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Is Simba Really Kimba in Disney Clothing?

July 12, 1994

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The name of the cuddly orphan cub in Disney’s ″The Lion King″ is Simba. The hero of a Japanese cartoon seen across America in the 1960s was an orphaned lion named Kimba.


Disney has called the summer blockbuster its first cartoon feature since 1970 not taken from an existing story, but a laundry list of similarities with ″Kimba, the White Lion″ have some animation buffs up in arms.

″The parallels are stunning,″ Fred Ladd, the American producer for the Kimba series, told the San Francisco Chronicle in a story published Tuesday.

″I’ve received calls every day from people all over the country who are outraged by this,″ said Robin Leyden, a former animator who wrote a history of the ″Kimba″ TV series.

Both stories feature:

- Orphaned lion princes who lose their crowns to an evil adult lion, then reclaim their thrones.

- Good lions aided by a wise old baboon and a talkative bird, while evil lions get help from hyenas.

- Kimba’s foe was a one-eyed lion named Claw. Simba’s is a lion named Scar, who has a scar over one eye.

- Some specific images, including the promotional shot of a lion on a jutting rock and the outline of a dead father lion in the clouds talking to his son.

Disney declined to comment on the record Tuesday, but an employee who demanded anonymity told The Associated Press that there was no story-borrowing on ″The Lion King.″

Disney’s claim of originality is backed up by an official with the company founded by Osamu Tezuka, the late Japanese cartoonist who created ″Kimba.″

″Kimba″ was born in the 1950s when Tezuka wrote a comic book called ″Jungle Emperor.″ It spawned a Japanese TV series called ″Kimba, The White Lion,″ which was shown dubbed into English in the United States beginning in 1966.

″If Disney took hints from the ‘Jungle Emperor’ our founder, the late Osamu Tezuka, would be very pleased by it,″ Takayuki Matsutani, president of Tezuka Productions in Tokyo, told the Chronicle. ″On the whole, we think ‘Lion King’ is absolutely different from ‘Jungle Emperor’ and is Disney’s original work.″

Tezuka was sometimes called ″the Walt Disney of Japan.″

″The Lion King,″ has earned more than $143 million in a month of ticket sales, making it 1994′s top film.

There are striking differences between the stories as well. Simba’s father is killed by his own brother - Scar, while Kimba’s father is killed by hunters. Unlike ″The Lion King,″ Kimba featured human characters.

″Lion King″ co-director Rob Minkoff told the Chronicle he was unaware of the ″Kimba″ story during production, but said the story line and cast of characters was already set when he came aboard in 1992.

Matthew Broderick, the actor who did the voice for Simba (the Swahili name for lion) has said he was confused when first contacted about the project, thinking perhaps it referred to the Kimba story he remembered watching as a child.

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