‘Lion King’ vs ‘Kimba’: How Disney’s live-action release brings up old controversy: report

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After the release of Disney’s live-action “The Lion King” last weekend, an old intellectual property controversy was brought up once again — but this time it appears to be staying around, according to a new report.

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Critics have claimed that “The Lion King” has numerous similarities to “Kimba the White Lion,” a Japanese animated series created by Osamu Tezuka in the 1960s, which was syndicated by NBC around that time.

“Until now, the controversy would come up, kind of simmer and then go away,” Kay Clopton, a cultural diversity researcher at Ohio State University’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, told The Washington Post. “For some reason, this time around, there’s more legs to it.”

The similarities range from specific scenes and animation elements to plot points and overarching themes, The Post reported.

Though Tezuka passed away before “The Lion King” was originally released in 1994, his family and production company did not attempt to sue Disney for copyright infringement, according to The Post. While they noticed similarities, those were “factual elements and ideas” based on nature, they told the outlet.


Disney, meanwhile, told The Post that “The Lion King” was based on Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and biblical parables.

“None of us had ever heard of that thing,” he told The Post in reference to the “Kimba” series. “If other people knew about it, they didn’t talk to me about it.”

However, many of Tezuka’s fans have been posting about the similarities on Twitter for several months now, even more with the live-action “Lion King” release last week.

“Kinda sad that the kimba the white lion series will always be known as "that anime lion king ripped off" and not recognized for its own merits,” one person tweeted.

The star-studded “Lion King” posted $23 million in previews last week, Disney announced.


The film was previewed at the domestic box office and opened in more than 4,700 theaters last Friday, the company said in a statement. Internationally, the flick posted $54.1 million in its debut in China.


The live-action flick based on the 1994 animated film cast includes Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Beyoncé, Seth Rogen and James Earl Jones. The film was directed by Jon Favreau.

FOX Business’ Kathleen Joyce contributed to this report.

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