‘The Lion King’: Disney Never Planned to Use Nathan Lane’s Funniest Timon Gag

Some of the most iconic movie scenes never appeared in scripts. Improvisation is the art of delivering unscripted lines. It happens in dramas, comedies, and thrillers. It even happens in Disney animated films. That’s how actor Nathan Lane brought to life the character Timon in 1994’s The Lion King.

Meerkat and warthog buddies Timon and Pumbaa add comedic flair to the dialogue and portray loyalty and friendship with a moral compass only Disney can create. You might not know that Nathan Lane delivered a bit of improv that became one of Timon’s most hilarious moments. It remains one of The Lion King‘s funniest gags even though Disney never planned to use it.

Nathan Lane improvised 1 of the funniest scenes in ‘The Lion King’

Nathan Lane The Lion King Timon
Nathan Lane and cast members from the Broadway production of ‘The Lion King’ in 2001 | Gabe Palacio/ImageDirect

Acclaimed stage actor Nathan Lane’s contribution to The Lion King ranks among the most memorable improv moments in animated films.

Remember the part in the movie when Simba tells Timon and Pumbaa they’ll have to “create a diversion” to lure the pack of hyenas from the Pride Rock entrance? Timba sarcastically asks if they want him to “dress in drag and do the hula.” The ensuing hilarity is the iconic scene where Timon dresses in hula garb and sings about his warthog counterpart as a potential juicy meal.

At first, the producers said that although they were on the floor laughing hysterically in the booth, they “could never use that in the movie,” MsMojo reports.

But ultimately, they decided to use it in the movie, and it remains a memorable fan favorite.

Behind the scenes of ‘The Lion King’

Other leaks and whispers have discussed the goings-on behind the scenes of The Lion King. They include rumors of “sex” appearing in the dust during Simba’s exaggerated flop midway through the movie and hidden Mickeys in the grub Simba plucks from Zazu’s head during the song “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King.”

There’s serious star power in the cast, too. Matthew Broderick voices an adult Simba. Jeremy Irons brings adversarial tones to the nefarious Uncle Scar. And fans can’t possibly imagine anyone else’s voice behind Mufasa than James Earl Jones. Other notable Hollywood contributors include Whoopi Goldberg as a hyena and, of course, Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella as the hilarious Timon and Pumbaa.

And much like Lane’s improv that wasn’t intended to make it into the movie, producers left out or changed other nuggets before the final version of The Lion King came out. For example, Mufasa and Scar weren’t initially written as brothers. Instead, Scar was to be a rogue lion with no family ties.

Unfortunately, the live-action version’s delivery wasn’t as hilarious

Nathan Lane’s improvisations didn’t translate well from the animated original to the live-action version of The Lion King. And though plenty of fans love the remake, some of the key differences between the two productions soured the experience for others. You can’t force funny. And some believe there’s no substitute for Lane’s original Timon, improv and all.

Improv is a skill only the most talented performers can pull off. And even animated Disney movies have incredible success stories of top talent creating dialogue that goes down in history as fan favorites.

RELATED: Who Are the Actors Behind the ‘Lion King’ Characters in the Disney Animated Films?