Ernest Sabella[1] (born September 19, 1949) is an American actor and comedian. He is best known for his role as Pumbaa from The Lion King franchise, voicing the character in all media except the 2019 film. Sabella's TV roles include Mr. Donald "Twinkie" Twinkacetti in Perfect Strangers (1986-1987), George Shipman in A Fine Romance, and Leon Carosi in Saved by the Bell (1991). His work in Broadway theatre includes starring roles in Guys and Dolls, Chicago, Curtains, and Man of La Mancha.

Ernie Sabella
Ernie Sabella attending the premiere of The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar in November 2015
Sabella in 2015
Ernest Sabella

(1949-09-19) September 19, 1949 (age 74)
Occupation(s)Actor, comedian
Years active1976–present
Cheryl Sabella
(m. 1999)

Life and career


Born in Westchester County, New York, Sabella graduated from the University of Miami,[2] where he studied at the Department of Theatre Arts and performed at the university's Jerry Herman Ring Theatre.

His stage credits include The Robber Bridegroom (1976), Little Johnny Jones (1982), Guys and Dolls (1992) as Harry the Horse, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1996), Chicago as Amos Hart (replacement), Man of La Mancha (2002, as Sancho Panza) and Sweet Charity (2005).[3]

Film credits include Quiz Show (1994) as the car salesman, In & Out (1997) as Aldo Hooper, Disney's The Lion King (1994) and multiple sequels and spin-offs as Pumbaa. He also has worked with Nathan Lane, who had voiced Timon, in Guys and Dolls, Mouse Hunt, The Producers (in a deleted scene) and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. In the latter production, Sabella portrayed Marcus Lycus while Lane played Pseudolus. Sabella also joined Lane for his Saturday Night Live monologue, where they sang "Hakuna Matata".

On television, Sabella portrayed apartment manager Lou Donatelli in the Jason Bateman comedy It's Your Move (1984–85).[4] He appeared in an episode of Cheers titled "Love Thy Neighbor" (Season Four Episode Eight air date November 21, 1985)[4] in which he played the role of a private investigator named Santo Carbone, who was Carla Tortelli's cousin. He played store owner and landlord Donald Twinkacetti on Perfect Strangers (1986–1987). [4] He played Leo in the short-lived situation comedy Encore! Encore! starring Nathan Lane (2000).[4] Sabella had a five-episode stint on Saved by the Bell in 1991 as Leon Carosi,[4] an uptight resort manager and owner who employed the main cast's characters. Leah Remini was featured as his daughter. His other recurring roles include the lazy teacher Mr. Petrachelli on That's So Raven (2003), the floundering attorney Harland Bassett on The Practice (2000-2001), and characters on Newhart (1983).[4]

In the Quantum Leap episode "Catch a Falling Star", he played the dual role of Manny, a stage actor, and Sancho Panza, Manny's character in a touring production of Man of La Mancha. Sabella had a brief appearance as a naked man on a subway train in a 1992 episode of Seinfeld titled "The Subway".[4]

He starred in a series of television commercials for NyQuil cold medicine in 1994 and was seen in a MasterCard commercial (2007), as well as Lynx in 2008.

Sabella co-starred as Sidney Bernstein in the Broadway musical comedy Curtains, which opened officially on March 22, 2007[5] and ran until June 29, 2008.

He played the role of apartment building superintendent Leon in the 9th episode "Hold Outs" of the 6th season (2015) of the CBS police procedural drama Blue Bloods.[4]

In 2015, Sabella reprised his voice role as Pumbaa in the TV pilot film The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar.

In 2016, Sabella became a full-time cast member for the Disney Junior television series The Lion Guard.[6]

Personal life


Sabella met his wife Cheryl near the backstage door following a Broadway performance of Guys & Dolls in 1994; they married in 1999.[7][2] His wife works as a computer programmer in their home town.[2]




Year Title Role Notes
1984 City Heat Ballistics Expert
1986 Tough Guys Hotel Clerk
1988 Fright Night Part 2 Dr. Harrison
1990 Faith Stanley
Going Under The Mole
1994 The Lion King Pumbaa Voice
Quiz Show Car Salesman
1995 Roommates Stash
1996 Around the World with Timon & Pumbaa Pumbaa Voice, direct-to-video
1997 In & Out Aldo Hopper
Mouse Hunt Maury, the Cat Care Society Owner
1998 The Lion King II: Simba's Pride Pumbaa Voice, direct-to-video
1999 The Out-of-Towners Getaway Driver
2001 Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse Pumbaa Voice, direct-to-video
2004 The Lion King 1½
2010 Listen to Your Heart Tony
2015 The Challenger Frankie
2016 Bakery in Brooklyn Dave


Year Title Role Notes
1980 Broadway on Showtime Sing Song, Big Harp 2 episodes
1982 St. Elsewhere Patient Episode: "Pilot"
1982–1984 Cagney & Lacey Cabbie 2 episodes
1983 The New Odd Couple Policeman Episode: "My Strife in Court"
13 Thirteenth Avenue Vlastock Spoltechzep Television film
Newhart Ed Halstead, Police Officer 3 episodes
1983–1984 Knots Landing Frank Edmunds 2 episodes
1983–1987 Hill Street Blues Pauli, Paulie Shellcop, Paulie 4 episodes
1984 Alice Franklin Episode: "Vera, the Horse Thief"
Oh Madeline Phelps Episode: "Monday Night Madeline"
The Facts of Life Husband Episode: "All by Herself"
The New Mike Hammer Salvatore Juno 2 episodes
Domestic Life Ralph Pomeroy Episode: "Showdown at Walla Walla"
100 Centre Street Harry Pike Television film
Punky Brewster Elroy Kramer Episode: "Parents Night"
1984–1985 It's Your Move Lou Donatelli 18 episodes
1985 Diff'rent Strokes Ben Episode: "Sam's Missing"
Hardcastle and McCormick Clyde Whitley Episode: "Strange Hold"
Cheers Santo Carbone, Stan 2 episodes
Copacabana Sam Gropper Television film
1986 It's a Living Walter Cliff Episode: "Gander Gap"
Benson Bo Episode: "Parade Rest"
1986–1987 Perfect Strangers Mr. Donald 'Twinkie' Twinkacetti 22 episodes
1987 Roxie Vito Carteri 6 episodes
Married... with Children Mr. Pond Episode: "Peggy Sue Got Work"
Hunter Earnie Episode: "Turning Point"
1988 Sledge Hammer! Al Fresco Episode: "The Secret of My Excess"
Mr. Belvedere Mr. Plumer Episode: "Roommates"
1989 A Fine Romance George Shipman 13 episodes
Open House Episode: "Murder, He Wrote"
My Two Dads Officer Ringer Episode: "Dad Patrol"
Quantum Leap Manny, Sancho Panza Episode: "Catch a Falling Star - May 21, 1979"
1990 Coach Ernie Episode: "Men Don't Heal"
1990–1991 Good Grief Tyrone, Flipper 2 episodes
1991 Babes Mo Episode: "The Last Temptation of Marlene"
Murphy Brown Julian Episode: "Small"
Saved by the Bell Leon Carosi 6 episodes
Major Dad Phil Episode: "Lady in Waiting"
1992 Seinfeld Naked Man Episode: "The Subway"
A Different World Campus Security Episode: "The Cat's in the Cradle"
Davis Rules Coach Episode: "Strike Down the Band"
Dangerous Curves Jack Kilty Episode: "Die Laughing"
Just My Imagination Arnold Mayer Television film
1994 Mad About You Maurice Episode: "Till Death Do Us Part"
1995 Pins and Needles Marvin Television film
Blame It on Ernie Unknown role Unknown episodes
1995–1999 Timon & Pumbaa Pumbaa, Bampuu, Gopher Voice, main role
1997 Disney's One Saturday Morning Pumbaa Voice
1998–1999 Encore! Encore! Leo 5 episodes
1999–2001 The Practice Harland Bassett 4 episodes
1999 Malcolm & Eddie Mort Diamond Episode: "The Tapawingo Witch Project"
Annie Mr. Bundles Television film
2000 Find Out Why Pumbaa Voice, 8 episodes
Providence Lou Keppler 3 episodes
2001 Ed Gary Swirdlock Episode: "Hook, Line and Sinker"
2001–2002 House of Mouse Pumbaa Voice, 14 episodes
2003 That's So Raven Mr. Petrachelli 2 episodes
2015 Blue Bloods Leon Episode: "Holds Out"
2015 The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar Pumbaa Voice, television film
2016–2019 The Lion Guard Pumbaa[8] Voice, 10 episodes

Video games

Year Title Role
1995 Animated Storybook: The Lion King Pumbaa
Timon & Pumbaa's Jungle Pinball
The Lion King: Activity Center
Timon & Pumbaa's Jungle Games
1998 The Lion King II: Simba's Pride Active Play
2000 The Lion King: Simba's Mighty Adventure
2003 Timon & Pumbaa Virtual Safari
2004 Who Wants to be King of the Jungle
2005 Kingdom Hearts II
2007 Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix

Theme park attractions

Year Title Role
1995–2018 Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable Pumbaa
2008–2013 Wild About Safety


Year Title Role Notes
1976–1977 The Robber Bridegroom Big Harp, Little Harp [3]
1982 Little Johnny Jones Whitney Wilson [3]
1992 Guys and Dolls Harry the Horse [3]
1996 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum Marcus Lycus [3]
1997 Chicago Amos Hart Replacement[3]
2002 Man of La Mancha Sancho Panza [3]
2004–2005 Sweet Charity Herman [3]
2007–2008 Curtains Sidney Bernstein [3]

Awards and nominations



  1. ^ a b "Ernie Sabella Biography". Film Reference. Archived from the original on April 18, 2015. Retrieved August 23, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "A real character: Actor Ernie Sabella sets up shop in Southern Nevada" Las Vegas Sun, January 17, 2002
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Sabella Broadway", retrieved February 15, 2018
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Ernie Sabella Credits", retrieved February 15, 2018
  5. ^ Bacalzo, Dan (January 4, 2007). "Full Cast Set for Broadway's Curtains: Ernie Sabella Joins Musical". TM Theater News. TheaterMania Inc. Archived from the original on March 6, 2007. Retrieved January 12, 2007.
  6. ^ Lion Guard
  7. ^ Gladstone, Douglas. "Remember The Naked Subway Rider In Seinfeld? Meet Ernie Sabella" Westchester Magazine, June 2014
  8. ^ "James Earl Jones and Ernie Sabella Will Reprise Their "Lion King" Roles in Movie Sequel".