The Lion ‘wind’ and the Barbie ‘fart opera’

Among the most beloved of Disney’s animated films is The Lion King from 1994. The African Pride Lands’ setting is exquisitely created, and there are many lovable characters in it. Unexpectedly, it’s the first Disney animated movie with an entirely original plot that pays homage to Bambi and Hamlet. But did you know that was the first Disney movie to feature a fart?

According to this article, Disney didn’t capture its first farts on film until The Lion King, 57 years after the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, its first animated film. There were previous opportunities, without a doubt. For example, the boys, who populated Pinocchio‘s Pleasure Island, tended to be the most suitable for passing gas jokes, but it wasn’t appropriate for such a cultured piece as this.

It’s the same for The Lost Boys of Neverland in Peter Pan, though, Pumbaa was “the guy” to let loose. This is why.

In retrospect, it appears nearly ludicrous, but in 1994, when the movie first appeared in theaters, the moment was almost shocking but unmistakably humorous. In order to set the context, it should be noted that Simba is fleeing Pride Rock following the passing of his father Mufasa.

A meerkat named Timon and a warthog named Pumbaa come to Simba’s rescue when he passes out in the desert. They return Simba to their oasis and sing a song that introduces him to their carefree motto, “Hakuna Matata” (which translates to “no worries” in Swahili). Pumbaa, a young warthog with a sensitive spirit who appears to have thick skin, tells the sorrowful story of his upbringing during the song, and the warthog broke the wind destroying the grass behind him and driving his pals to run away from the toxicity of his fart as they stood downwind.

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So not only was there an audible fart in an animated movie from a company that generally avoided making toilet humor, but it was a real, clear gas pass with people laughing hysterically. That was unexpected not just because it was the first such occurrence, but also because of when it occurred in the movie—nearly right after Mufasa’s heartbreaking death. It came at the ideal moment to provide some relief from the gravity of that loss but the main thing was that it was amusing.

How on earth did The Lion King’s designers manage to sneak the famed sequence through, given Disney’s determination in upholding a specific family-friendly image? You may definitely thank Pocahontas for that. Pocahontas was viewed as the most important fish of the two movies since they were created simultaneously.

At the time, Pocahontas was described as West Side Story that meets Dances With Wolves by The Walt Disney Company’s CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, and The Lion King was described as an experiment. Rob Minkoff, the co-director, explains,

“Believe me, I mean, that was the mood of our production was… We would try everything. Anything and everything. Like, what are we gonna do here? Let’s just try, because there are no rules”. The Lion King outperformed Pocahontas on all fronts—critically, commercially, and in terms of legacy, farts and all—thanks to this uncharacteristically “hands-off” Disney-style approach.

Although it was the first time farting was heard in an animated Disney movie, The Lion King was not the first movie. The legendary moment occurred in the notorious campfire scene in Mel Brooks’ classic Western comedy Blazing Saddles. Yet, it remains one of the few instances of toilet humor in a Disney movie. Knowing that the sequence would not have been featured if The Lion King had not been given creative freedom, makes the achievement even more remarkable.

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Pure conjecture? Actually, no. Disney recently forbade the airing of a full episode of the well-known Australian animated series Bluey on Disney Plus.

The explanation is that the father in the show farts. It serves as a harsh reminder that Disney is fiercely protective of its reputation and strives for greater standards with its humorous content. But for one fleeting, brilliant, stinking second, Disney let its defenses down and gave The Lion King one of its funniest scenes—a moment that lived up to all expectations. An amazing moment that never gets old.

However, we still talk about farts with the latest Barbie movie. As reported here, according to Greta Gerwig, Barbie would have had to include a “fart opera” in the midst of the film. The movie, which Gerwig wrote and directed, follows Ken and Barbie as they alternate between Barbieland and the real world in search of self-discovery. For everything from its stunning sights, thought-provoking concepts, razor-sharp humor, and a medley of musical moments. One scene, though, was left out of Barbie’s final version.

Barbie initially featured a “fart opera” in the middle of the film, but it was deleted because test audiences didn’t find the flatulence funny, according to Gerwig in a recent interview. Although they have been unsuccessful thus far, the director and her editor Nick Houy, who previously collaborated on Lady Bird and Little Women, have been trying to smuggle a fart joke into each of their films. Here is what they revealed:

“We’ve always tried to get in a proper fart joke and we’ve never done it. We had like a fart opera in the middle [of ‘Barbie’]. I thought it was really funny. And that was not the consensus”, Gerwig said.

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“[W]e had a lot of fart jokes in this one, so I thought there was a chance we would get one in. Much higher chance of it being in Barbie than Little Women. It’s too bad. We had a whole fart scene, kind of, in this one. Too bad it didn’t make it. It was in the wrong place, too. We need to work it into a more significant narrative moment next time. That’s my plan”, Houy said.

Gerwig didn’t disclose much about the sequence that was cut, other than the fact that it took place in the middle of the film. The sequence appears to have been a flatulence-fueled musical performance or potentially something like the bean-eating scene from Blazing Saddles given Gerwig’s description of it as a “fart opera”, and the fact that it probably took place around the time the Kens take over Barbieland. As Ken’s patriarchal character begins to establish itself over Barbieland, the joke actually doesn’t seem too out of place. It’s easy to imagine the Kens farting in their Mojo Dojo Casa Houses or even staging the “fart opera” in a ridiculous effort to disgust the females.

Gerwig may have found it amusing, but she was probably right to remove the “fart opera” segment from the final cut. It would have eventually felt out of place to use fart humor, which is often considered a lowbrow comedy. Despite some slapstick and other goofy humor, the Barbie movie ultimately discusses significant concepts such as existentialism, gender roles, and identity.