Based on Osamu Tezuka's 1950 manga "Jungle Emperor," which was serialized in "Manga Shonen." Unlike the TV series, the manga depicted Leo aging and eventually dying.
This, the first color Japanese television series, was animated in 1965 and syndicated for American TV by NBC Films. It was first broadcast in the U.S. in 1966 (after characters were given American names).
Initially running for 52 episodes, the TV series was paid for partly by NBC and made keeping in mind the wants of the foreign market. Tezuka had to make the story in small pieces, eliminating the need for episodes to be screened in order.
Several episodes were edited into the 75-minute 1966 movie "Jungle Taitei" ("Jungle Emperor), which was nominated for a Golden Lion for animation at the Venice Film Festival.
The lion was originally named Leo, but when translated into English, the name was deemed unacceptable for the American market due to possible confusion with the MGM trademark. The translators first planned to name the main character "Simba" (Swahili for "lion"), but several African-American applications for trademarks also used that name.
In 1966, Tezuka created another 26-episode series, "Shin Jungle Taitei, Susumu Leo! ("New Jungle Emperor: Onward, Leo! First intended only for the Japanese audience, the series showed an adult Kimba/Leo; a young Rintaro was a character designer. The adult lion became the mascot of Japan's Seibu Lions baseball team; in 1984, his series was brought to the United States on the Christian Broadcasting Network under the title "Leo the Lion." However, Tezuka Productions had filed for bankruptcy by then, and the original Kimba series was taken off the air due to litigation.
In 1989, Tezuka Productions remade the series as "Shinsaku Jungle Taitei ("The New Adventures of Kimba the White Lion). Directed by Takashi Ui, this ran for 52 episodes and showed Leo from his birth onward.
In 1994, Disney released the feature film "The Lion King." Like Tezuka's series, it had a lion named Simba who wants to be king after his father dies. It also had a mandrill counselor, an argumentative talking-bird friend, an evil, scarred enemy lion and inept hyena "henchmen." And as in the series, Simba is haunted by his father's face in the clouds.
Disney representatives claimed that the "The Lion King" production staff did not know about the Tezuka series, even though co-director Roger Allers had worked in Tokyo for two years.
In 1996, Fumio Suzuki, a creditor who claimed part ownership of the original series, authorized the video re-release of eight episodes as "Kimbe the Lion Prince with a new dub.
The following year, Tezuka Productions made another theatrical film, the 98-minute "Kimba the White Lion" (also titled "Jungle Emperor Leo"), claiming belatedly that it was released in honor of the original series' 30th anniversary. Directed by Toshio Takeuchi, it had character designs by Akio Sugino.
The Wild Wildcat Production Information
Traditional, Hand-drawn Animation.
Alternate Series Titles: "Jungle Taitei (Japanese)," "Kimba The White Lion," "Jungle Emperor."
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