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Kimba Vs Simba: The Great Lion King Controversy


A running gag online is whenever one brings up The Lion King someone has to throw in a Kimba rip-off reference. Heck, even The Simpsons did it a year after The Lion King came out, so people have been talking about it for a long time now.






With the recent release of The photorealistic Lion King which is currently doing well with a Rotten Tomato audience score of 89% and the movie is also doing very well financially ... well on it's way to the billion dollars club. It sparks the question anew ... is Disney's original 1994 film the Lion King a rip-off? The simple answer is a Flat-OUT NO! But there are elements that share similarities.

Ignoring the political tape of Disney's ... "No one's heard of Kimba". "Well, some people heard of Kimba". Such as Matthew Broderick thinking originally that the Lion King was an American remake of Kimba and an official paper going around the executives calling Simba, Kimba.

If you don't know what I'm talking about- Kimba The White Lion was a 1965 anime series created by Osamu Tezuka "The God Of Manga" adapted from his own manga. The series has many parallels with Disney's movie, and to this day many people believe that the Lion King ripped it off.

It's safe to say that Disney handled the controversy poorly. It really made them look like they have something to hide and since people have noticed many parallels. It makes them look even worse.

Looking at a few:

1) Simba and Kimba are very similar names.

2) The many similarities in character and plot







There are probably other things I could mention as well but to keep it short, I'm going to stick to the ones mentioned above. And I feel like a good case can be made here. Okay, so why is the answer no. Well just looking at the story of the two -- the basic elements.

The sad truth, dear readers is that good story ideas have all been done before. Now with that said it's the telling of the story and the characters that can be unique. If I really wanted to I could point out similarities between many other movies.

Star Wars, for example, is just a hodgepodge of ideas and storytelling elements George Lucas liked when he was a kid.




Even creators in Japan aren't immune to copying an idea here and there.



No story is free from copying or similarities. All stories have to utilized basic logic and tropes (cliches) and similar works will be bound to have the same ideas and expressions.For example: Dances with Wolves and James Cameron's Avatar share some parallels but it's not a rip-off. Dances  with Wolves is a thousand times better

So you have a young lion cub that's going to be king. What do you do with that story? The idea of Lions as "king of the jungle" is an idea that goes back, probably hundreds of years.

First and foremost would be where do Lions live? Pride Rock is actually based on a real place in Kenya's National Park in Hell's Gate.


I'm pretty sure that Lion King environment was based on that national park ... not 100 % of Kimba's though but it isn't unreasonable to assume that similar research was done back in 1965.

That to me would easily explain the similarities with places. You would also want to place an animal king on a high hill so he can have a good view of his land.



Now, what about the characters. A lot of people like to point out this guy that looks like Scar, called Claw in Kimba

Kimba fights Claw (=Scar?)

Looks very much like Scar right? Well, this is actually a prime example of similar thinking rather than copying. Scar was made to look like a villain. He was drawn with a darker mane, and a scratch over his eye. All good stories need an antagonist. Short Hand: Good = White and Bad = Dark.

A scratch on the eye could be a way of telling the audience that he doesn't see things clearly. That his perfect outlook on things will lead to everyone's damnation. Claw isn't a stand-in for Scar. Sure he wants to be the king ... aka ALPHA Lion. But see it from his point of view, everybody is listening to a little kid while he's good and grown. Like taking orders from an 8-year-old over someone who's 40?

And from this picture, you should see a big difference between Simba and Kimba...

Simba is a spoiled brat that embraces the concept of "Hakuna Matata" and lives a carefree life of eating bugs with two out-of-work bums basically it's just an adaption of  Hamlet.

Kimba is a hard-working, justice seeking cub that tries to live up to his father's example and his wisdom about ruling the jungle and he seeks to understand humans better. Actually making friends with some of them. Note, he's called Leo in the Japanese version. Kimba is just his name in the American version.

The reason he was dubbed Kimba in the American version is simple. Simba means lion in Swahili. And they switched the S out for a K. They couldn't call him Leo for legal reasons.

I would also like to point out that even if Kimba was told the concept of Hakuna Matata he would reject it out-right! Kimba carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. He felt he had a responsibility to his father and all the jungle inhabitants to be the best leader for them he could be ... heck, he even ordered the jungle inhabitants to learn human language.


Kimba and his loyal subjects ordered to learn human speech and music

While most of the animals feared or hated humans, Kimba had respect for them because they had such grandiose artefacts. He noted that the humans must be intelligent to create such things and that if the animals could communicate with humans and welcomed them then it would be better for everybody. Simba to my knowledge never ran into any humans but they were pretty prominent in Kimba the White Lion.

Kimba getting friendly with a human in the '97 movie reboot
On closer inspection, the similarities are only superficial. That's my opinion after watching a variety of Kimba. The baboon character is the mentor character sure- but Burazza from Kimba is wise because he's just supposed to be old. While Rafiki had more of a sage-like wisdom, I think he's based more on Yoda then Burazza. A few times, Burazza came up with stuff that just had me shaking my head where Kimba actually seemed wiser than his supposed mentor.

Coco the bird character in Kimba wanted to be Kimba friend. Zazu the bird character in Lion King was just Simba's caretaker- they were not friends nor were they trying to be friends.

As for the Hyenas ... I think that's the best case someone can make for a rip-off but then again I do strongly believe this is also a case of parallel thinking. Laughing Hyenas just kind of feel like they would be henchmen. Because they're laughing all the time ... you can make them look dumb dogs that take orders.

However, while I try and make a case for it mostly being a coincidence. My research is mainly just watching Kimba to form my own opinion.

From the original TV show that aired in 1965, to the remake in '89. The movie that came out in 1997 and the recent special that just came out ten years ago. There's a lot of Kimba to watch and I'm sure it would be easy enough to steal for an oblivious American audience but after watching the two I really believe it's mainly a case of similar lines of thinking and how to tell a story is the main culprit.

It's worth adding that the Tezuka estate has never shown any interest in legal action over the movie. All I know for sure, if you want to see a remake/reboot of a Lion King. You really should go and see...

Jungle Emperor Leo, 1997 treat yourself to an old story but retold for a new generation of kids and maybe at the same time treat the kid in you.

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