lion cub

Kimba the White Lion

, known in the United States as Kimba the White Lion, is a Japanese anime series from the 1960s, created by Osamu Tezuka, and based on his manga of the same title which began publication in 1950. It was the first color animated television series created in Japan. The entire series of manga was first published in serialized form in Manga Shōnen magazine.

This anime series has enjoyed immense popularity worldwide — most notably in Australia, the United States, Europe.


Africa, mid-20th century: In the face of the encroachment of mankind, a white lion, Panja, seeks to give all wild animals a safe haven, free from fear. And, to a very large degree, he is successful. His mistake is to steal the cattle from a near by village, as they had no other food.

A professional hunter, Viper Snakely, known as Ham Egg in the original Japanese, is called in to stop these raids. He avoids directly attacking Panja — instead, Ham Egg records the sounds of Panja and uses that as bait 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 is born on the circus train. Eliza teaches him his father's ideals. As a huge storm approaches, she urges Leo out to leave through the bars of her cage. The storm wrecks the circus train, leaving Leo floundering in the ocean. The fish help him to survive and learn to swim. As he begins to despair, the stars in the sky form his mother, and she encourages him with loving guidance. Guided by butterflies, Leo makes it back to land.

Leo lands far from his ancestral home and is found and cared for by some people. Leo learns the advantages of human culture, and he makes up his mind that when he returns to his wild home he will bring civilized 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 shows his learning and growing during the next year. One thing Leo soon learns is that true peace will require communication and mutual understanding between the animals and humans.

Global syndication

English and Spanish versions were created in 1966. The show has also been translated into many other languages (see Worldwide Translations, below).

Broadcast history

United States






Note: The original Japanese names are given first, with the English names given in Parentheses. If no English name was given to replace the character's original name, then no parentheses are given. If there are parentheses or names with question marks, then it is unknown what the Japanese, or English, name is at this time.

  • Panja (Caesar): Leo's father and Emperor of the Jungle. He is killed by Ham Egg while trying to rescue his wife and Queen.
  • Eliza (Snowene): Leo's mother who is used as bait by Ham Egg and lackey. While on the ship, she gives birth to Leo and urges him to escape, before the ship is overturned during a storm with her on it.
  • Leo (Kimba): The main character of the story whose life (in the original manga) is detailed from birth to death. He believes that it is possible for there to be peace between animals and humans alike if given a chance to understand each other.
  • Leona (Reona): She was Leo's sister, in the 1989 remake she was Leo's aunt as well as something of a foster mother to Leo.
  • Lyre (Kitty/Raija/Lyra): A lioness who would later be Leo's mate and bear him two cubs (A son and daughter). She tends to notice things that Leo sometimes overlooks. She is always there for Leo when he needs advice, someone to calm him down when his temper gets the better of him, a shoulder to cry on, or someone to fight at his side.
  • Tommy (Bucky/Tony/T.K.): An antelope that tends to always get into some kind of mischief, and is almost always seen wearing a straw hat (as Leo had used to appoint him Secretary of the Jungle Economy)
  • Coco (Pauley Cracker}: A parrot who spent some time living with humans and believes that he should be put in charge of mentoring Leo.
  • Buzara/Mandy (Dan'l Baboon): A wise, aged mandrill who acts as Leo's mentor. He has been known as Buzara in the original manga. His name was changed to Mandy in the original anime series, but changed back to Buzara for the 1997 move.
  • Bongo (Speedy Cheetah): One of Kimba's Cubhood friends (was a Leopard cub in the original Japanese version)
  • Pagoola (Kelly Phunt): A stubborn elephant who has absolutely no trust for humans or human culture whatsoever.
  • Bubu (Claw/Jamar): A one-eyed lion who wants nothing more than to see Leo and his family dead so that he may take the role of Jungle Emperor for himself. At times, Bubu has shown affection toward Lyre and tries to capture her so that she would become his queen. However this romantic interest in Lyre was not present in the 1989 remake
  • Totto (Cassius/Shaka): A black panther working with Bubu to see Leo and the white lions dethroned. He often acts as Bubu's advisor on what moves they should make next.
  • Dick (Tom): A tall lanky hyena working with Bubu and Totto who assists them in their fiendish plans. He helps provide the comic relief aspect of the villainous animals. He is almost always seen with Bo.
  • Bo (Tab): A short, squat hyena working with Bubu and Totto who assists them in their fiendish plans. He helps provide the comic relief aspect of the villainous animals. He is almost always seen with Dick.
  • The Black Four: A group of four panther assassins that seem to have supernatural powers (able to fade and manipulate their bodies in the darkness). They are summoned by Totto during one episode to do away with Leo. Much of their scenes was cut from the American dub, most notably their trademark song.
  • Kenichi (Roger Ranger): Shunsaku Ban's nephew who takes in Leo after he is washed ashore. After about a year living with Leo in human civilization, he decides to go to the jungle with Leo and live among him and the other animals. He plays a pivotal role in teaching the animals how to speak to humans.
  • Mary: A young girl who was in love with Roger Ranger before but lost her memory for a period of time, during which she was the animal hunter, Tonga. She regained her memory and left the jungle with Roger and Mr. Pompous.
  • Mr. Pompous (Dr. Mustache): Kenichi's uncle who helps take care of Leo at the Arabian peninsula. He goes on to help return Leo to the jungle, and is one of the first to discover Mt. Moon. However, he often tries to get his nephew, Kenichi, to return to human civilization. Although Mr. Pompous has appeared in many of Tezuka's works, his real name is "Shunsaku Ban", a detective.
  • Dr. Plus: A chief representative of the Science and Technology Agency who is willing to pay Ham Egg for leading them to the source of the Moon Stones. He has also gathered plenty of information on Ham Egg's activities and seems to be willing to blackmail him if necessary.
  • Dr. Minus: A member of the Science and Technology Agency that hopes to use the Moon Stone to provide a clean and potent energy source for the planet. His assistant is Mr. Lemonade.
  • Tick & Tuck: In place of Kenichi and Mary for the 1997 movie, Mr. Lemonade is an associate of the Science and Technology Agency seeking the Moon Stone. He, like Shunsaku Ban, is appalled at Ham Egg's actions.
  • Ham Egg (Viper Snakely/Jake): A nasty poacher who will do anything for money, regardless of the consequences. He is responsible for most of the death and tragedy that befalls Leo's jungle. He is interested in the Moon Stone with the hopes of making a fortune from it. Ham Egg has appeared as a villain in many of Tezuka's works.
  • Kutter (Tubby): A sidekick to Ham Egg, but who has reservations about what the two of them are doing. Kutter resembles Wimpy from Popeye.
  • Rommel: A recurring character in Tezuka's works.
  • Boss Rhino: Leader of the other rhinos.
  • Samson: A water buffalo who sometimes opposes Leo's ideas

Voice cast (1966 dub)

Voice cast (1993 dub)


  • 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, Janguru Taitei: Susumu Leo! (Jungle Emperor: Onward, Leo!) airs in Japan. Features Leo (Kimba) as an adult.
  • 1967Jungle Emperor theatrical feature awarded the St. Mark's Silver Lion Award at the 19th Venice International Film Festival.
  • 1978 — Adult Leo character becomes mascot for Seibu Lions baseball team.
  • 1984Jungle Emperor: Onward Leo! finally comes to the US, as Leo the Lion on the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN).
  • 1989 — Dr. Osamu Tezuka dies at age 60 on February 9. A remake of Jungle Emperor is made and shown in Japan. This series bares 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.
  • 1994 — In Japan, over 1100 manga and anime artists and fans sign a petition requesting that the Disney company acknowledge that their movie The Lion King was based on characters and situations from Jungle Emperor.
  • 1997 — New Janguru Taitei theatrical feature (Jungle Emperor Leo; Dir. Hiroo 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.
  • 2003 — The 1997 Jungle Empeor movie 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.

Worldwide translations

This is a list of translations into various languages of the original Leo The Lion (ジャングル大帝/New Jungle Emperor Leo - Go Ahead Onward Leo") TV show.

  • Arabic: "الليث الأبيض" (El Leith El Abyad)
  • Bulgarian "Кимба, белият лъв"
  • Chinese: "森林大帝"
  • Croatian: "Lav Leo"
  • Dutch: "Leo de Witte Leeuw"
  • Finnish: "Leo Valkoinen Leijona"
  • French: "Le Retour de Aventures de Roi Léo: Le Roi de la Jungle "
  • German: "Leo Der Kleine Löwenkönig"
  • Hebrew: "קימבה האריה הלבן" (Kimba Ha-Arie Ha-Lavan)
  • Hungarian: "Kimba, a Fehér Oroszlán"
  • Indonesian: "Kimba Singa Putih"
  • Italian: "Kimba, il leone bianco" (first and second dubbing, 1977 and mid-1980s) "Una Giungla Di Avventure Per Leo il Leone Bianco" (third dubbing, 1995)
  • Korean: "밀림의 왕자 레오"
  • Polish: "Biały Lew Kimba"
  • Portuguese: "Leo o Leão Branco"
  • Russian: "Кимба"
  • Slovenian: "Kimba Beli Levček"
  • Spanish: "Leo el León: El Emperador Rey Leon Blanco De La Selva"
  • Turkish: "Aslan Kral Simba"


  • Go, White Lion!
  • Jungle Thief
  • Dangerous Journey
  • Great Caesar's Ghost
  • Journey Into Time
  • Restaurant Trouble
  • The Bad Baboon
  • The Wind in the Desert
  • Insect Invasion
  • Battle at the Dead River
  • Scrambled Eggs
  • The Chameleon Who Cried Wolf
  • Gypsy's Purple Potion
  • A Human Friend
  • The Wild Wildcat
  • City of Gold
  • The Last Poacher
  • The Trappers
  • The Hunting Ground
  • The Legend of Hippo Valley
  • Magic Serpent
  • Volcano Island
  • The Flying Tiger
  • Running Wild
  • The Destroyers from the Desert
  • The Troublemaker
  • The Gigantic Grasshopper
  • The Mystery of the Deserted Village
  • Jungle Justice
  • Too Many Elephants
  • Nightmare Narcissus
  • Adventure in the City
  • Such Sweet, Sorrow
  • Diamonds in the Gruff
  • The Runaway
  • A Revolting Development
  • Silvertail the Renegade
  • A Friend, In Deed
  • Two Hearts and Two Minds
  • Solider of Fortune
  • The Day the Sun Went Out
  • The Red Menace
  • Jungle Fun
  • The Pretenders
  • The Monster of Petrified Valley
  • Fair Game
  • The Balloon That Blows Up
  • The Monster of the Mountain
  • The Sun Tree
  • The Cobweb Caper
  • The Return of Fancy Prancy
  • Catch 'Em If You Can

The Lion King controversy

In 1994, controversy arose over the possible connection of Disney's animated feature The Lion King with Kimba the White Lion. Fans in Japan and the U.S. called for the Southern California Disney company to acknowledge the use of characters and situations from the Japanese production in the Disney movie. The situation has remained a controversy due to the Disney Company's statement that no one in the company had heard of Kimba until after The Lion King was released — in spite of the fact that people related to the production of The Lion King had referred to "Kimba" as the main character of The Lion King, that the Japanese anime Kimba the White Lion aired on both Channel 9 KHJ-TV and Channel 52 KBSC-TV in Southern California long before the conception of The Lion King, and that Tokyo Disneyland has been in operation in Japan since 1983.

For example, in July 1993, a person asked Roy Disney in a Prodigy online-chat session whether there would be any nice motherly figures in future Disney animated films, and Disney replied that Kimba's mother in the following year's The Lion King will be lovely On the other hand, a clean-up model sheet of young Simba proves that the name "Simba" had been in use at Disney since as early as April 1993, three months before the Prodigy session. The word "simba" means "lion" in Swahili.

Matthew Broderick stated that he understood he was being hired as a voice actor for a Disney remake of Kimba The White Lion. "I thought he meant Kimba, who was a white lion in a cartoon when I was a little kid. 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," Broderick was quoted as stating.

Additionally, an early presentation reel of the film, included in the Platinum Edition DVD of The Lion King, features a piece of concept art depicting a white lion cub. Although not as telling, some point to the name of Judge Kimba Wood who served as the judge in the 1990 criminal trial addressing the Solomon/Milken attempted takeover of Walt Disney Productions to counter the idea that Disney never heard of a Kimba.

The controversy does not involve the story of The Lion King. Disney movies often diverge from the story of the works on which they are based, so this cannot be considered as proof one way or the other. It is the similarity of characters and certain specific scenes and situations that are in question.

The Tezuka/Disney connection extends back for years. Dr. Tezuka sought out and obtained the license to adapt Disney's Bambi into manga for the Japanese market. Tezuka met Walt Disney at the 1964 World's Fair, at which time Disney said he hoped to "make something just like" Tezuka's Astro Boy. And 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.

The controversy was mentioned in a June 2007 Los Angeles Times news article, thirteen years after it first being raised.

Kimba in popular culture

  • The Simpsons brought the Lion King controversy to the general public in the episode "'Round Springfield". At the end of the episode, Mufasa appears in the sky as he did in The Lion King and says: "You must avenge my death, Kimba... dah, I mean Simba." The picture at the right references the look and usage of imagery in The Lion King; see Kimba episode 13 ("The Trappers") for how that series addressed the concept of "avenging" the death of Kimba's parents.
  • Kimba has made cameo appearances in several video games. Two of these are Astro Boy: Omega Factor (as Pook, a shape-shifting robot) for the Game Boy Advance, and Columns with a large number of other Osamu Tezuka characters.
  • Kimba has made several cameo appearances in the anime series Black Jack.
  • Kimba's adult form serves as the mascot and logo for the popular Japanese baseball team, the Seibu Lions.
  • The Pokémon Shinx resembles a blue and black version of Kimba.


  • Japanese Opening and Closing Theme (1966 version): "Leo and Leah´s Song [New Jungle Emperor Leo - Go Ahead Onward Leo !]" written by Isao Tomita, sung by Mieko Hirota


See also

Further reading

  • Fred Patten Watching Anime, Reading Manga: 25 Years of Essays and Reviews. ISBN 1-880656-92-2
  • Frederik L. Schodt Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga. ISBN 0-7567-5168-3 ISBN 1-880656-23-X

External links

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