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A new TV special premiered September 5, 2009 on Fuji TV. Produced in commemoration of Fuji TV's 50th anniversary, it was directed by Gorō Taniguchi, written by noted novelist and drama writer Osamu Suzuki, and featuring character designs from noted illustrator Yoshitaka Amano.
In Africa during the mid-20th century, as mankind encroaches, the white lion Panja (Caesar in the English dub) gives the jungle's wild animals a safe haven. However, he angers nearby villagers by stealing their cattle and their food to feed the jungle carnivores. (In the English dub he merely frees the cattle.) A professional hunter, Ham Egg (Viper Snakely in the English dub), is called in to stop these raids. He avoids directly attacking Panja. Instead, he records the sounds of Panja and uses them to trap his mate, Eliza, who then becomes bait in a trap for Panja. Panja is killed for his hide, and the pregnant Eliza is put on a ship, destined for a zoo. Leo (Kimba in the English dub) is born on the boat. Eliza teaches him his father's ideals. As a huge tropical storm nears, she urges her cub out through the bars of her cage. The storm wrecks the boat, and he flounders in the ocean. The fish help him learn to swim. As he begins to despair, the stars in the sky form the face of his mother, who encourages him. Guided by butterflies, he makes it to land. Leo lands far from his ancestral home and is found and cared for by some people. He learns the advantages of human culture, and decides that when he returns to his wild home he will bring culture to the jungle and stand for peace like his father. The show follows Leo's life after he returns to the wild, still a young cub, and how he learns and grows in the next year. Leo soon learns that only communication and mutual understanding between animals and humans will bring true peace.
The animated series was first broadcast in Japan, in October 1965. It was broadcast, with English-dubbed voices, in the United States and other English-speaking markets, beginning in September 1966. It was first commissioned for U.S. development by NBC Enterprises, and adapted by Fred Ladd, for syndicated broadcast.
The protagonist of the story who, in the original manga, is followed from birth to death. He believes that there would be peace between animals and humans if each understood the other. In the 1997 movie, the lion leads Dr. Moustache and his assistant to Mt. Moon, and he sacrifices himself by falling on Dr. Moustache's kris so that Dr. Moustache will have food and shelter from the cold.
A white Masai Lion, Leo's father, and Emperor of the Jungle. He is killed by Ham Egg while trying to rescue his wife and queen. His skin is in his son Leo's lair and under his care. Leo uses his hide as an attraction for a festival in episode 24. He was Specklerex's rival. He appears in certain episodes in flashbacks.
A lioness who would later be Leo's mate and bear him a son and daughter. She is the niece of the old marozi (spotted lion) Specklerex and lives with him after her parents are slain by hunters. She notices things that Leo sometimes overlooks. She is always there when Leo needs advice, a "better nature" to calm him down in anger, a shoulder to cry on, or a warrior at his side. In the movie, Lyre falls victim to the speckled fever and slowly dies.
A Grant's gazelle that always gets into mischief. He almost always seen wearing a straw hat, which Leo had used to appoint him Secretary of the Jungle Economy. He is known as "Tony" (トニー,Tonī?) in the 1989 series.
The main antagonist, this one-eyed Barbary lion with a jagged scar on his face wants Leo and his family dead so that he may take the role of Jungle Emperor for himself. Bubu tries to capture Lyre so that she would become his queen and shows affection toward her. This romantic interest was not in the 1989 remake.
Shunsaku Ban's nephew who takes Leo in after he washes ashore. After a year living with Leo in human civilization, he decides to go to the jungle with Leo and live with him and the other animals. He teaches the animals how to speak to humans. In the 2009 movie, he is one of the main heroes and helps Leo return all the animals back to the "real" Jungle from the human created preserve called "Neo-Earth."
A young girl who was in love with Kenichi, but who then lost her memory for a while. During this time, she was the animal hunter Tonga. She regained her memory and left the jungle with Roger and Mr. Pompous. In the movie, Mary was the circus girl who lost her parents and takes good care of Rune, Leo's son.
Voiced by (English): Gilbert Mack (Go Ahead Leo!), Mike Pollock (1997 movie)
Kenichi's uncle who helps take care of Leo on the Arabian peninsula. He then helps return Leo to the jungle and is one of the first to discover Mt. Moon. He often tries to get his nephew Kenichi to return to human civilization. Dr. Moustache has appeared in many of Tezuka's works as a detective under his real name of "Shunsaku Ban." In the movie, he saves Lukyo, Bizo, and other animals from the dreaded speckled fever (a.k.a. the great plague).
A head of the Science and Technology Agency who will to pay Ham Egg for leading them to the source of the Moon Stones. He has also gathered information on Ham Egg's activities and will blackmail him if necessary.
Voiced by (English): Gilbert Mack (1965 anime), Ted Lewis (1997 movie)
A poacher who will do anything for money. He causes most of the death in Leo's jungle. He wants the Moon Stone so he might make a fortune from it. Ham Egg has appeared as a villain in many of Tezuka's works.
A sidekick to Ham Egg who has reservations about what the two of them are doing.
An old marozi (spotted lion) and Lyre's uncle, he lives in the mountains with a small pride of his own. He misjudges Leo, for the cub's father Panja was his rival. He went insane, causing havoc in a city. Because of his age, his mane is almost pale blonde.
Makoba / Silvertail the Renegade
A timid masai lion who was rumored to be stealing village livestock. He is often afraid of hunters who would kill him because of this rumor. He is an old lion like Specklerex, though he is two years younger and lacks the leopard rosettes. He only appears in the last episode.
A Maltese python who once lived and ruled among humans. He is a warlock, able to use magic to control other animals. He flees due to the offensive stench from the timid reeking bird named Rancid. He and Rancid only appear in episode 17.
Gargoyle T. Warthog
A warthog who is the laughing stock of every other animal except Leo. He hates his primitive warts and wants to kill himself, but is prevented from doing so by Wildey. He attacks a gang of vicious mandrills in a small woodplain north of Leo's Jungle and wins the medal that belonged to a champion. His mother, Ms. Warthog, only appears in episode 18, but he appears as a background character in later episodes.
An African Scops owl, an old alchemist who lives in Descelation Grotto. She had been Sylvester's friend, but she could do no more potions until she gave Leo a potion that changed his color from snow-white to lavender, knocking him into a coma. She afterwards saves his life and attends the festival with the skin of Panja as the main attraction. She only appears in episode 24.
An Iberian ibex who leads a herd of his own. He is old but he can still run. He once falls victim to the speckled fever, but Leo, with help from Panja, saves his life. Pop Wooly and his herd only appear in episode 22.
An iguana/chameleon hybrid who wants to have friends. Because of his insanity, he always tells stories about problems, like Kitty's encounters with Claw. His alarms also save everyone's lives from a pack of African wild dogs. He only appears in episode 27.
a serval who lost his mother to hunters. He is also accused of stealing and abuse. When he understands Leo's words "united we stand, divided we fall", he joins with the lion to fight hunters. He appears in episode 28 and as a background character in a few other episodes.
A female cheetah with a Southern accent who had lived in the city until she is sent home by her owner and rejoins her brother, Dash. She worries that Dash will get slaughtered when an impala tells Kimba that the jungle was raided by over a million ants. She only appears in one episode, but her brother appears in other episodes.
A flying Bengal tiger who was created by a crazy scientist. He was once a feared animal but turns good and returns to the jungles of India with his master. He only appeared in the episode Flying Tiger.
A South African fur seal that Leo accompanies on his travels to see the world. Boss Rhino refers to him as a "Toadstool" and he only appears in episode 50.
Image of Kimba (Leo) from the anime, Kimba the White Lion
1950: Original Jungle Emperor story started in Manga Shōnen (Comic Boy) magazine.
1965: Anime series started as the first color TV anime series in Japan.
1966: Theatrical version of Jungle Emperor (Dir. Eiichi Yamamoto) released in Japan. Jungle Emperor Symphonic Poem (by Isao Tomita) released on LP. Kimba The White Lion (translated version of Jungle Emperor TV series) airs in U.S. A sequel series, Jungle Taitei: Susume Leo! (Jungle Emperor: Onward, Leo!) airs in Japan. Features Leo (Kimba) as an adult.
1978: Adult Leo character becomes mascot for the Seibu Lions (current Saitama Seibu Lions) baseball team.
1984: Jungle Emperor: Onward Leo! finally comes to the US, as Leo the Lion on CBN Cable Network.
1989: Dr. Osamu Tezuka dies at age 60 on February 9. A remake of Jungle Emperor is made and shown in Japan. This series bears little resemblance to the original manga or the first TV series, as the plot is extremely different and the characters have been completely reworked and changed.
1991: A new animated film is created, using the Symphonic Poem for its audio.
1993: The first Jungle Emperor/Kimba The White Lion series is dubbed into English again, featuring the voice of Yvonne Murray as Kimba and having a new opening, with an all new soundtrack composed by Paul J. Zaza.
1994: In Japan, over 1100 manga and anime artists and fans sign a petition requesting that the Walt Disney company acknowledge that their movie The Lion King was based on characters and situations from Jungle Emperor.
1997: New Jungle Taitei theatrical film (Jungle Emperor Leo; Dir. Hiro Takeuchi) released in Japan, based on the second half of Dr. Tezuka's original manga story. It is not entirely faithful however.
1998: Several heavily edited episodes of the 1989 remake of Kimba the White Lion are dubbed into English and released directly to video under the name: The New Adventures of Kimba the White Lion, by Pioneer Family Entertainment. It features the voice of Brad Swaile as Kimba.
2003: The 1997 Jungle Emperor film is dubbed into English and released on DVD under the name "Jungle Emperor Leo", by Anime Works.
2005: The original 1966 dub of Kimba the White Lion is released as an 11-disc DVD set by Madman Anime of Australia and Right Stuf International of the U.S. It was a best seller.
2009: A TV special aired in summer 2009 with a completely new story, different from both the previous TV shows and the original manga. The setting was an artificially created jungle in 20XX Earth. In this movie, Panja and his mate, Eliza, are still alive; Coco is an unspecified female bird; and Sylvester, the black panther, serves as a secondary antagonist until he changes his ways when a young boy mends his leg.
2012: Bayview Entertainment/Widowmaker releases "Kimba the White Lion: The Complete Series" 10 DVD box set of the original 1966 series.
2013: As of July 10, 2013, Kimba the White Lion box sets from 2005 and 2012 are still available commercially to choose from.
Norwegian - Kimba, den Hvite Løve - lit. Kimba, the White Lion
Persian - کیمبا، شیر سفید - lit. Kimba, the White Lion
Polish - Kimba Biały Lew - lit. Kimba, the White Lion
Russian - Император джунглей - Imperator Dzhunglyeĭ - lit. Emperor of the Jungle
Serbian - Лео, бели лав/Leo, beli lav - lit. Leo, the White Lion
Slovene - Kimba beli levček - lit. Kimba the White Lion Cub
Spanish - El Emperador de la Selva - lit. The Emperor of the Jungle
Spanish - Kimba, el León Blanco - lit. Kimba, the White Lion
The Lion King controversy
Screenshot from an early presentation reel of The Lion King that shows a white lion cub and a butterfly.
As a number of media journalists and fans watched Disney's animated feature film The Lion King they noticed characters and events in the story resembled those of Kimba. Although The Lion King has a different screenplay, there are a number of strong artistic similarities, including scenes that appear to be copied from those in Kimba. One similarity is the protagonists' names: Kimba and Simba. Although the pronunciations of the two names are similar, the word simba means "lion" in Swahili.
With regard to the controversies, Disney stated that the similarities are all coincidental. Additionally the filmmakers have said the story of The Lion King was inspired by the Biblical stories of Moses and Joseph as well as William Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Matthew Broderick has said that when he was hired as the voice of Simba in The Lion King, he presumed the project was related to Kimba the White Lion. "I thought he meant Kimba, who was a white lion in a cartoon when I was a little kid," said Broderick. "So I kept telling everybody I was going to play Kimba. I didn't really know anything about it, but I didn't really care."
The Tezuka-Disney connection extends back decades before the movie. Tezuka met Walt Disney at the 1964 New York World's Fair, and Disney said he hoped to "make something just like" Tezuka's Astro Boy. Earlier, Tezuka had asked for and got the license to adapt Disney's Bambi into a manga for the Japanese audience which was published in 1951. More recently, Disney animators were hired to train Tezuka's crew in the use of color when production was started on the Jungle Emperor/Kimba the White Lion TV series. It was said that an animated film of Kimba the White Lion was planned but later scrapped.
The controversy has been referenced in a number of national newspapers in the United States, including a June 2007 Los Angeles Times article. In the episode "'Round Springfield" of The Simpsons, a parody of the Lion King's Mufasa says to Lisa Simpson, "You must avenge my death, Kimba...er, I mean Simba!".
Zira, the antagonist in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride is a close resemblance to Belladonna who claimed to be Kimba's aunt in the 1967 episode "The Hunting Ground", but later asked forgiveness from her wrongdoings to Kimba.
The series uses several themes. The 1966 Japanese version uses an opening theme and a closing theme. The opening is called "Jungle-Taitei" (ジャングル大帝,Janguru-Taitei?, "Jungle Emperor"). The end song is "Leo no Uta" (レオのうた,Reo no Uta?, "Leo's Song"). For the Japanese remake, the opening song is "Savanna o Koete" (サバンナを越えて,Sabanna wo Koete?, "Past the Savanna") sung by Ichiro Mizuki, and the ending is "Yūbae ni Nare" (夕映えになれ?) sung by Tomoko Tokugai. Its American theme was written and performed by Bernie Baum, Bill Giant and Florence Kaye. The opening song for the sequel series is "Go Ahead Onward Leo!" written by Isao Tomita and sung by Mieko Hirota. The US-American theme song known as "Leo the Lion" was written by Mark Boccaccio and Susan Brunet of Miami, Florida's SONIC-Sound International Corporation in 1984.
In the NBC TV series Life in the episode "Badge Bunny" there was a reference to Kimba and Simba: "You Must be Fluffy?" "Fluffy?" "What should I have named it Kimba?" "Kimba was a lion" "That was Simba!" "Kimba came first!"
In the Fox TV series Fringe, Kimba had a cameo in one of the episodes.
Image from the Jungle Emperor manga appears on shirts made by Lacoste in cooperation with Tezuka Productions for their "Lacoste Live" capsule collection "Tezuka Collection", edition Fall/Winter 2013/2014 
The music video for the song "a boy" by Leo Ieiri, whose animated part was made by Tezuka Productions, features an anime version of Leo (based on Kimba and modeled after the singer) which meets other characters from the Kimba the White Lion series