Kimba the White Lion


Kimba the White Lion (Japanese: ジャングル大帝/Janguru Taitei "Jungle Emperor") is a Japanese animated series from the 1960s, created by Osamu Tezuka, based on his manga of the same title which started in 1950. It was the first color TV animation series created in Japan. The entire series of manga was first published in serialized form in Manga Shonen magazine. This anime series has enjoyed immense popularity worldwide--most notably in Australia, the United States, Europe and even in Middle East especially among Arab viewers-- from the middle 1960s to the present time.

Kimba the White Lion has been immensely popular in Japan since its first broadcast in 1965. English and Spanish versions were created in 1966, creating a worldwide fan base that persists to this day. The show has also been translated into many other languages (see Worldwide Translations, below).

The show has such appeal that, with the rights to the original translations lost due to legal complications, new English and Spanish versions were produced in 1993. These are currently being broadcast in the US and Europe. Certain plot details of the original Japanese version, which were "softened" in the original English translation, have been allowed to remain in this new version -- such as, in 1966 we were told that Caesar freed the cattle to live in the jungle. The original plot had him taking the cattle as food for the jungle predators. However, the realities of modern-day television meant that each episode had to be shortened by three minutes or more in the new edition, and key plot elements from some episodes were often cut out.

In 1994, controversy arose over the possible connection of Disney's animated feature The Lion King with Kimba the White Lion. Fans in Japan and the U.S. called for the Disney company to acknowledge the use of characters and situations from the Japanese production in the Disney movie. The situation has remained a controversy due to the Disney Company's statement that no one in the company had heard of Kimba until after The Lion King was released - in spite of the fact that people related to the production of The Lion King had referred to "Kimba" as the main character of The Lion King: for example, in 1993, a person asked Roy Disney in a Prodigy session that whether there would be any nice motherly figures in future Disney animated films and Mr. Disney replied that Kimba's mother in the following year's The Lion King will be lovely. Matthew Broderick also stated that he understood he was being hired as a voice actor for a Disney remake of Kimba The White Lion.[1][2][3][4]

Note that the controversy does not involve the story of The Lion King. Disney movies often diverge from the story of the works on which they are based, so this cannot be considered as proof one way or the other. It is the similarity of characters and certain specific scenes and situations that are in question. It would seem that the Disney Company itself has provided evidence for the fans' position by including on The Lion King Platinum Edition DVD a "presentation reel" made early in the production of The Lion King which features a picture of a white lion cub.

It has been reported numerous times that Tezuka Production Company Ltd. was looking for a U.S. animation company to bring Kimba back to the North American audience. Trade publications stated that they were in talks with the Disney Corp. It is theorized that The Lion King was developed from the pieces of the Kimba pilot made for Tezuka.[Quote from source requested on talk page to verify interpretation of source]

The Tezuka/Disney connection extends back into time. Dr. Tezuka sought out and obtained the license to adapt Disney's Bambi into manga for the Japanese market. Tezuka met Walt Disney at the 1964 World's Fair, at which time Disney said he hoped to "make something just like" Tezuka's Astro Boy. And Disney animators were hired to train Tezuka's crew in the use of color when production was started on the Jungle Emperor/Kimba the White Lion TV series.

An odd coincidence is that when the English version of Kimba was in production, the character was to be named "Simba" (which means 'lion' in the African language Swahili). But, since "Simba" was considered untrademarkable, they changed the "S" to a "K", and came up with a character name that is known in almost every country of the world (Kimba is known as "Leo" in Japan, his country of origin and, also in France, where the series is known as "Le Roi Léo").

The Simpsons brought the Lion King controversy to the general public in the episode "'Round Springfield". At the end of the episode, Mufasa appears in the sky as he did in The Lion King. However, he parodies the original "The Lion King" line by saying: "You must avenge my death, Kimba... dah, I mean Simba." The picture at the right references the look and usage of imagery in The Lion King; see Kimba episode 13 ("The Trappers") for how that series addressed the concept of "avenging" the death of Kimba's parents.

Kimba has made cameo appearances in several video games. Two of these are Astro Boy: Omega Factor (as Pook, a shape-shifting robot) for the Game Boy Advance, and Columns with a large number of other Osamu Tezuka characters.

Kimba has made several cameo appearances in the anime series Black Jack.

Some fans point to the appearance of a white lion in an Astro Boy (1960s) episode ("The Snow Lion") as a sort of cameo appearance, but this character is similar to the adult Kimba in appearance only; it is not meant to be the same character.

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