Did the Disney studio steal Kimba The White Lion and rework it as their 'original story', The Lion King? They certainly give that impression with their corporate stance ('we never heard of Tezuka nor Kimba until after The Lion King was released'). And why would they have filed suit to try to prevent the showing of Tezuka Productions' 1997 Jungle Emperor Leo movie at the 1998 Toronto FantAsia Film Festival? (Jungle Emperor was the original title for Kimba The White Lion.) It seems quite simple; Kimba had been kept out of sight in North America for 20 years by that time.
I'm sure you've heard how every character in The Lion King has a matching character in Kimba, all the way down to the level of both having a sage mandrill mis-identified as a baboon.
The shame of the matter is that the Disney company is sticking to their official line --that their people never heard of Kimba before The Lion King was released-- even in the face of logic and evidence. As Robin Pen pointed out, if we were to take their statement at face value, it actually means they were stupid and irresponsible. But more than that, many examples say just the opposite of the Disney statement.
During planning sessions for The Lion King, Simba started out as a white lion until one of the animators spoke up: 'Not even OUR lawyers are THAT good!' Maybe so, but notice how both characters have a tuft of hair in the middle of their foreheads, and the very unusual dark ear rim. That alone shows how Kimba is the direct predecessor of Simba.
Both title characters turn to eating bugs to save their herbivore friends. In The Lion King, they blow past this idea in under a minute, but it was a major plot element in Kimba; the meat eaters tried eating plants until they hit on the idea of eating bugs.
And more... the patch of thorns... (This scene called the matching scene from Kimba immediately to my mind. I couldn't believe how much alike they were.)
dangling from a cliff with the villain above.The antagonist lion in Kimba was introduced as his 'aunt', while Scar was Simba's uncle.
and the stampede.
I've left for last the big thing everyone mentions when comparing the two works: the parent lion appearing in the sky. There's good reason people pay attention to this: When Kimba's mother appears to him in the stars shortly after being killed, it is one of the most touching and moving scenes in television animation history. And, several times during the Lion King, the idea of ancestors in the stars is mentioned. However, when Simba does have a vision of his father, it is in a cloud and (perhaps) the moon (there is a lot of light in that scene, which suggests the moon). This has a different parallel in Kimba.
Now as i finish my arcticle of with has anyone noticed that kimba and simba have a one letter difference.