Before there was “Hakuna Matata”, there was “Warthog Rhapsody”. Thankfully, the song was replaced by the time The Lion King was released. The version in the clip below comes from a commercial spin-off album of music inspired by the film, Rhythm Of The Pride Lands.
There are several reasons why “Hakuna Matata” is a better song than “Warthog Rhapsody”. Let’s take a look at some of them.
“Warthog Rhapsody” is, simply put, second rate, both musically and lyrically. Musically, the number lacks the energy and momentum required by the song that would need to fill that particular spot in film at that point. Even worse, the song sounds like it was churned out by some kind of keyboard programme – formulaic and predictable – and the music overpowers the lyrics, which do not sit well on the melody at all. Not that it matters, because the lyrics sound like Tim Rice trying to force words into a programmed melody. The lyrics are not married well to the music at all. There are missed accents all over the place and some of the vocabulary used is so clearly inappropriate to these characters. The lyrics simply don’t sing, nor do they compel one to listen to what’s being said. They’re completely flaccid, incapable of moving the narrative along in the way they should.This brings us to the second, more pressing difference between the numbers: “Warthog Rhapsody” focuses squarely on Pumba. One of the key differences between this song and “Hakuna Matata” is that the latter takes forward Simba’s story, which is really what matters here. After all, this is The Lion King, not “The Neverending Saga of Timon and Pumba.”
(Some people object to the fact that “Hakuna Matata” as heard in the final cut of the film doesn’t include the verse about Timon, which was eventually heard in The Lion King 1½. Again, the answer is simple: one does not need to find out about what happened to Timon for “Hakuna Matata” to function as a narrative building block of the film. The basic requirement of the song is that it needs to take the story forward. The version used in the film achieves this and would strain under the weight of an extra verse. Anyway, it is incorrect to say that “Hakuna Matata” focuses solely on Pumba. The song focuses primarily on Simba’s journey and the development of the character: Pumba’s story is merely a means to that end and Timon’s verse would simply be padding out a point that had already been made. The key thing in this song was to figure out how it related to Simba’s journey. What was included in “Hakuna Matata” was enough to do that and enough to take the story forward.)
It’s easy to see why “Hakuna Matata” is a better song for The Lion King than “Warthog Rhapsody” and why the song didn’t find a place in the stage show when it premiered in 1997. The stage show is padded with enough sub-par Elton John and Tim Rice songs as it as, none of which serves the show well at all. Like “Warthog Rhapsody”, they are neither as good as the other additions to the stage score nor are they on par with any of the songs originally heard in the film.