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Hakuna Matata ... or don't!

By Gregory White

I was watching Lion King again yesterday. Not the new one – the classic. You know the one, with everybody’s favourite rendition of Hakuna Matata. Man, I still love that song.

Hakuna Matata is not a unique song in the Dinsey landscape. It’s similar in vein to Bare Necessities in Jungle Book and Hawaiian Roller Coster Ride in Lilo and Stitch. But the message that these songs deliver is very different.

Let’s play English student here and break these down one-by-one.

It means no worries

For the rest of your days

It’s our problem-free


Timone and Pumba are hiding in the jungle when Simba comes along and they introduce him to their life-long philosophy: Hakuna Matata. As a child, I have always thought this song is about being chill and accepting life as it is with a grin on your face, but as I’ve grown up, I’ve realised that this song is in fact about problems. Through their happy, catchy tune, Timone and Pumba want Simba to not face his problems but instead hide from them, to flee instead of fighting. This can be a short-term fix, but we see when Nala arrive as an adult that cowardice is not the answer.

Look for the bare necessities

The simple bare necessities

Forget about your worries and your strife

I mean the bare necessities

Old Mother Nature's recipes

That brings the bare necessities of life

Bare Necessities sounds very similar to Hakuna Matata at first glance. Just like Timone and Pumba, Baloo is singing about not worrying and accepting as things come along. However, instead of burying his head in the sand, Baloo suggests that we still have responsibilities, but we relax knowing that things will inevitably come our way sooner or later. It takes us back to our roots, and lets us move forward with purpose and passion.

There's no place I'd rather be

Then on my surfboard out at sea

Lingering in the ocean blue

And If I had one wish come true

I'd surf till the sun sets

Let’s pull this one apart too. Now, a large portion of the song is not in English so that’s a challenge but when we look at it, it talks about wanting simple pleasures like riding the waves and enjoying them for what they are. Like all the Disney songs that we’ve talked about today, it’s once more about simplicity. Unlike Hakuna Matata and Bare Necessities though, this one’s even more straightforward. It’s about enjoying things that you like to do – and I think we can all benefit from a little #wehavefun.

I never realised as a kid, but Disney films all have different philosophies. They suggest different ways of living our lives and perhaps we never pick them up because we are enchanted by the catchy tunes and silver screen magic. But perhaps we should give pause to the lyrics and ask ourselves what these songs are trying to say.

Rotary has its own philosophy, called the ‘Four-Way Test’. It goes like this:

- Is it the truth?

- Is if beneficial to all concerned?

- Is it fair to all concerned?

- Does it breed goodwill and better friendships?

Bare Necessities and Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride definitely pass this Rotary test. They talk about true things, however simple, that bring joy and goodwill. Hakuna Matata might bring better friendships, but it is neither fair nor beneficial to hide from your responsibilities altogether.

Maybe we need to be a little more careful with our favourite childhood songs. And maybe I just need another excuse to watch more Disney films because I’m certainly going to be broadening my philosophical horizons this weekend as well – accompanied with my Mickey Mouse ears and Little Mermaid popcorn bucket, of course!

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