DVD Box Set Review: Kimba the White Lion – By Mike Wilson

“Kimba, Kimba, Kimba, Kimba….who lives down in deepest, darkest Africa? Who’s the one that brought the jungle Fame? Who’s the king of animals in Africa? Kimba the White Lion is his name! When we get in trouble and we’re in a fight, who’s the one that just won’t turn and run? Who believes in doing good and doing right? Kimba the White Lion is the one.”

Years ago I was visiting an old friend in Philadelphia. He wanted to go to the movies and we ended up seeing Disney’s “The Lion King”. When the movie was over and were leaving the theater, I looked at him and said “Didn’t that movie remind you of something?” My friend looked at me and said just what I was thinking. “Yeah, it was a total copy of Kimba the White Lion.”

Disney won’t admit it. As a matter of fact, they deny it. I’m not proposing that I have any concrete proof of it either. But if it looks and quacks like a duck…

You see, both my friend and I are old enough to remember Kimba the White Lion from TV in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Created by Osamu Tezuka way before I was born and aired in the US in the mid sixties, Kimba the White Lion chronicles the adventures of a white lion cub, orphaned by hunters. Kimba, though young, picks up the legacy of his father, Caesar, and tries to build a unity in the jungle among the animals, so they can live in peace. (By…and get this….convincing the carnivores to eat plants and bugs and even grow their own food, instead of hunting the weaker animals.) He’s helped in his endeavors by the wise old Daniel Baboon, Paulie Cracker the parrot and Bucky a dim witted antelope…or deer…or whatever the hell he is. Of course, there are obstacles in his plans. Some of the other animals refuse to give up on eating meat; human interlopers appear from time to time to cause trouble in the jungle…..there’s even a giant Grasshopper that creates problems in one episode.

These episodes were meant to be seen in a chronological order, as Kimba starts off as small, unworldly cub and matures into a mature adult lion. Kimba even has a nemesis in an older, scarred and mean lion, Claw. (Gee….just like The Lion King) Though I doubt it was ever seen in the US, I’ve heard there is a second series about Kimba’s adventures as an adult. To my knowledge there are 52 original episodes, though the box set contains only 32. Still, it well worth it if you have a fond spot in your heart for Kimba. Even now as an adult with only memories of watching the show as a kid, I find them highly entertaining. For a show aimed at kids it has a lot of depth. Many of the stories show virtues such as friendship, courage in adversity and sacrifice. They aren’t heavy handed in the message, either, which makes them even more appealing.

This is also why I’m pretty pissed off at Disney. You can read an article about the similarities here. It’s only my opinion right here, though, and I personally think Disney is full of it. As an institution that greedily guards its own Copyrights, how can Disney, with its virtual Battalion of lawyers and animators expect us to believe that NO ONE involved in the Lion king realized that it was a total rip off of Kimba? Even the name of “The Lion King”…Simba….is close enough to make you raise an eyebrow. (And note that simba is an African word for Lion….and the name Kimba was chosen as a bastardized version of it.) Even more glaring is the name of the show was “The Jungle Emperor” in Japan. Jungle Emperor…Lion King?

Well, if you liked the Lion King movie, you’ll like this box set. The animation, though 30 years old is top notch for its time. The stories aren’t dumbed down for kids, and they’ll be able to understand what’s going on. Now if only they’d release Tezuka’s other brainchild Astro Boy on DVD my inner child will be totally satisfied. (Well, if they also release the original 8th Man and marine boy also) Kimba the White Lion Box Set is a great reminder of the days when Japanese imports didn’t mean Dragonball Z and Pokemon.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Interviews with the US production coordinator, Fred Ladd, historian of animation, Fred Patten and the original proposal sent to NBC.

WHO’S GONNA WANT IT: If you recall the TV show and have fond memories of it, you’ll want this collection. It’s also a good thing for those that have small children. I sent a copy to my niece’s kids and they loved it! Anime collectors will probably get a kick out of it also.

CAN I BUY IT: Certainly! You can order it online if you can’t find it in a video store.