Kimba the White Lion

Kimba the White Lion

Artwork from the Kimba Ultra Edition DVD set.
(Janguru Taitei)
Genre Coming-of-age
Written by Osamu Tezuka
Published by Gakudosha
Demographic Shōnen
Magazine Manga Shōnen
Original run November 1950April 1954
Volumes 3
Anime television series
Directed by Eiichi Yamamoto
Music by Isao Tomita
Toriro Miki (theme song)
Studio Mushi Production
Network Fuji TV (1965–1967)
Original run October 6, 1965 September 28, 1966
Episodes 52
Anime film
Directed by Eiichi Yamamoto
Studio Mushi Production
Released July 31, 1966
Runtime 22 minutes
Anime television series
New Jungle Emperor: Go Ahead Leo!
Directed by Shingo Araki
Produced by Eiichi Yamamoto
Music by Isao Tomita
Studio Mushi Productions
Network Fuji TV
English network
Original run October 5, 1966 March 29, 1967
Episodes 26
Anime television series
The New Adventures of Kimba The White Lion
Directed by Takashi Ui
Produced by Takashi Yui
Written by Takashi Yui
Music by Tomoyuki Asakawa
Studio Tezuka Productions
Licensed by
Network TV Tokyo (1989–1990)
Original run October 12, 1989 October 11, 1990
Episodes 52
Original video animation
Released 1991
Anime film
Jungle Emperor Leo
Directed by Yoshio Takeuchi
Produced by Minoru Kubota
Sumio Udagawa
Chiharu Akiba
Written by Yoshio Takeuchi
Music by Isao Tomita
Studio Mushi Production
Licensed by
Released August 1, 1997
Runtime 100 minutes
Anime television film
Jungle Taitei – Yūki ga Mirai wo Kaeru
Directed by Gorō Taniguchi
Written by Osamu Suzuki
Studio Tezuka Productions
Network Fuji TV
Released September 5, 2009
Runtime 96 minutes

Kimba the White Lion (ジャングル大帝 Janguru Taitei, lit, Jungle Emperor) is a Japanese shōnen manga series created by Osamu Tezuka which was serialized in the Manga Shōnen magazine from November 1950 to April 1954. An anime based on the manga was created by Mushi Production and was broadcast on Fuji Television from 1965 to 1967. It was the first color animated television series created in Japan.[1] The later series was produced by Tezuka Productions.[2][3][4] The anime series has enjoyed popularity worldwide.

A new TV special premiered September 5, 2009 on Fuji TV. Produced in commemoration of Fuji TV's 50th anniversary, it was directed by Gorō Taniguchi, written by noted novelist and drama writer Osamu Suzuki, and featuring character designs from noted illustrator Yoshitaka Amano.


In Africa during the mid-20th century, as mankind encroaches, the white lion Panja (Caesar in the English dub) gives the jungle's wild animals a safe haven. However, he angers nearby villagers by stealing their cattle and their food to feed the jungle carnivores. (In the English dub he merely frees the cattle.) A professional hunter, Ham Egg (Viper Snakely in the English dub), is called in to stop these raids. He avoids directly attacking Panja. Instead, he records the sounds of Panja and uses them to trap his pregnant mate, Eliza, who then becomes bait in a trap for Panja. Panja is killed for his hide (but not before asking Eliza to name their child Leo), and Eliza is put on a ship, destined for a zoo. Leo (Kimba in the English dub) is born on the boat. Eliza teaches him his father's ideals. As a huge tropical storm nears, she urges her cub out through the bars of her cage. The storm wrecks the boat, and he flounders in the ocean. The fish help him learn to swim. As he begins to despair, the stars in the sky form the face of his mother, who encourages him. Guided by butterflies, he makes it to land. Leo lands far from his ancestral home and is found and cared for by some people. He learns the advantages of human culture, and decides that when he returns to his wild home he will bring culture to the jungle and stand for peace like his father. The show follows Leo's life after he returns to the wild, still a young cub, and how he learns and grows in the next year. Leo soon learns that only communication and mutual understanding between animals and humans will bring true peace.



In 1950 the original Jungle Emperor story started in Manga Shōnen (Comic Boy) magazine. Image from the Jungle Emperor manga appears on shirts made by Lacoste in cooperation with Tezuka Productions for their "Lacoste Live" capsule collection "Tezuka Collection", edition Fall/Winter 2013/2014[5]


1965 series

Image of Kimba (Leo) from the anime, Kimba the White Lion

The animated series was first broadcast in Japan on Fuji Television from October 6, 1965 to September 28, 1966.[6] It was the first color TV anime series.

Other than the original broadcast in Japan in 1965, the series has been broadcast in many countries around the world.

In Asia, it was broadcast in Indonesia on Lativi, antv and SCTV (1995–96); in Iran on Channel 1; in the Philippines on ABC5; in Saudi Arabia on Saudi TV and in Sri Lanka on ART TV.

In Europe, it was broadcast in Bosnia and Herzegovina on RTVUSK; in Croatia on ATV Split/TV Jadran, Nezavisna televizija (NeT), TV Nova Pula and Gradska TV Zadar; in France on ORTF (1972) and on TF1; in Italy first in syndication from 1977 and lately on Italia 1 (in 1999 and 2003 with the title Una giungla di avventure per Kimba [literally "a jungle of adventures for Kimba"]) and Boing (2010) and in Spain on TV3.

In North America, it was broadcast in Canada on Knowledge; in Mexico on Boomerang. It was broadcast, with English-dubbed voices, in the United States and other English-speaking markets, beginning in September 1965. It was first commissioned for U.S. development by NBC Enterprises (the original version, now part of CBS Television Distribution) and adapted by Fred Ladd, for syndicated broadcast.[7] In 2005 the original 1965 dub of Kimba the White Lion was released as an 11-disc DVD set by Madman Anime of Australia and Right Stuf International of the U.S. It was a best seller. The series was re-dubbed into English in 1993, featuring the voice of Yvonne Murray as Kimba and having a new opening, with an all new soundtrack composed by Paul J. Zaza. In 2012 Bayview Entertainment/Widowmaker releases "Kimba the White Lion: The Complete Series" 10 DVD box set of the original 1965 series.[8] It was broadcast several times in the United States: on KHJ-TV (1965–67; Billie Lou Watt dub), on NBC (1965–77, re-runs until 1980; Billie Lou Watt dub), on syndication (1965–77; Billie Lou Watt dub; 1993, re-runs until 1995; Yvonne Murray dub), on Kids & Teens TV (1993 re-runs; 2005–2009) and on Inspiration Life TV (1993 re-runs; 2005–2009).

In Oceania, it was broadcast in Australia on ABC, 31 Brisbane and Access 31 and on the NZBC in New Zealand.

Title in other languages

1966 film

The theatrical version of Jungle Emperor, directed by Eiichi Yamamoto, was released in Japan on July 31, 1966.[9]

1966 series

Main article: Leo the Lion (anime)

A sequel series, Jungle Taitei: Susume Leo! (Jungle Emperor: Onward, Leo!) first aired in Japan on Fuji Television from October 5, 1966 to March 29, 1968,[10] featuring Leo (Kimba) as an adult. It aired in the United States in 1984 as Leo the Lion on CBN Cable Network.

1989 series

In 1989 Dr. Osamu Tezuka died at age 60 on February 9. A remake of Jungle Emperor, The New Adventures of Kimba The White Lion was broadcast in Japan from October 12, 1989 to October 11, 1990.[11] This series bears little resemblance to the original manga or the first TV series, as the plot is extremely different and the characters have been completely reworked and changed. Several heavily edited episodes of the series were dubbed into English and released directly to video in 1998 under the name: The New Adventures of Kimba the White Lion, by Pioneer Family Entertainment. It features the voice of Brad Swaile as Kimba.

1991 OVA film

In 1991 an original video animation film is created,[12] using the Symphonic Poem for its audio.

1997 film

Main article: Jungle Emperor Leo

A new Jungle Taitei theatrical film, Jungle Emperor Leo, was released in Japan on August 1, 1997.[13] Directed by Hiro Takeuchi, it is based on the second half of Dr. Tezuka's original manga story. It is not entirely faithful however. It was dubbed into English and released on DVD in 2003 under the name "Jungle Emperor Leo", by Anime Works.

2009 television film

A television film, Jungle Taitei – Yūki ga Mirai wo Kaeru (ジャングル大帝 勇気が未来をかえる), aired in Japan on September 5, 2009[14] with a completely new story, different from both the previous TV shows and the original manga. The setting was an artificially created jungle in 20XX Earth. In this movie, Panja and his mate, Eliza, are still alive; Coco is an unspecified female bird; and Sylvester, the black panther, serves as a secondary antagonist until he changes his ways when a young boy mends his leg.[15]

Music video

The music video for the song "a boy" by Leo Ieiri, whose animated part was made by Tezuka Productions, features an anime version of Leo (based on Kimba and modeled after the singer) which meets other characters from the Kimba the White Lion series[16]

Other media

Jungle Emperor characters have cameos in the GBA game Astro Boy: Omega Factor, as well as a chapter from the Black Jack manga and Naoki Urasawa's Pluto.

In the Fox TV series Fringe, Kimba had a cameo in one of the episodes.


The series uses several themes. The 1966 Japanese version uses an opening theme and a closing theme. The opening is called "Jungle-Taitei" (ジャングル大帝 Janguru-Taitei, "Jungle Emperor"). The end song is "Leo no Uta" (レオのうた Reo no Uta, "Leo's Song"). For the Japanese remake, the opening song is "Savanna o Koete" (サバンナを越えて Sabanna wo Koete, "Past the Savanna") sung by Ichiro Mizuki, and the ending is "Yūbae ni Nare" (夕映えになれ) sung by Tomoko Tokugai. Its American theme was written and performed by Bernie Baum, Bill Giant and Florence Kaye. The opening song for the sequel series is "Go Ahead Onward Leo!" written by Isao Tomita and sung by Mieko Hirota. The US-American theme song known as "Leo the Lion" was written by Mark Boccaccio and Susan Brunet of Miami, Florida's SONIC-Sound International Corporation in 1984. Jungle Emperor Symphonic Poem (by Isao Tomita) was released on LP in 1966.

The Lion King controversy

Screenshot from an early presentation reel of The Lion King that shows a white lion cub and a butterfly.

As a number of media journalists and fans watched Disney's animated feature film The Lion King they noticed characters and events in the story resembling those of Kimba. Although The Lion King has a different screenplay, there are numerous strong artistic similarities, including scenes that appear to be copied almost directly from those in Kimba.[17] One superficial similarity is the protagonists' names: Kimba and Simba. Although the pronunciations of the two names are similar, the word simba means "lion" in Swahili. Other analogies are thematically deeper and more pronounced.

Matthew Broderick has said that when he was hired as the voice of adult Simba in The Lion King, he presumed the project was related to Kimba the White Lion.[18][19][20][21] "I thought he meant Kimba, who was a white lion in a cartoon when I was a little kid," said Broderick. "So I kept telling everybody I was going to play Kimba. I didn't really know anything about it, but I didn't really care."[22]

Upon the release of The Lion King in Japan, multiple Japanese cartoonists signed a petition requesting that the Walt Disney Company acknowledge that The Lion King was based on characters and situations from Jungle Emperor Leo.[23]

However Lion King director, Roger Allers, claimed he was unfamiliar with the show:

"The whole time I worked on The Lion King the name of that show never came up. At least I never heard it. I had never seen the show and really only became aware of it as Lion King was being completed, and someone showed me images of it. I worked with George Scribner and Linda Woolverton to develop the story in the early days but then left to help out on Aladdin. If one of them were familiar with Kimba they didn’t say. Of course, it’s possible. Then later I teamed up with Rob Minkoff to direct it together and with new writers Irene Mecchi and Jonathan Roberts. Many story ideas developed and changed along the way, always just to make our story stronger. I could certainly understand Kimba’s creators feeling angry if they felt we had stolen ideas from them. If I had been inspired by Kimba I would certainly acknowledge my inspiration. All I can offer is my respect to those artists and say that their creation has its loyal admirers and its assured place in animation history."[24]

Co-director Minkoff also claimed he was unfamiliar with it "I know for a fact that ["Kimba"] has never been discussed as long as I've been on the project... In my experience, if Disney becomes aware of anything like that, they say you will not do it. People are claiming copyright infringement all the time." He also stated that whenever a story is based in Africa, it is "not unusual to have characters like a baboon, a bird or hyenas."[25]

The Tezuka–Disney connection extends back decades before the movie. Tezuka met Walt Disney at the 1964 New York World's Fair, and Disney said he hoped to "make something just like" Tezuka's Astro Boy.[26] Earlier, Tezuka had asked for and got the license to adapt Disney's Bambi into a manga for the Japanese audience which was published in 1951.


In 1967 the Jungle Emperor theatrical feature was awarded the St. Mark's Silver Lion Award at the 19th Venice International Film Festival.

In 1978 the adult Leo character became the mascot for the Seibu Lions (current Saitama Seibu Lions) baseball team. They based their mascot on Kimba for many years, and for the game season 2014 Tezuka Productions designed the players' uniform which features Kimba on it.[27]

See also


  1. "Kimba Boxed Set : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". Retrieved 2012-11-28.
  2. "Kimba the White Lion Dub.DVD – Review". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2012-03-21.
  3. "Tezuka Lion King | 'Lion King' recalls beast of another reign - Baltimore Sun". San Francisco Chronicle. 1994-07-12. Retrieved 2015-02-21.
  4. "Was 'The Lion King' Copied From A Japanese Cartoon? Here's The Real Story". 2015-01-27. Retrieved 2015-02-21.
  5. "Designer Hiroaki Ohya Speaks on LACOSTE L!VE x Osamu Tezuka Collaboration". Retrieved March 24, 2014.
  6. ジャングル大帝. Media Arts Database (in Japanese). Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  7. "Kimba The White Lion: History of the original series". Retrieved 2014-07-19.
  8. "Kimba the White Lion: The Complete Series".
  9. ジャングル大帝. Media Arts Database (in Japanese). Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  10. ジャングル大帝進めレオ!. Media Arts Database (in Japanese). Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  11. ジャングル大帝. Media Arts Database (in Japanese). Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  12. アニメ交響詩ジャングル大帝. Media Arts Database (in Japanese). Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  13. ジャングル大帝 劇場版(1997). Media Arts Database (in Japanese). Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  14. ジャングル大帝-勇気が未来をかえる-. Media Arts Database (in Japanese). Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  15. "TAF 2009: Osamu Tezuka's "Kimba the White Lion" to be renewed in summer 2009 – GIGAZINE". March 19, 2009. Retrieved 2012-11-28.
  16. "Crunchyroll – VIDEO: Leo Ieiri Collaborates with Osamu Tezuka's "Jungle Emperor" in the Latest PV". Crunchyroll. Retrieved 2014-03-13.
  18. Peter Schweizer and Rochelle Schweizer, "Disney: The Mouse Betrayed", pp. 167–168.
  19. Trish Ledoux and Doug Ranney, "The Complete Anime Guide: Japanese Animation Video Directory and Resource Guide", p. 16.
  20. Buress, Charles. "Uproar Over 'The Lion King'", The San Francisco Chronicle, July 11, 1994, pp. A1, A13.
  21. "Did Japanese Animator Inspire 'Lion King'?", The Washington Times, July 15, 1994, p. C15.
  22. Arar, Yardena (June 15, 1994). "Disney studios roar into action for 'Lion King'". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 2012-11-28.
  23. Mizoguchi, Kozo (August 10, 1994). "'Lion King' sparks debate in Japan". The Daily Gazette. Tokyo, Japan. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  24. Fiamma, Andrea (December 12, 2014). "Intervista a Roger Allers, il regista de Il Re Leone". Fumettologica Magazine. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  25. Welkos, Robert W. (July 13, 1994). "A 'Kimba' Surprise for Disney : Movies: 'The Lion King' is a hit, but reported similarities to the Japanese-created American cartoon of the '60s are raising some questions.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  26. Hornyak, Tim (August 19, 2007). "Osamu Tezuka: Fighting for peace with the Mighty Atom". The Japan Times. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  27. "Jungle Emperor appears on the uniform of Seibu Lions! : News :". Retrieved 2014-03-14.

Further reading

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