Kimba the White Lion

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Kimba the White Lion
Artwork from the Kimba Ultra Edition DVD set
(Janguru Taitei)
Written byOsamu Tezuka
Published byGakudosha
English publisher
MagazineManga Shōnen
Original runNovember 1950April 1954
Anime television series
Directed byEiichi Yamamoto
Music byIsao Tomita
Toriro Miki (theme song)
StudioMushi Production
Licensed by
Original networkFuji TV
English network
Original run October 6, 1965 September 28, 1966
Anime film
Directed byEiichi Yamamoto
StudioMushi Production
ReleasedJuly 31, 1966
Runtime74 minutes
Anime television series
Anime television series
Original video animation
Jungle Emperor Leo: Symphonic Poem
Directed byToshio Hirata
Music byIsao Tomita
Tezuka Productions
Runtime51 minutes
Anime film
Anime film
Jungle Emperor Leo: Hon-o-ji
Directed byFumihiro Yoshimura
Produced byMinoru Kubota
Written byMayumi Morita
StudioBeijing Sharaku Art
ReleasedMarch 18, 2000
Runtime9 minutes
Anime television film
Jungle Taitei: Yūki ga Mirai wo Kaeru
Directed byGorō Taniguchi
Written byOsamu Suzuki
Music byTakefumi Haketa
StudioTezuka Productions
Licensed by
Original networkFuji TV
ReleasedSeptember 5, 2009
Runtime96 minutes
Wikipe-tan face.svg Anime and manga portal

Kimba the White Lion, known in Japan as Jungle Emperor (Japanese: ジャングル大帝, Hepburn: Janguru Taitei), is a Japanese shōnen manga series written and illustrated 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.[3] It began airing in North America from 1966. The later series was produced by Tezuka Productions.[4][5]

A 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 novelist and drama writer Osamu Suzuki, and featuring character designs from 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 Kimba), and Eliza is put on a ship, destined for a zoo.

Kimba (Leo in Japanese[a]) is born on the ship. 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 ship and Kimba starts to drown 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. Kimba 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 Kimba's life after he returns to the wild, still a young cub, and how he learns and grows in the next year. Kimba 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.

The first manga volume has been released bilingual (Japanese-English) as Jungle Emperor Leo – Leo Edition.[7][8]


1965 series[edit]

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.[9] 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 ABC 5; 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 Germany 1977 in ZDF; 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 on September 11, 1966. 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, with Kimba voiced by Billie Lou Watt.[10] 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.[11] 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.

1966 film[edit]

The theatrical version of Jungle Emperor, directed by Eiichi Yamamoto, was released in Japan on July 31, 1966.[12]

1966 series[edit]

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,[13] featuring Leo (Kimba) as an adult. It aired in the United States in 1984 as Leo the Lion on CBN Cable Network.

1989 series[edit]

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.[14] 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[edit]

In 1991, an original video animation film was created,[15] using the Symphonic Poem for its audio.

1997 film[edit]

A new Jungle Taitei theatrical film, Jungle Emperor Leo, was released in Japan on August 1, 1997.[16] 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. The film was later released on Blu-ray and DVD by Discotek. In 1997 Julian Grant the head of the Fant-Asia film festival received a Cease-and-Desist from the Disney company to attempt to keep the Jungle Emperor Leo film from showing at the festival. Despite the order, the film screened to a full house. However, this is the last North American screening the film would ever receive.

The film had a distribution income of ¥430 million ($5.39 million) at the Japanese box office in 1997.[17]

2000 short film[edit]

A 9-minute anime short was released in Japan on March 18, 2000 titled Jungle Emperor Leo: Hon-o-ji. It was shown at a theater at Tezuka Osamu World in Kyoto.

2009 television film[edit]

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[18] 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 an antagonist until he changes his ways when a young boy mends his leg.[19]

In 2019, the Japan Foundation produced an English dub of the film which was released on RetroCrush in July 2020.

An earlier English dub of the film premiered on Cartoon Network in the Philippines on November 19, 2010.[20][21]

Music video[edit]

The music video for the song "A Boy" by Leo Ieiri, which has an animated part made by Tezuka Productions,[22] features an anime version of the singer (based on Kimba and modeled after the singer) which meets other characters from the Kimba the White Lion series.[23]

Other media[edit]

Jungle Emperor (ジャングル大帝 Jungle Taitei) is a cancelled 1990 eight-bit platform action game that was in development by Taito for the Nintendo Entertainment System, based on the popular manga/anime of the same name (aka Kimba the White Lion) by Osamu Tezuka. Not much is known about this game, except that it was going to be released in November 1990, but it was cancelled for unknown reasons. No prototypes of the game are hasn't not release yet. There was planned for the unreleased Nintendo 64. Jungle Emperor/Kimba the White Lion possibles N64 game title under Emperor of the Jungle is a canceled N64 video game that was made for the magnetic disk drive peripheral. The only known evidence of its existence is a short video clip from Space World. It was to be an action-adventure game with vast exploration, but no information regarding the plot of the game currently exists. The game had its first on-video appearance at the 1996 Tokyo Shoshinkai Show, after which the game was announced to be released in spring 1999. A little bit later only a few scenes from the game were shown at the Nintendo Space World. Later that year in an interview made on 1998's E3, Mr. Miyamoto mentioned that the project is in a bit of trouble and may take longer to complete than originally expected, due to inexperience. It was unfortunately soon followed by the cancellation.

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.

The American theme was written by Bernie Baum, Bill Giant and Florence Kaye and sung by Bill Giant. The opening song for the sequel series is "Go Ahead Onward Leo!" written by Isao Tomita and sung by Mieko Hirota. The US-English 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[edit]

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

As a number of journalists and fans watched Disney's animated feature film The Lion King, they noticed characters and events in the story resembling those of Kimba. Alleged similarities in the characters: the protagonist lion cubs, Kimba and Simba; the lioness cubs, Lyra and Nala; the evil lions, the one-eyed Claw and Scar; the mandrils, Dan'l and Rafiki; the animated birds, Pauley Cracker and Zazu (though Pauley Craker is a parrot, while Zazu is an African red-billed hornbill[24] other differences include Zazu being Mufasa's Major Domo, while Pauley Craker (Coco) is merely a childhood friend of Kimba's); and the pair of hyena sidekicks (it was a trio in the Disney film).[25] The Lion King co-director Rob Minkoff deflected criticism of similarities in the characters by stating it was "not unusual to have characters like a baboon, a bird or hyenas" in films set in Africa.[26] The similar choice of setting and subject matter can possibly explain other supposed coincidences. For example, the word for 'lion' in Swahili is simba. This is where American producers at NBC got the idea for the name Kimba in the first place.[27] In addition, some claims of similarities may fail to take into account difficulties comparing the abundance of Kimba content created between 1950 and 1991 to the single 1994 Disney film. The Kimba franchise went through many transformations of plot and cast of characters. It includes a trip to Paris, Wild West themed scenes, and Kimba learning from humans and wearing clothes.

Upon the release of The Lion King in Japan, multiple Japanese cartoonists including Machiko Satonaka signed a letter urging The Walt Disney Company to acknowledge due credit to Jungle Emperor Leo in the making of The Lion King.[28] 488 Japanese cartoonists and animators signed the petition, which drew a protest in Japan, where Tezuka and Kimba are cultural icons.[29][30]

The Lion King director Roger Allers said he remained unfamiliar with Kimba throughout production until his film was nearly completed.[31] Co-director Rob Minkoff also said he was unfamiliar with Kimba.[26]

Fred Ladd, who was involved early on with importing Kimba and other Japanese anime into America for NBC, expressed incredulity that Disney's people could remain ignorant.[32][33] Ladd stated there was at least one Disney animator, Shawn Keller, remembered by his colleagues as being an avid Kimba fan and being quite vociferous about Disney's conduct during production.[32]

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.[34][35][36][37] He explained that he "thought he meant Kimba, who was a white lion in a cartoon when I was a little kid, 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."[38][39] Animators Tom Sito and Mark Kausler, who both have story credits, have admitted to watching Kimba, and assumed many of their colleagues had too, especially if they grew up in the 1960s.[40]

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.[41]

Tezuka's family and Tezuka Productions have never pursued litigation against The Walt Disney Company for copyright infringement. Yoshihiro Shimizu, the company's director, stated that many of their employees saw resemblances between the two properties, but "any similarities in their plots are based in the facts of nature and therefore are two different works".[42] In his book, Makoto Tezuka states that the controversy started in America and people inflated the issue because of their opposition to Disney's business practices. He also states that he refuses to participate in this denunciation of Disney and that he does not want to see his father's works being turned into a weapon for those people. Tezuka acknowledges that Kimba and The Lion King are two different stories with different themes, and if the latter was about a white lion who spoke with humans, then he would not be able to pardon the similarities.[43]


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

Commercial use[edit]

In 1978 the adult Leo character, designed by Tezuka himself, became the mascot for the Seibu Lions (current Saitama Seibu Lions) baseball team, along with his sister Lina who was created for the baseball team. The Leo mascot [ja] was used on the team baseball cap and helmet for decades[44] Leo also appeared on the players' uniform for the 2014 season, designed by Tezuka Productions.[44][45] The Seibu conglomerate-owned team's mascot became highly visible throughout Japan on baseball caps, shirts, etc., as well as being heavily used in advertisement especially in the Tokyo area.[46][47] Frederick L. Schodt makes the argument that by the 1980s, Leo the lion could hardly escape the notice of foreign visitors to the city.[46]

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.[48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The name Kimba was adopted after Simba, meaning "lion" in Swahili was first suggested, according to Fred Ladd. The name "Leo" needed to be changed because it coincided with the name of the MGM lion.[6]


  1. ^ 英語コミックス ジャングル大帝 [レオ編]. Jippi English Comics. Retrieved November 15, 2019.
  2. ^ "Which Is The Real Kimba?". Animation World Network.
  3. ^ "Kimba Boxed Set : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  4. ^ "Kimba the White Lion Dub.DVD – Review". Anime News Network. Retrieved March 21, 2012.
  5. ^ "Tezuka Lion King | 'Lion King' recalls beast of another reign". Baltimore Sun. San Francisco Chronicle. July 12, 1994. Archived from the original on February 10, 2015. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
  6. ^ Schweizer & Schweizer (1998), p. 172.
  7. ^ 手塚治虫 (2018). Eigo komikkusu janguru taitei (Leo hen) 英語コミックス ジャングル大帝 (レオ編). ISBN 978-4408110189.
  8. ^ "Bilingual Manga: Comics for language learners young and old". MetropolisJapan. April 22, 2014.
  9. ^ ジャングル大帝. Media Arts Database (in Japanese). Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  10. ^ "Kimba The White Lion: History of the original series". Retrieved July 19, 2014.
  11. ^ "Kimba the White Lion: The Complete Series". July 9, 2013.
  12. ^ ジャングル大帝. Media Arts Database (in Japanese). Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  13. ^ ジャングル大帝進めレオ!. Media Arts Database (in Japanese). Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  14. ^ ジャングル大帝. Media Arts Database (in Japanese). Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ ジャングル大帝 劇場版(1997). Media Arts Database (in Japanese). Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  17. ^ "1997年邦画作品配給収入". Kinema Junpo. キネマ旬報社 (1998年(平成10年)2月下旬号): 168. 1998.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ "TAF 2009: Osamu Tezuka's "Kimba the White Lion" to be renewed in summer 2009 – GIGAZINE". March 19, 2009. Archived from the original on July 18, 2012. Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  20. ^ "Cartoon Network Philippines - free online games & videos". Cartoon Network Philippines. Archived from the original on November 13, 2010. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
  21. ^ "Jungle Emperor (2009) English dub that aired in 2010 or 2011 | Forums - The Lost Media Wiki". The Lost Media Wiki.
  22. ^ "Leo Ieiri Makes Jungle Emperor/Kimba the White Lion Music Video". Anime News Network. February 18, 2014. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  23. ^ "Crunchyroll – VIDEO: Leo Ieiri Collaborates with Osamu Tezuka's "Jungle Emperor" in the Latest PV". Crunchyroll. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  24. ^ "African red-billed hornbill". OregonZoo. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  25. ^ Schodt (2014), p. 158.
  26. ^ a b 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.
  27. ^ Denham, Hannah. "'Lion King' has been clouded by intellectual property controversy for 25 years. Here's the story behind it". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  28. ^ Mizoguchi, Kozo (August 10, 1994). "'Lion King' sparks debate in Japan". The Daily Gazette. Tokyo, Japan. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  29. ^ Raz, Aviad E. (1999). Riding the Black Ship: Japan and Tokyo Disneyland. Harvard University Asia Center. p. 163. ISBN 9780674768949.
  30. ^ "Japanese animator protests 'Lion King'". United Press International. August 18, 1994.
  31. ^ Fiamma, Andrea (December 12, 2014). "Intervista a Roger Allers, il regista de Il Re Leone". Fumettologica Magazine. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  32. ^ a b Ladd, Fred; Deneroff, Harvey (2008). Astro Boy and Anime Come to the Americas: An Insider's View of the Birth of a Pop Culture Phenomenon. McFarland. p. 64. ISBN 9780786452576.
  33. ^ Sunder, Madhavi (2012). From Goods to a Good Life: Intellectual Property and Global Justice. Yale University Press. pp. 155–156. ISBN 978-0300183559.
  34. ^ Schweizer & Schweizer (1998) Disney: The Mouse Betrayed, pp. 167–168
  35. ^ Trish Ledoux and Doug Ranney, "The Complete Anime Guide: Japanese Animation Video Directory and Resource Guide", p. 16.
  36. ^ Buress, Charles. "Uproar Over 'The Lion King'", The San Francisco Chronicle, July 11, 1994, pp. A1, A13.
  37. ^ "Did Japanese Animator Inspire 'Lion King'?", The Washington Times, July 15, 1994, p. C15.
  38. ^ Arar, Yardena (June 15, 1994). "Disney studios roar into action for 'Lion King'". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  39. ^ "How Matthew Broderick Went From Kimba To Simba With 'The Lion King' (interview)". Hollywood Outbreak. July 1, 2019. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  40. ^ Patten, Fred (2004). Watching Anime, Reading Manga: 25 Years of Essays and Reviews. Stone Bridge Press. p. 171. ISBN 9781611725100. ISBN 1-880656-92-2
  41. ^ Hornyak, Tim (August 19, 2007). "Osamu Tezuka: Fighting for peace with the Mighty Atom". The Japan Times. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  42. ^ Denham, Hannah (July 26, 2019). "'Lion King' has been clouded by intellectual property controversy for 25 years. Here's the story behind it". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 3, 2020.
  43. ^ Tezuka, Makoto (April 1, 2003). 天才の息子―ベレー帽をとった手塚治虫 [The Genius' Son] (in Japanese). ISBN 9784789720298.
  44. ^ a b "Seibu reo māku yunifōmu ni hatsu tōjō! Oyagaisha 100 shūnen kinen" 西武レオマーク ユニホームに初登場!親会社100周年記念. Sponichi Annex. December 19, 2013.
  45. ^ "Jungle Emperor appears on the uniform of Seibu Lions! : News :". Archived from the original on July 30, 2018. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  46. ^ a b Schodt (2014), p. 272.
  47. ^ Havens, Thomas R. H. (1996). Architects of affluence: the Tsutsumi family and the Seibu-Saison Enterprises in twentieth-century Japan. Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University. ISBN 9780674043619. ISBN 0674043618
  48. ^ "Designer Hiroaki Ohya Speaks on LACOSTE L!VE x Osamu Tezuka Collaboration". Retrieved March 24, 2014.


External links[edit]