DISNEY, the giant entertainment company founded by the late Walter Disney, a small-town Kansas artist made good, is a major global business whose market capitalisation stands at US$152,6 billion with various stakes in movie production, theme parks and other entertainment-related multimedia concerns.
The company is the power behind the world-beating Lion King franchise, an animated film which raked in millions at the box office and became a cult favourite of children and adults alike across the world.
Released in 1994, the movie starred the likes of James Earl Jones and Rowan Atkinson as the voices behind the cartoon characters.
The music score was handled deftly by Hans Zimmer and the album featured works form South Africa’s Lebo Morake who trades as Lebo M.
The film was budgeted at a then humungous US$45 million and went on to gross US$312 million in the United States alone with cumulative global tally of US$987 million as at November 2013.
Set in the African savanna, the film featured English, Swahili, Xhosa and Zulu languages and one of its famous statements “Hakuna matata” is now the centre of an online petition against the company.
Disney has patented the phrase “Hakuna matata”, a move which has stunned activists throughout the world. Accusations of cultural appropriation have been levelled against the giant entertainment company.
Them Mushrooms, a Kenyan music band, is exploring litigation against Disney’s patenting of the phrase which is widely used in East Africa which has become associated with the Lion King feature film of 1994. Their seminal hit Jambo Bwana used the phrase “Hakuna Matata” in their hit song released in 1980.
“Disney’s first registration, as we have come to learn, was in 1994,” asserted group leader John Katana.
“This is 14 years after we had first recorded the song. This song went platinum in the country. This is our national tourism anthem in Kenya. We were a bit surprised, you know, because we said, ‘Hey, these guys have taken our phrase, but they changed the tune.”
Shelton Mpala, a Zimbabwean activist, launched the petition for Disney to abandon the trademarking of the phrase “Hakuna Matata” which means “no worries” which has garnered over 138 000 signatures to date on the site Change.org
The Disney trademark particularly applies to T-shirts that also feature Lion King. — Staff Writer.