In Episode 20 of the podcast, we discuss the Lion King and some controversies. The one we hosts were most surprised by was that the movie has a lot of similarities to the 1965 Japanese movie, Jungle Emperor. In this article I discuss more in depth the similarities of these movies.Most people at Disney maintain that their movie is not a reimaging of Jungle Emporer. But things that are quite suspect have come up over the years such as Allers actually worked as an animator in Japan in the 1980s. Jungle Emperor was an animated series around that time and widely viewed.
Huffington Post found an interview with Disney animator Sito where he mentioned a story from working on the movie. “One of the animators found a Manga comic book of Kimba’s with a setup that kind of looked like Pride Rock, and I remember he was like showing it to us, and I was like, ‘Wow, that is really close to ours, yeah.’ But I think it was never more than an amusing coincidence.”
Most of the similarities are the imagery and characters such as Kimba and Simba. Other images such as the Pride Rock opening scene looks to be taken straight from Jungle Emporer and the supporting animals to Simba and Kimba are of the same species. Also, the villain lion in Jungle Emperor’s name is Claw and has one eye that is injured. RING A BELL?!
Like I mentioned on the podcast, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. The big differences are the stories and how Jungle Emperor focuses on human and animal relationships but the Lion King’s plot is more anthropomorphic and an ode to Hamlet. It seems like most of the hard feelings are gone because in 1994 a representative from Tezuka productions said, “Quite a few staff of our company saw a preview of The Lion King, discussed this subject and came to the conclusion that you cannot avoid having these similarities as long as you use animals as characters and try to draw images out of them.”
I’ll let you take from this what you will but I encourage you to take some time to watch Jungle Emperor because it’s a classic Japanese cartoon.