October 29, 2004

Horse 215 - Kimba The White Lion

This is the original Kimba, the real Kimba, the Kimba that went around the world and is still loved by millions of people everywhere. The show was produced in Japan, where it was known as "Jungle Emperor". The story and characters were created by Dr. Osamu Tezuka, adapted from his own manga which was first published in 1950. Jungle Emperor / Kimba the White Lion was made in 1965 as a joint production between Tezuka's Mushi Productions and NBC Enterprises. This is the series that has become famous around the world.

52 original episodes were made between 1965 and about 1970. There was much controversy surrounding "Disney's" The Lion King. Hollywood has long been ripping off Japanese films for their own ends, this is yet anither case of the big corporate rip off. Basically if you've seen "The Lion King" then you'll know every element of Kimba down to the minutest level except that Disney did install the element of interaction with humans.

The TV Kimba is a simplification of the novels. Big-game hunters kill the, mighty Caesar, the king of the jungle, and capture his queen, Snowene. Kimba is born on the boat that brings his mother to a zoo in Europe, but he escapes, and he returns to the African veld. Caesar's old friends, led by wise old Dan'l Baboon, Bucky Deer and Pauley Cracker the parrot, try to help Kimba realize his place as the young Prince, but Kimba wants to be more than a strong fighter like father. He is impressed by human civilization and he wants to create a similar animal civilization where beasts will not have to prey on each other. This stirs the opposition of many animals. Even the friendlier carnivores point out that he is basically asking them to starve to death.

Kimba begins as a babyish cub, acknowledged as the Prince but considered an impractical dreamer by all but his closest friends. Gradually, he accomplishes his goals (including finding a "Meat substitute" for the carnivores) and convinces the other animals of the value of his "civilization." By the last episodes, he is a husky teenager and his peaceful animal kingdom is solidly established.

Because NBC were still a little touchy over their relations with Japan, Mushi Productions were kept very quiet. Most American kids never realised that they were watching a cartoon that came from the country that bomed their Pearl Harbour. Kimba was a Japanese cartoon, but the name is American. In the original Japanese, Jungulu Taitei, he's Leo the Lion. NBC, which bought the American rights, considered this moniker too unimaginative. They instructed producer Fred Ladd to change the hero's name to something more original. Ladd's team of writers and dubbers, led by Cliff Owens and Billie Lou Watt, took the Swahili word for lion, simba, and changed the initial letter to create Kimba- a unique name - which Disney also convieniently forget to mention.

Yet again, when "The Lion King" came out, I saw that Disney had again sold its soul.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh that show. I remember when that was first shown on Australian TV. It must have been about 1970.

Now that you mention it, Disney did rip off the whole bloody thing. Coporate gutless bastards.

We didn't even know it was Japanese.