Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Sidney Poitier Reference You Probably Never Noticed In The Lion King

Hollywood is in mourning following the news that legendary actor Sidney Poitier died January 7 at the age of 94. A groundbreaking talent and master of his craft, Poitier became the first Black man to win an Oscar for Best Actor in 1963 for "Lillies of the Field." His performances paved the way for other great Black performers who saw Poitier as an inspiration, including Denzel Washington, only the second Black man to win the award for Best Actor in 2001 for his performance in "Training Day." Following the win, Washington said, "I'll always be chasing you, Sidney. I'll always be following in your footsteps. There's nothing I would rather do, sir" (via The Independent).

To say that Poitier made an impact is an understatement. Many of his most iconic moments have remained in the zeitgeist thanks to references in other films and media, including Disney's classic animated film "The Lion King." Somehow, directors Rob Minkoff and Roger Allens found time to add in a tribute to one of Poitier's most notable movies, "In The Heat of the Night," by way of a chatty meerkat and a very aggressive warthog.

The Lion sleeps in The Heat of the Night thanks to this great reference

In the film's final act, long after Simba has mourned his father's death, a showdown between Simba's pals and Scar's (Jeremy Irons) cronies manages to pay homage to Poitier's 1967 film. With Zazu (Rowan Atkinson) and Timon (Nathan Lane) outmatched by the hyenas, their savior arrives in the form of a battle-frenzied Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella). The bad guys shrug off the surprise arrival, asking, "who's the pig?" which doesn't sit well with the warthog.

After a nod to "Taxi Driver," with Pumbaa asking, "Are you talking to me?" the flatulent funny sidekick snaps, crying out, "THEY CALL ME, MR. PIG!" before charging into battle. This is in fact a reference to Poitier's iconic line, "They call me, Mr. Tibbs!" It's a nod that probably passed over quite a few young heads in the theaters, but for fans of one of Poitier's most beloved performances, it's a fun reference to a well-known legend. 

Even Disney characters know how important he was. His talent that will be sorely missed, but the references will no doubt continue.