney as an entertainment institution responsible for creating many of our childhood memories, the decision to trademark ‘Hakuna Matata’ is predicated purely on greed and is an insult not only the spirit of the Swahili people but also, Africa as a whole.
“The movie is set in Africa and the characters have African names which further makes the decision to implement the trademark a perplexing one.
“The term ‘Hakuna Matata’ is not a Disney creation hence not an infringement on intellectual or creative property, but an assault on the Swahili people and Africa as a whole. It sets a terrible precedence and sullies the very spirit of the term to begin with.
“At a time when divisiveness has taken over the world, one would think re-releasing a movie that celebrates the unlikely friendships, acceptance, and unity, Disney would make a decision that goes completely against these values.”
More than 150,000 people signed out of a 200,000 goal.
Writer and professor Namwali Serpell highlighted the absurdity of it all, saying: “Disney is too big to ignore, for one thing.
“But there is a patent absurdity to the idea that Hakuna Matata would be subject to trademark. It’s like copyrighting ‘goodbye’ or ‘hang loose’.”
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