Who is 'Kimba the White Lion'? After 'The Lion King' Live-Action Release, Age-Old Claims of Disney Movie's Similarities to Osamu Tezuka's Show Resurface

Who is 'Kimba the White Lion'?
(L-R) Hans Zimmer, Chance The Rapper, Billy Eichner, Seth Rogen, Shahadi Wright Joseph, JD McCrary, Director/Producer Jon Favreau, Donald Glover, Beyonce Knowles-Carter, Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Kani, Alfre Woodard, Keegan-Michael Key, Florence Kasumba, and Eric Andre attends the World Premiere of Disney's "THE LION KING" at the Dolby Theatre on July 09, 201,9 in Hollywood, California. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Disney's The Lion King live-action remake released in theaters with similar critical acclaim as the1994 original, with an opening weekend at the box office that generated more than $180 million by Saturday, according to a Variety report. Along with the same whopping success as the animation studio's original movie, age-old speculations of the film's authenticity have also resurfaced.

Despite becoming one of Disney's biggest films of the 1990s, at the time of its release, the animal tale was riddled with controversy when fans drew comparisons of The Lion King to Osamu Tezuka's 1960s series, Kimba the White Lion.

Regarded as the "God of manga," Tezuka was the creator of the popular anime series and character Astro Boy. He was also the author and illustrator of the 1950s manga Jungle Emperor, which Kimba the White Lion was based on. When the original Lion King released in June 1994, fans of Tezuka accused Disney of appropriating the Japanese artist's work—which debuted on NBC in September 1966 and ran in syndication throughout the 1970s and '80s—citing the many similarities between The Lion King and Kimba the White Lion characters as well as key scenes.

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With The Lion King back in the spotlight, thanks to the live-action remake, claims of Disney's alleged infringement have surfaced once again. The Hollywood Reporter released an article highlighting 1994's controversy surrounding the animations, prompting fans to remember and comment on the many similarities Simba—the main character of The Lion King—shares with Kimba, the protagonist of Tezuka's NBC series.

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Like The Lion King, Kimba the White Lion follows a young, white-haired cub living in a fictionalized African savanna. Just as Simba's father, Mufasa, is killed in The Lion King, Kimba's father, also dies early on in the series. The antagonist of Tekuza's project, Claw, has some aesthetic similarities to The Lion King's main villain, Scar, with both lions baring jet-black manes. However, Claw actually has a scar in place of his left eye in Kimba the White Lion while Scar merely has a scare over his left eye. Then there are the other characters with interesting similarities like Lion King's Zazu—a hornbill that watches over Simba—and Kimba's bird-friend Pauly, who is a parrot. Just as Claw had two spotted hyenas carrying out his mischievous deeds, Scar employed three spotted hyenas.

Perhaps the biggest comparison is a scene in The Lion King, in which Simba's deceased father appears in the clouds to deliver an empowering message. A similar scene was featured in the anime series as well as Tezuka's manga Jungle Emperor.

Although some of the animals in both projects bare jarring resemblance, storylines are vastly different. While the main characters' names sound similar, they are likely unrelated as Simba is the Swahili word for lion. Albeit both coming of age stories, Kimba the White Lion's plot mostly explores the relationship between humans and animals while The Lion King follows Simba's journey to avenge his father's death and take his rightful position as the king of Pride Rock. The series includes human characters, some of whom align with Kimba to bring peace and understanding between all species.

Disney has long denied Tezuka's series having any influence on The Lion King, which was billed as the studio's first original film (all Disney titles before the 1994 movie were remakes of stories, fables and fairytales).

The president of Tezuka Productions, Takayuki Matsutani, also told the Chronicle in 1994 that The Lion King was "absolutely different" from Tezuka's manga and the NBC series. He additionally claimed the late Tezuka—who died in 1989—would have likely been happy with the similarities as he was a big fan of Walt Disney during his lifetime.

Who is 'Kimba the White Lion'? After 'The Lion King' Live-Action Release, Age-Old Claims of Disney Movie's Similarities to Osamu Tezuka's Show Resurface | Culture