- “They call me Mister Pig!”
Before Timon and Pumbaa find the jungle, Pumbaa says that he is alone in the world. According to a flashback featured in "Hakuna Matata", Pumbaa had problems with gas when he was younger. They mention that Pumbaa once went to a water hole in the savanna but let out very smelly gas, causing monkeys to fall from the trees to the ground because of the stink. When Pumbaa came to drink the water, his smell caused all the nearby animals to flee. For Pumbaa, it was very embarrassing and left him afraid of socializing.
In the earliest versions of The Lion King, Pumbaa and Timon were children residing in the Pride Lands that grew up with Simba. It was decided that the two would be changed to outcasts; this gave Simba someone to turn to after his exile.
Before "Hakuna Matata", Pumbaa and Timon were to sing "Warthog Rhapsody". This song was essentially an inside look at Pumbaa's life, as he and Timon taught Simba how to live life in bliss. When the song selection was changed to "Hakuna Matata", it was Timon's backstory that was the focal point, instead of Pumbaa's. However, the filmmakers felt Timon's verse wasn't working, so it was scrapped in favor of Pumbaa.
Pumbaa's secret intelligence came when writing the "under the stars" sequence for the movie. According to Roger Allers, he suggested that Pumbaa's hypothesis about what stars are should be closer to the truth than Timon's. This would imply to the audience that Pumbaa is actually fairly knowledgeable despite his apparent stupidity.
Broadway veteran Ernie Sabella first auditioned for one of the hyenas. He did so alongside his friend Nathan Lane. The chemistry between the two was so strong that the filmmakers felt they would be best suited for Pumbaa and Timon, respectively. They are notably some of the few actors to record their lines together in a Disney animated feature. Sabella once noted that his voice for Pumbaa was partially inspired by actor Michael V. Gazzo's performance in The Godfather.
- Timon: ... who's the brains of the outfit?
Timon: My point, exactly.
- —Timon and Pumbaa
Pumbaa is a loving, open-hearted character who sometimes displays childlike naivety and innocence that is sometimes confused for stupidity. Though Timon would say otherwise, Pumbaa is actually the true brains of the outfit, having both common sense and impressive knowledge over things from nature to science, which he often tries to teach the more dim-witted Timon, but to no true avail (as seen in the stargazing scene in The Lion King where Pumbaa defines what stars really are). Even so, it is Pumbaa's childish nature that sets the two apart. Whilst Timon can be selfish and greedy, he is still more mature than Pumbaa, overall, thus explaining why he is the de facto leader of the duo, along with the fact that Pumbaa can be very absent-minded at times.
Not only that, Pumbaa is not without his stereotypical dim-witted moments, specifically seen in the television series. For example, in the episode "Boara Boara", he mistook a starfish for an oversized snowflake, and in "Never Everglades", Pumbaa believed he was the mother of a newly hatched alligator, despite Timon telling him otherwise for obvious reasons.
Despite his history of being abandoned and possibly even mistreated due to his foul smell, Pumbaa has a strong sense of loyalty and devotion towards his friends, particularly seen when Timon's selfishness gets himself into trouble despite Pumbaa's warnings, thus resulting in the warthog having to save the day, still willing to call Timon his closest companion. This is also seen in The Lion King 1½ when Timon refuses to leave for Pride Rock to help Simba, whereas Pumbaa, believing it is the right thing to do, decides to do it despite knowing he might die in the battle against Scar.
After running away from his home in the Pride Lands, Simba passes out due to heat exhaustion. As a flock of buzzards begins to surround Simba's unconscious body in preparation to eat him, Timon and Pumbaa arrive, scaring the buzzards away as part of their game, Bowling for Buzzards. As the buzzards retreat, Pumbaa spots Simba's body. He asks Timon if they can take him in, but Timon refuses because Simba is a predator. However, Pumbaa convinces Timon that they could teach Simba to be on their side, and they take him back to the jungle. At the jungle, Simba awakens and befriends Timon and Pumbaa. They teach him the philosophy of Hakuna Matata, and offer him a spot in their home. At the same time, they explain Pumbaa's 'problem.'
Years later, Simba has grown up and developed a close bond with Pumbaa and Timon. Underneath the joy, however, Simba's past begins to haunt him, as he feels his father's death was his fault. One day, while bug hunting, Pumbaa is spotted by a hungry lioness, and a chase begins. Pumbaa gets stuck in a raised tree root, and desperately tries to break free. Timon arrives and attempts to save his friend, but to no avail. Simba suddenly arrives and battles the lioness.
After the battle was over, the lioness reveals herself to be Nala, Simba's childhood friend. Pumbaa and Timon are introduced to her, and learn that Simba is a king and that his uncle Scar has taken control of his kingdom during his absence. Timon, however, feels that Nala will destroy the Hakuna Matata trio, getting Pumbaa to believe so as well. Later on, Pumbaa and Timon are woken up by Nala, who is looking for Simba. Rafiki, Simba's mandrill friend, appears and tells them that Simba has returned home to reclaim his throne. At Pride Rock, he and Timon dance the hula to distract the hyenas so that Simba and Nala could get by, and Simba would have a clear shot at Scar. With Simba and the other lionesses engaging hyenas after Scar confessed at what he had done to Mufasa to the pride, Timon and Pumbaa both charged into battle in the same way they did with buzzards in an attempt to fight them off. During the fight, Pumbaa comes to Timon and Zazu's rescue, expressing anger when Banzai called him a pig, charging straight at him and Shanzi before easily thrashing and chasing the both of them out of the den. In the end, Simba reclaims the throne, and Pumbaa and Timon watch him climb Pride Rock.
After the events of the first film, Pumbaa and Timon appear to have taken residence in Pride Rock (although the third film suggests otherwise), alongside Simba and the other lionesses. Once the birth of Simba's cub finally arrives, Timon and Pumbaa are overjoyed, believing their relationship will be similar to their brotherhood with Simba. However, the duo realizes it might not be once Rafiki reveals the "little guy" is a girl.
Months later, after Kiara has become a playful cub, Timon and Pumbaa are tasked by an over-protective Simba to constantly babysit the cub and keep her out of trouble. The duo spends a morning doing just that, until their childish bickering distracts them from their mission, allowing Kiara to wander off on her own, meeting a rogue lion cub named Kovu once she does. Kovu is the son of Zira, a follower of Scar and enemy of Simba. Zira eventually finds the two playing together and prepares to kill Kiara until Timon and Pumbaa, along with Simba, Nala, and the other lionesses arrive on the scene.
Forbidden to return to Kovu and more cautious than ever with Kiara's well-being, Simba constantly instructs Pumbaa and Timon to babysit the princess, all the way through her adolescence, much to Kiara's dismay. At one point, Kovu is taken into the pride after rescuing Kiara, and Timon and Pumbaa are the first to grow a fondness for him. When they hear Kovu is truly working for Zira, however, they immediately revoke their views, feeling betrayed.
Afterward, Kovu is banished, and Kiara rushes out to find him, leaving Pumbaa and Timon worried sick just as a war between the Pridelanders and the Outsiders (Zira's pride) breaks out. Timon and Pumbaa join in the battle, but the war is put to an end due to the efforts of Kiara and Kovu (who officially reforms for the better). In the end, peace and harmony reign supreme, and the Pride Lands becomes one with the Outsiders upon the death of a bitter Zira. Kovu and Kiara marry, and Timon and Pumbaa tearfully join in the festivities, alongside Zazu.
In the third Lion King film, which explains the origins of Timon and Pumbaa's friendship, Pumbaa is the film's deuteragonist. He is first seen in the middle of some grassland, stalking a frightened Timon in the shadows until they meet face to face, horrifying each other. Timon surrenders, believing Pumbaa wants to devour him, but Pumbaa explains he has no desire to eat the meerkat and was merely following him to make sure he stayed safe, being that an animal of his size is rather vulnerable out all alone. When Timon, offended, notes that Pumbaa is all alone as well, the warthog explains he is an outcast, feared by mostly all animals (albeit because of his scent, though Timon believes it is because of his strength). This gives Timon the idea to hire Pumbaa as his bodyguard and escort to Pride Rock, where he hopes to find a new home and a carefree life. Pumbaa accepts, delighted to have an acquaintance for the first time in ages, and the duo heads off, introducing themselves and finding common interests along the way.
Once they reach Pride Rock, they find a massive group of animals gathered around, though the duo is oblivious as to why (the birth of Prince Simba). Either way, Timon figures they would simply walk through the crowd over to a small pond perfectly suited for a meerkat. However, Pumbaa is reluctant to do so, voicing his fear of crowds. Timon scoffs off the apprehensions and leads Pumbaa through the animals, where the warthog fearfully releases his deadly gas, rendering the animals in the nearest distance unconscious (this also causes the surrounding animals to bow as in the opening scene of the first film) and burning Timon's hair. Instead of abandoning Pumbaa, however, Timon embraces the warthog's "special power", much to Pumbaa's surprise and delight, and with the crowd blockage abolished, the duo make way for their new home.
They arrive, and Timon deems the area all his to enjoy, leaving Pumbaa to feel his assistance is no longer needed, and downheartedly, he sees himself off, until Timon offers him to stay, which Pumbaa immediately accepts. A few months later, Simba and Nala's "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" musical number ends with the destruction of Timon and Pumbaa's new home, forcing them to head out and search again, eventually finding the Elephant's graveyard. They begin to make themselves at home until they find the area teaming with the fearsome hyenas, forcing the duo to search off, yet again, until finding the gorge, where a wildebeest stampede breaks, leading to the duo falling off a waterfall and into a streaming river. They survive the chaos and manage to find land, where Timon voices his desires to give up on finding a new home, planning to return to his meerkat colony and suggesting Pumbaa return to his own home, instead. Sadly, Pumbaa confesses he does not have one, eventually revealing to be a homeless orphan. Timon comforts his friend, telling him he would stay by his side no matter what, abandoning his plans to return to the meerkat colony for the sake of Pumbaa.
The duo eventually falls into slumber, and the next morning, they find that they were washed on the shores of a tropical oasis paradise, predator-free and available for the duo to own. Timon excitedly dubs it their dream home, and living with the philosophy of Hakuna Matata, they begin their life of leisure, enjoying their days blissfully lounging, eating grubs, and enjoying each other's company. One day, however, after Pumbaa begs Timon to go bowling for buzzards, the duo stumbles upon an unconscious lion cub and decides to take him in, adopting him, and raising him into adulthood. With Simba, life is even more perfect than before, and their brotherhood is well beloved, as well as seemingly unbreakable. That is, until a childhood friend of Simba's (Nala) arrives in the oasis, falling in love with the lion and blossoming a relationship.
Disgusted, Timon ropes Pumbaa into breaking the couple apart, but after many failed attempts, they call it quits. However, one night, they find Simba and Nala having an argument, leading to Simba running off to clear his mind. Timon is overjoyed, feeling their Hakuna Matata lifestyle is finally safe, until Nala reveals Simba has run away to reclaim his throne back at Pride Rock, in a deadly battle against his uncle, Scar. Timon refuses to assist Simba, feeling betrayed that he left their home for the Pride Lands, but Pumbaa disagrees, feeling Simba is their friend, and it is their job to help and protect him. After an argument, Timon continues to stand his ground, declaring he will not leave the oasis and lose everything he has come so far for. Heartbroken by the split, Pumbaa heads off alone to help Simba, leaving Timon in supposed solitude.
As Pumbaa nears Pride Rock, Timon suddenly appears, apologizing for his selfishness and exclaiming "Friends stick together 'til the end!", thus rekindling the bond between the duo. Together, they rush into battle, holding off the hyena henchmen of Scar, whilst Simba battles the tyrant. With the help of Timon's mother and uncle, Max (who have been searching for the meerkat since he left the colony), as well as Timon's quick thinking, they manage to hold off the hyenas long enough for Simba to defeat Scar and reclaim the throne. A celebration is held for the new king, who thanks, Timon and Pumbaa for all they have done, confessing he would not have been able to do so without their help. The duo watches proudly as Simba claims his place as the Lion King, and eventually return to the sanctuary that is the oasis, along with Timon's meerkat colony, who have longed desired life without tunnels and the fear of predators, making the oasis the perfect home.
In the television series, he and Timon are once again the main characters, and are shown to travel a lot and have had many adventures. These adventures are usually due to the fact that Pumbaa always wants to do the right things all the time. In the series, Pumbaa seems to, as usual, be the brains of the duo while Timon thinks and tells that he is. In the show, it is also shown that Pumbaa is very popular among the jungle and usually gains the chance to live the glamorous life, but gives it up for Timon.
Two episodes revealed that Pumbaa's last name is Smith. This was likely meant as a joke due to how incredibly common Smith is a surname. Pumbaa was also a member of a group of warthogs, but by the time he was fully grown, he was banished because of his smell, which was apparently appalling even by warthog standards. Also, years before the episode "Madagascar About You", an arranged marriage has been set up for Pumbaa before he was even born.
In the television series, Pumbaa had an uncle whose name was Boaris, and lived in Russia. Apparently, Boaris was really good at ballet, but then, because of Timon, he fell on fish eggs and went to the hospital, and Pumbaa was dancing the ballet, but he broke his leg, then Uncle Boaris comes to dance.
In "Sense & Senegambia", Pumbaa is also revealed to have a deceased uncle named Ernie, who is likely named after his voice actor. In that same episode, Pumbaa believes he lost his bug-hunting skills after failing to catch and eat a cricket. Timon thinks this is because there is something wrong with the warthog's senses and so he purchases expensive aids for his friend. Pumbaa later learns from his dream of talking to Uncle Ernie that he needs to believe in himself and therefore, he regains his confidences and succeeds in catching bugs. In another episode "New Guinea Pig", it is shown that Pumbaa's tusks can get in his way of doing some activities or passing through some things. As a result, Pumbaa starts to get tired of them and considers trading them to the three natives. The warthog later realizes how useful his tusks are, as he uses them to free Timon and create an ice replica of himself. Pumbaa learns from Timon that his tusks are the most important parts of what makes him who he is.
In House of Mouse, Pumbaa makes numerous appearances as one of the recurring guests. A running gag in the show is when Timon attempts to eat Jiminy Cricket, but is stopped by Pumbaa. In "Timon and Pumbaa", Pumbaa became best friends with Donald Duck after an argument with Timon. Pumbaa wanted to do comedy for their performance on stage, but Timon wanted to do magic. In the end, they were reunited after Timon took up for him when it was proven he was not a very good comedian.
In "Donald's Pumbaa Prank", Pumbaa was kidnapped by Pete in a plan to stink up the House of Mouse with his fart-gas, but he was rescued by Donald in the end. In "The Three Caballeros", Pumbaa was the only guest to know the third member of the Caballeros was Donald Duck. In "House of Scrooge", Timon grew tired of Scrooge McDuck's cheap entertainment (His Number One Dime), but Pumbaa wanted to stay because it was shiny.
In one episode, Pumbaa and Timon auditioned for a part as the Genie from Aladdin. In "Not So Goofy", Pumbaa wanted to hear Goofy do his signature holler. Unfortunately for Pumbaa, Goofy was acting sophisticated for the night and doffed the mantle.
In the film Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse, Pumbaa informs Timon of what a "humbug" is after hearing Donald being called such, which Timon believed it was a meal.
Pumbaa and Timon star in a series of educational shorts, following several guidelines to a safety and healthy life. Much like the television series, Pumbaa acts as the secret brain of the duo, often providing far more information than Timon does. At the end of every episode, Pumbaa suggests (or sometimes begs) that the duo performs a musical number, reflecting all that they have learned in the adventure. Unlike previous appearances, Pumbaa notices Timon's selfishness, laziness, and insults a lot more often, and is shown to be easily annoyed by it, though Timon would make up a way to forgive and forget. Pumbaa also takes a more serious tone in the shorts as opposed to other roles. However, he manages to maintain his childlike persona in some episodes, most notably in the health episode, and at the end when he insists on a musical number.
Set in the middle of The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Pumbaa and Timon are the adoptive uncles and parental figures of a young honey badger named Bunga, living in an area of the Pride Lands called Hakuna Matata Falls. Pumbaa is shown to care a great deal for Bunga and is a loving supporter of all of his endeavors and ways of life. Like Pumbaa, Bunga's bodily scent is considered unpleasant amongst most of the Pride Lands' inhabitants, though Pumbaa doesn't mind, motivating Bunga to use his scent to his advantage, as Pumbaa often does.
Pumbaa first appears in The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar, where he and Timon are shown helping a young lioness free her claws from a log. The incident prompts Pumbaa to fondly reminisce the days he and Timon raised Simba, as the formerly young lion repeatedly got his claws stuck in logs, only for Pumbaa and Timon to come to his rescue each time. However, before the mission can be complete, Bunga arrives and distracts Pumbaa with his presence, causing the warthog to eagerly turn to greet his nephew and accidentally free the lioness in a rather painful way. Pumbaa is later told that Bunga has ambitions to join a group of Pride Land protectors known as Lion Guard, but the idea worries Pumbaa, who believes such a responsibility may be too dangerous. Pumbaa's mind is changed when Simba's son, Kion, mentions he wants Bunga to join because of the latter's bravery. This is enough to make Pumbaa proud and fill with excitement; so much so that he accidentally unleashes a bit of gas, causing Kion, Bunga, Kiara, Tiifu, and Zuri to flee.
In "The Search for Utamu", it was revealed how Timon and Pumbaa came to adopt Bunga. While searching for utamu bugs, Bunga, then an orphaned baby, latches onto Pumbaa's leg and pleads to stay by his and Timon's side. Pumbaa finds the honey badger to be adorable and tries to convince Timon to let him stay. However, Timon wants nothing more to do with parenting (having already raised Simba), and makes an attempt to shoo Bunga away, only to have his mind changed when he learns just how much of an exceptional bug-hunter the honey badger is, much to Pumbaa's delight.
In "Bunga and the King", Pumbaa and Timon accompany Kion and the Lion Guard in going into Nandembo Caverns to meet with Bunga and Simba after they became trapped in a sinkhole. Both Pumbaa and Timon are worried about the two, seeing them as their "babies". Bunga and Simba hear the duo and go to them, but find that a large ravine separates them from the duo and the Lion Guard. Luckily, the two are able to jump over the ravine and are greeted warmly by a relieved Pumbaa and Timon. In "Rafiki's New Neighbors", Timon and Pumbaa have a silent cameo.
Pumbaa makes a brief cameo in an episode of 101 Dalmatians: The Series, being seen amongst the other farm animals.
In one of the Disney parody trailers promoting Lilo & Stitch and spoofing The Lion King, during the iconic "Circle of Life" scene, Rafiki holds up what is meant to be baby Simba, but it is instead Stitch, which Timon announces in confusion whilst sitting atop Pumbaa. However, in one of the film's full-length trailers, they are replaced by a different warthog making Timon's note about Stitch.
In Enchanted, Pip accidentally transforms himself momentarily into Pumbaa in the DVD extra "Pip's Predicament: A Pop-Up Adventure". In addition, a warthog resembling Pumbaa can be seen at the end of the film with a bunch of animals who are in line to have their books signed by Pip.
Pumbaa makes an appearance in the animated blooper reel featured in the Diamond Edition release of The Lion King, where he and Timon are shown preparing for a nightly nap, until Pumbaa embarrassingly passes gas, prompting Timon to postpone the nap in favor of a walk.
Timon and Pumbaa make a brief, non-speaking cameo in the animated mini-series It's a Small World: The Animated Series, in the episode "One Golden Sun".
Pumbaa appears in the episode "Grub Grapple" of Disney Crossy Road: The Animated Series, where he and Timon face a treacherously busy road of traveling animals to catch a bug.
Pumbaa appears in Kingdom Hearts II as a resident of the Pride Lands, with a similar role to that of the film.
He was nearly eaten by Nala like in the film, and was captured by Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed, though Sora saved him. He and Timon taught Sora, Donald, and Goofy about "Hakuna Matata", which means "no worries." He was nervous at the climatic battle against Scar, since he was afraid of being eaten by hyenas and the like. Later, after Simba reclaimed his kingship, Pumbaa advised Simba to forget his past and show courage when he protected Nala from Scar's ghost, despite his fear.
In the game, Pumbaa is one of the many iconic Disney characters kidnapped by the evil witch Mizrabel in a plot to dominate the Cartoon World. He is imprisoned in Mizrabel's Castle of Illusion, and separated from Timon during this time. Mickey Mouse seeks out Pumbaa after rescuing Simba, who requests the safe return of his friends.
In The Lion King 1½, where Pumbaa serves as one of the two playable characters (the other being Timon) and lives out a role similar to that of the film the game is based on.
Pumbaa is a semi-common character in the Disney parks. He is usually seen only in parades and some shows, but almost never appears as a walk-around character, with the exception of Disney On Ice and Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic. This is mainly due to him being a quadruped.
Pumbaa was also one of the characters that had a lot named for him at the Disneyland parking lot, until the remains of the Lion King section of the lot were closed for Disney California Adventure expansion space.
In It's a Small World, Pumbaa makes a cameo appearance.
Pumbaa and Timon serve as mascots for park safety at the Florida resort.
In Festival of The Lion King, Pumbaa appears along with Simba and Timon. Unlike Timon, Pumbaa stays on his float like Simba.
In the Epcot show Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable, Pumbaa and Timon are planning to build a resort that will involve the destruction of the jungle in which they inhabitant. Luckily, Simba enlightens Pumbaa and Timon on how dangerous it is to destroy the environment, and how important it is to take care of it.
Pumbaa also has his own spell card in the attraction Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, known as "Pumbaa's Odorous Gas".
In Wishes, aboard the Disney Fantasy cruise ship, Pumbaa and Timon appear as the first Disney characters the three high school graduates; Brandon and Nicole and their best bud, Kayla, meet whilst on their journey. The duo also performs "Hakuna Matata."
- Pumbaa's "problem" was a product of Gary Trousdale, who came up with a gag in which Pumbaa jokingly asked Simba to "pull his tusk".
- Pumbaa is called a "pig" by both Timon and Simba, but he does not react negatively either time, most likely because they are his friends and did not mean it as an insult. In the first film, only when Banzai called Pumbaa a pig (although it was not meant as an insult), he did react negatively. This was reflected in a couple episodes of the spin-off.
- His line: "They call me Mister Pig," is a reference to Virgil Tibbs' line: "They call me Mister Tibbs" in the film In the Heat of the Night.
- In the Timon & Pumbaa episode "Kenya Be My Friend?", Pumbaa has a polar opposite named Baampu (an anagram of the name).
- In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, two men carry a deceased warthog that resembles Pumbaa during the "Out There" song number of the film.
- Pumbaa's flatulence is actually Ernie Sabella zerberting on his hand (pressing his mouth on his hand and creating the sound). Sabella jokingly stated once that he is proud to be the first Disney character to express flatulence.
- He prefers slimy bugs to crunchy ones.
- Pumbaa has been known to "not do well" in big crowds, possibly suggesting claustrophobia.
- One of Pumbaa's defining characteristics is that he often rubs his belly. This is from animator Tony Bancroft, whose then-pregnant wife would often rub her stomach. Bancroft thought that the action would make Pumbaa more "human and relatable."
- Pumbaa's name can be seen as graffiti in the Mickey Mouse episode "No Reservation".