That old Lion King reference from The Simpsons was a deeper reference than it first appeared. You remember the one: Mufasa appears in the clouds, bidding Lisa to “avenge my death, Kimba—I mean, Simba.” If you didn’t get the Kimba bit, that’s okay—neither did most Americans. What the bit is referring to is Kimba The White Lion, a Japanese manga character created by Osamu Tezuka that was maybe (almost definitely) the inspiration for The Lion King’s Simba. And, as the above video essay from Alli Kat shows, that’s not all Disney “borrowed” from the Kimba-centric flick King Of The Jungle, a film that’s never received a proper English release.
But that Disney was so clearly inspired by Kimba isn’t the problem here. Rather, it’s that Disney has long asserted that The Lion King was its first original animated film, and that it’s never heard of King of the Jungle or Tezuka. And when you see the side-by-side glimpses afforded by the above video it’s pretty impossible not to see the similarities, whether it be in the characters themselves, the design flourishes, or even specific shots. Sure, Kimba’s dad dies by drowning rather then wildebeest stampede, but his clamber up the rock wall and denial of saving by the story’s nefarious antagonist still looks familiar.
Obviously, this isn’t a cry to disavow The Lion King or any such thing; it’s still a great movie. But it is another reason to distrust any company with as much power as Disney, who sent a cease and desist to the company behind 1997 King Of The Jungle sequel Jungle Emperor Leo for ripping off their idea (they began production roughly around the same time, by the way).
That “live action” Lion King remake will probably be cool, though, huh?