Kimba the White Lion

From Academic Kids

Kimba the White Lion (Japanese: Janguru Taitei "Jungle Emperor") is a animated series from the 1960s, created by Osamu Tezuka, the creator of another beloved anime star, "Atomu" (Astro Boy), 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 published first on maganize, and later published as book first in 1970 from Shogakukan.

Under his original name Leo, the lion, Kimba was the star of an anime series that has enjoyed immense popularity in Japan, Australia, the United States and Europe from the middle 1960s to the present time.

Contents

Story

Africa, mid-20th century: In the face of the inexorable encroachment of mankind, a white lion, Caesar, seeks to change things: he wants to give all wild animals a safe haven, free from fear of man and free from fear of each other. And, to a very large degree, he is successful. His one mistake: he liberates the cattle from nearby villages.

A professional hunter, Viper Snakely, is called in to stop these raids. His genius is to avoid directly attacking Caesar--this tactic has never worked for any hunter. Instead, Snakely uses the devotion Caesar and his mate, Snowene, share. Snakely tape-records the sounds of Caesar and uses that as bait to trap Snowene. Snowene then becomes bait herself in a trap for Caesar. Caesar is killed, and the pregnant Snowene is shipped off, destined for some zoo.

Kimba is born while Snowene is on the ship. She teaches him his father's ideals which he puts into practice almost immediately, befriending the rats on board the ship. A huge storm wrecks the ship, leaving Kimba floundering in the ocean. The benevolence of the fish help him to survive and learn to swim. With his mother encouraging him from Beyond, and guided by butterflies, Kimba makes it back to land.

Kimba lands far from his ancestral home, and is found and cared for by some people. Ever the quick learner, Kimba notices the benefits of the good parts of human culture, and makes up his mind that when he returns to his wild home he will not only seek to continue his father's peaceful animal kingdom, he will expand it with what he has learned.

The show follows Kimba's life after he returns to the wild (still a young cub) and shows his learning and growing during the next year. One thing Kimba soon learns and incorporates into his vision is that true peace will require communication and mutual understanding between the animals and the ever-more-present humans.

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Kimba the White Lion

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, including German, Italian, French, and Arabic.

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 the new version -- such as, in 1966 we were told that Caesar liberated the cattle to live in the jungle. The original plot had him taking the cattle as food for the jungle predators. Ironically, the realities of television 30-40 years later meant that each episode had to be shortened by three minutes or more in the new translation, and key plot elements from some episodes were often sent to the cutting room floor.

Controversy

In 1994, controversy arose over the possible connection of Disney's The Lion King with Kimba the White Lion. Fans in Japan and the US 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 ever heard of Kimba the White Lion until after The Lion King was released--in spite of the fact that people from within the Disney Company (Roy Disney, Matthew Broderick) had referred to "Kimba" as the main character of The Lion King.

Note that the controversy does not involve the story of The Lion King. It is often said that the story of The Lion King came from Hamlet (a plausible idea, if one does not look beyond the first paragraph or so of a synopsis of Hamlet). Since Disney movies often do not follow the story of the works on which they are based, it is the characters 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.

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 the White Lion was in production, the character was to be named "Simba". Then it was discovered that an unrelated product was soon to be marketed with the name "Simba", and the American producers sought to come up with a unique name. They changed the "S" to a "K", and came up with a character name that is known in every country of the world (for it is only in Japan that this series is not known as Kimba the White Lion).

Chronicle

Original Jungle Emperor story started in Manga Shonen (Comic Boy) magazine.

Anime series started as the first color TV anime series in Japan.

Theatrical version of Jungle Emperor (Dir. Eiichi Yamamoto) released in Japan.

Jungle Emperor Symphonic Poem (by Isao Tomita) released on LP.

Kimba The White Lion (translated version of Jungle Emperor TV series) airs in U.S.

A sequel series, Janguru Taitei: Susumu Leo! (Jungle Emperor: Onward, Leo!) airs in Japan. Features Leo (Kimba) as an adult.

Jungle Emperor theatrical feature awarded the St. Mark's Silver Lion Award at the 19th Venice International Film Festival.

Adult Leo character becomes mascot for Seibu Lions baseball team.

Jungle Emperor: Onward Leo! finally comes to the US, as Leo The Lion on the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN).

Dr. Osamu Tezuka dies at age 60 on February 9th.

A new version of Jungle Emperor is made and shown in Japan. This series is nothing like either the original manga nor the first TV series.

The first Jungle Emperor/Kimba The White Lion series is dubbed into English again.

In Japan, over 1100 manga and anime artists and fans sign a petition requesting that the Disney company acknowledge that their movie The Lion King was based on characters and situations from Jungle Emperor.

New Janguru Taitei theatrical feature (Jungle Emperor Leo; Dir. Hiroo Takeuchi) released in Japan, based on the second half of Dr. Tezuka's original manga story.

Further reading

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