Online Petition Urges Disney to Remove Trademark on Hakuna Matata. The petition was started by Shelton Mpala, a Zimbabwean activist.
The Swahili phrase “Hakuna Matata” is a rough translation from Swahili to English, meaning, “no worries” or “no problems”. The term became wildly popular, world wide, after its appearance as both a phrase and a song in the 1994 Disney animated featured film, The Lion King.
Mpala claims he aims, “to draw attention to the appropriation of African culture and the importance of protecting our heritage, identity and culture from being exploited for financial gain by third parties [Disney].” “This plundered artwork serves to enrich or benefit these museums and corporations and not the creators or people it’s derived from,” Mpala said.
Kenyan intellectual property and entertainment lawyer, Liz Lenjo, does not agree with the petition started by Mpala. Lenjo said Disney “has not stolen anything” and that the backlash is due to misunderstandings about the situation. She claims the blame should go to social media for “blowing things out of proportion.” Lenjo also stated, “The conversation on the internet has been blowing up because of a misconception and misunderstanding around intellectual property law, the ethos behind intellectual property law and the various regimes of protection.”
“The use of ‘Hakuna Matata‘ by Disney does not take away the value of the language,” Lenjo claims. “East Africans or whoever speaks Swahili worldwide are not restricted from using the phrase.”
The petition, started by Mpala, has garnished over 50,000 signatures and continues to grow online. Disney has not made a formal statement regarding the online petition at this time.
The term “Hakuna Matata” was trademarked the same year the film was released, in 1994, according to the United Patent and Trademark Office. A “live-action” version of The Lion King is set to release in 2019.
Kaitlyn is a writer, painter, and artist based just north of Baltimore, Maryland. She is a previous participant in the Disney College Program and has years of experience with Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts and with Universal Orlando Resort. Her and her big 'Ohana are frequent visitors to the parks and resorts and she is always up for another trip to visit her favorite castles! Kaitlyn is the News & Entertainment Writer for Chip and Company and is passionate about writing and storytelling.