For those of you who don’t know what “Kimba the White Lion” is, let me summarize by saying this: it was originally a manga in the early fifties and was made into a cartoon in 1966; it featured Kimba (note the similarity already), a young lion cub, who loses his father, Caesar, the king of the jungle, and must take his father’s place as a great and respected leader.
For those of you who don’t know what “The Lion King” is, let me summarize by saying this: it was a Disney movie released in 1994 that featured a young lion named Simba (note the similarity again, if you will, please) who loses his father, Mufasa, the king of the jungle, and must take his father’s place as a great and respected leader.
If it doesn’t already sound like a rip-off, trust me, it will.
The Similarities between “Kimba the White Lion” and “The Lion King”
Number one: Their Names (Kimba and Simba)
Their names are one letter apart. It’s the first and foremost similarity and is actually what made me delve deeper into their histories to see what else was similar. I actually started watching “Kimba the White Lion” to see just how alike the were after reading other comments from people along the lines of “‘The Lion King is a rip-off of ‘Kimba the White Lion’!”and so forth.
In fact, their names kind of just sound like they were meant to be twins in a cartoon.
Number two: Both Kimba and Simba Lose their Fathers Who Happen to Be King of the Jungle and Feared and Respected by All – Mostly
Both Kimba and Simba lose Caesar and Mufasa, respectively. Though their means of demise are different, it equates to the same thing.
Number three: Epic Journey to Get Back to the Throne
While Simba bails on his family (though he was sort of chased away by his evil uncle, Claw – wait, that’s Kimba’s uncle! I meant, Scar) and Kimba is taken from his family, both must find their way back to their homeland and grow up along the way before they can ascend the throne and watch over their lands again.
Number four: The Evil Uncle
I already mentioned their names: Claw is Kimba’s one-eyed, evil uncle while Scar is Simba’s evil uncle with a scar over his eye. Claw and Scar even look alike – darker fur and a black, long mane.
Number five: Packs of Hyenas Always Trying to Muck Things Up
Yes, both have three, giggling hyenas always trying to screw things up for little Kimba and little Simba. This is starting to sound awfully similar to one another. Coincidence?
Number six: Posing on Pride Rock vs Posing on a Rock that Looks Almost Identical to Pride Rock
That, and the pose is almost the same in appearance and in meaning. It’s a pose of pride while surveying their kingdom. See here to see the version of this in “Kimba the White Lion” next to “The Lion King”. Also, see the same link to see both Kimba and Simba seeing the ghost of their deceased father in the sky.
Number seven: Seeing Ghost Parents in the Sky
Everyone knows the scene in “The Lion King” when Simba sees his deceased father in the sky; however, not everyone knows that Kimba has had his own stargazing experiences. Unlike Simba, Kimba’s mother also dies – she drowns at see when the boat she is being held captive on by poachers who want to sell her sinks – and he sees her face in the sky in the stars. While I haven’t seen all of “Kimba the White Lion”, research says that Kimba also sees his father’s ghost in the same manner.
Number eight: Annoying Bird Always Squawking Orders
Simba’s ever-present pal, Zazu, is well-known. Kimba and his family have their own annoying bird, Polly, with which to deal, whom is less dignified than Zazu in appearance but is similar enough. The idea of the bird is adequate representation.
Number nine: Adorable Gal Pal to Hang Around With and Probably With Which to Fall in Love
Nala is to Simba what Kitty is to Kimba. Need I say more? Kitty and Nala are even similar in coat color, being darker than their respective male friends.
And finally –
Number ten: Eccentric, All-Knowing Baboon to Tell Everyone What to Do
Rafiki = Dan’l. And Dan’l happens to be the eccentric, all-knowing baboon who exists to tell everyone else what to do in times of trouble in Caesar and Kimba’s world, much as Rafiki is there to be the eccentric, all-knowing baboon who exists to tell everyone what to do in times of trouble in Mufasa and Simba’s world.
Disney’s Side of “Kimba the White Lion” vs “The Lion King”
Long story short, no, they didn’t copy it – so they say; however, at least three out of the eight members who worked on producing “The Lion King” admitted to having watched “Kimba the White Lion.” And another member, Tom Sito, had this to say: the team working on the film were halfway through the film when someone pinned up a strip from a “Kimba the White Lion” comic featuring a scene that looked extraordinarily similar to Pride Rock – and that while it amused the entire team, no one felt like they were ripping it off. Tom also admits to having watched the show in his childhood. (Note: Tom Sito no longer works for Disney and did not work for them when he made these statements..)
Disney claims that the real influences come from “Hamlet” and “Bambi”, which may, in part, be true, since the plot line of Kimba is not entirely the same as Simba. The similarities, however, seem to be beyond the point of coincidental.
Japan’s Side of the Story
When “The Lion King” was released in Japan, many filmmaker’s were in an uproar over what they viewed as a rip-off of their much-loved Tezuka Osamu. Over 1,100 manga and anime artists as well as fans signed a petition demanding that Disney accredit Osamu for helping create the story.
Disney refused to budge at all on their claims and said that they had no knowledge of his show, which was, by the way, shown in America and released in English as well as Japan.
Since then, Disney hasn’t budged from their story one inch.
I’ll let you be the judge. I am merely presented the case, such as it is, with the facts that I could gather. Personally, while I am a huge Disney-lover, I feel as if they did rip off “Kimba the White Lion.” Why shouldn’t they have? Many of their stories are just the retelling of other tales (mostly fairy tales or historical tales that they completely twist to fit their own desires). Even if “The Lion King” was not based on “Kimba the White Lion”, it still would have been based off Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and Disney’s “Bambi”.
The Straight Dope