Lion King: Kimba’s Killer?

Ethan McCullough, Writer

The Lion King is a renowned national treasure in the world of animation, as well as a worldwide sensation in the hearts of viewers. It has obtained a high level of prestige amongst Disney’s film library, no doubt due to its generous box office success of 968.5 million USD. With the release of the newly animated CG remake The Lion King has officially obtained the highest grossing animation status; however, some may argue that the movie’s success is not as well deserved as it may seem. It is true that this film (the 2d version) marks a cornerstone in the evolution of filmmaking, defying conventions while resonating with audiences and critics alike. But the king is not without its faults: evidence leads to believe that Disney’s tour de force may in fact be a reimagining of the Japanese classic film, Kimba The White Lion. Kimba follows the story of a lion cub in need of reclaiming his kingdom set in Africa (sound familiar?). The original manga by Osamu Tezuka is the second of the authors legendary works, first being Astro Boy, and has molded a permanent icon in Japanese culture as Kimba, appearing as statues, toys, and even a mascot for the Saitama Seibu Lions baseball team. The official statement of Disney is that they’ve never heard of Kimba, or Tezuka’s works and advertised The Lion King as Disney’s first “original story”. Recently the original Lion King’s co-director Rob Minkoff has commented on the Kimba controversy, “It was never discussed and there was no intentional parallel ever made that I was ever aware of,” Minkoff states. “No one brought it up, talked about it, discussed it – nobody mentioned that there was even any similarity.” (source: daily wire) Other than Kimba The Lion King’s production staff have noted in interviews and behind the scenes inspirations in the story structure to other famous works such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet,The Old Testament tales, Ben Hurr, King Arthur, and more. The Lion King may very well be the perfect amalgamation of all these classics, which would explain its deep impact within audiences on a global level. This does not excuse the lack of official recognition to the original stories, especially when millions of dollars are on the line. In 1997 the last half of Kimba received a faithful adaptation titled, Jungle Emperor Leo. It released 3 years after The Lion King, and was first revealed in America at the Fantasia film festival. Julian Grant, organizer of the festival, reported that Disney filed a cease and desist order against the festival when they screened the movie. Jungle Emperor Leo wouldn’t see another American screening again. This deliberate malicious behavior not only shows lack of recognition to the source material, but a lack of respect to the art of filmmaking. Recently, the Kimba controversy has grown immeasurably. No doubt due to media coverage calling Disney out.


Sources for comparison below: (side-by-side comparison) (Minkoff’s statement) (after 9:35 lists inspirations) (Original Story) (Julian Grant on Disney’s Cease and Desist order) (A great take on the controversy)