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Jungle Emperor (ジャングル大帝 Jungle Taitei?), known in the United States as Kimba the White Lion, is an 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 manga was first published in serialized form in Manga Shōnen magazine. The anime was produced by Mushi Production and Tezuka Productions, and produced along with Mushi Productions for the later series.

This anime series has enjoyed popularity worldwide — including in the United States, Australia, Europe (where it has been translated into several languages such as: French, Italian, Catalan, Spanish, German, Dutch etc.) and the Middle East.

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 in his first directorial venture since Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2, written by noted novelist and drama writer Osamu Suzuki, and featuring character designs from noted illustrator Yoshitaka Amano.[2]


In Africa during the mid-20th century, as mankind encroaches, the white lion, Panja gives the jungle's wild animals a safe haven. However, he angers nearby villagers by stealing their cattle, their food, to feed the jungle carnivores. (In the English dub Panja merely frees the cattle.)

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, 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.

Kimba (Leo in the Japanese-language version) is born on the boat. Eliza teaches him his father's ideals. As a huge 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/Kimba 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/Kimba'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.

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

The animated series was first broadcast in Japan, in October, 1965.[3] Then 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 "translated" by Fred Ladd], for syndicated broadcast.)[4]

Broadcast Countries

23x15px Japan (Original)

23x15pxUnited States

  • NBC (1966-67; Billie Lou Watt dub)
  • syndication (1993; Yvonne Murray dub)
  • Kids & Teens TV
  • i-Life TV (Currently airs re-runs)
  • America One


  • ABC


  • Knowledge


  • Boomerang

An entirely new series, with a different cast performing the voice-overs was produced in 1994. It carried the exact same name.[5]


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.

  • Panja (Caesar): 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.
  • Eliza (Snowene): Leo's mother, used as bait by Ham Egg and Kutter. While on the ship, she gives birth to Leo and urges him to escape; she is then drowned.
  • Kimba (Leo): The main character 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 Jungle Emperor Leo, the lion leads Dr. Moustache and his assistant to Mt Moon, and he commits suicide by falling on Dr. Moustache's kris so that Dr. Moustache will have food and shelter from the cold.
  • Leona (Riona): Leo's sister. In the 1989 remake, she was Leo's aunt and something of a foster mother to Lyre.
  • Lyre (Kitty/Leah/Laia/Raija/Raiya/Raya/Lyra): A lioness who would later be Leo's mate and bear him a son and daughter. She is the niece of the old mazori Specklerex and lives with him after her parents are slain by hunters. She notices things that Leo sometimes overlooks. She is always there when he needs advice, a "better nature" to calm him down in anger or impatience, a shoulder to cry on, or a warrior at his side. In the movie, Lyre falls victim to the speckled fever and slowly dies.
  • Tommy (Bucky/Tony/T.K.): A Grant's gazelle that always gets into mischief. Almost always seen wearing a straw hat, which Leo had used to appoint him Secretary of the Jungle Economy.
  • Coco (Pauley Cracker): A green 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 old mandrill, Leo's mentor. He was known as Buzara in the original manga. His name was changed to Mandy for the original anime series, but changed back to Buzara for the 1997 movie.
  • Bongo (Speedy Cheetah): One of Leo's cubhood friends (a leopard cub in the original Japanese version).
  • Pagoola (Kelly Phunt): A stubborn African Bush Elephant who never trusts humans or human culture.
  • Bubu (Claw/Jamar): A one-eyed Barbary Lion with a jagged scar on his face who 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, or shows affection toward her. This romantic interest was not in the 1989 remake.
  • Sylvester (Cassius/Shaka/Totto): A black panther working with Bubu to dethrone Leo and the white lions. He often acts as Bubu's advisor.
  • Dick (Tom): A tall, lanky hyena, almost always seen with his confederate Bo, who works with Bubu and Sylvester in their fiendish plans. Invented for the show to help provide comic relief.
  • Bo (Tab): A short, squat hyena, almost always seen with Dick, who works with Bubu and Sylvester. Invented for the show to help provide comic relief.
  • The Black Four: A group of four panther assassins with almost supernatural power to fade and manipulate their bodies in the darkness. In one episode they are summoned by Sylvester to do away with Leo. Many of their scenes were cut from the American dub, including their trademark song.
  • Kenichi (Roger Ranger): Shunsaku Ban's nephew who takes Leo in after he is washed 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.
  • Mary: A young girl who was in love with Roger Ranger, 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.
  • Dr. Mustache (Mr. Pompous): 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. Mr. Pompous 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, (AKA the Great Plague) and he is also voiced by Mike Pollock.
  • Dr. Plus: 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.
  • Dr. Minus: A member of the Science and Technology Agency who hopes to use the Moon Stone to provide a clean and potent energy source for the planet. His assistant is Mr. Lemonade.
  • Tick & Tuck: (Kenichi and Mary in the 1997 movie)
  • Mr. Lemonade: an associate of the Science and Technology Agency who seeks the Moon Stone. He, like Shunsaku Ban, is appalled at Ham Egg's actions.
  • Ham Egg (Viper Snakely/Jake): 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.
  • Kutter (Tubby): A sidekick to Ham Egg 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 rhinos.
  • Samson: A Cape buffalo who sometimes opposes Leo's ideas
  • Specklerex: An old mazori, Lyre's uncle, who 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.
  • Silvertail the Renegade: A timid Masai Lion who was rumored to be stealing village livestock [as The Great Panja did]. He is often afraid of hunters who would kill him because of this rumor. Silvertail is an old lion like Specklerex, though he is 2 years younger and lacks the leopard rosettes. He only appears in the last episode.
  • Puffyadder: A Maltese Python who once lived and ruled among humans. He is a warlock, able to cast a spell and control his victim. 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, however, he appears as a background character in later episodes.
  • Gypsy: 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.
  • Big O: A light brown mandrill who wants revenge against Dan'l. He has a special boomerang that can blind his victims with pepper for a short time. He only appears in episode 21.
  • Pop Wooly: 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.
  • Newton: 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 lycons. He only appears in episode 27.
  • Wily: 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.
  • Bella Dona: A lioness sent by Tonga to slay Leo. She tricks him into believing that she is his aunt, realizes what she did was wrong, and is forgiven. She only appears in one episode.
  • The Shimera: The Shimera, also known as the Atlas Bear, is a legendary beast feared by humans and animals alike. There were once thousands, but one sow and her cub are the last. Some legends state that she steals cattle from farms. The mother shimera and her cub only appear in episode 43.
  • Fancy Prancy: A cheetah 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 Leo the Kingdom of The Great Panja was raided by over a million ants. She only appears in one episode, but her brother appears in other episodes.

Voice casts

1966 dub

  • Billie Lou Watt - Kimba, Eliza, Dodie Deer, Gypsy
  • Gilbert Mack - Coco, Mr. Pompous, Viper Snakely, Claw, Tab
  • Hal Studer - Roger Ranger
  • Ray Owens - Narrator, Dan'l Baboon, Caeser, Cassius, Tom, Stork, and Specklerex
  • Sonia Owens - Kitty, Mary, Mammoth, Bella Donna

1993 dub

  • Yvonne Murray - Kimba



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: Susumu Leo! (Jungle Emperor: Onward, Leo!) airs in Japan. Features Leo (Kimba) as an adult.
  • 1967 — Jungle 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 the Seibu Lions (current Saitama Seibu Lions) baseball team.
  • 1984 — Jungle 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 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.
  • 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 Jungle 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. It features the voice of Brad Swaile as Kimba.
  • 2003 — The 1997 Jungle Emperor 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.
  • 2009 — A TV premiere was on air in Summer 2009. The movie bears almost no resemblance to the TV shows or the manga it was based on. The settings were be based on 20XX Earth in an artificially created jungle. 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.[6]


  • 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
  • Soldier 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


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 began to notice that certain characters and situations 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. Disney has stated that the similarities are all coincidental.[7]

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.[8][9][10][11] "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."[12]


Comparison of Kimba the White Lion and The Lion King on Pride Rock. Left: Panja, right: Mufasa.

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.[citation needed] Tezuka then asked for and got the license to adapt Disney's Bambi into a manga. 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.[citation needed] It was said that an animated film of Kimba the white lion was planned but later scrapped.[citation needed]

The controversy has been referenced in a number of national newspapers in the United States, including a June 2007 Los Angeles Times article.[13] In a 1995 episode of The Simpsons, a parody of the Lion King's Mufasa says to Lisa Simpson "You must avenge my Death, Kimba...ur, I mean Simba!"


The series uses several themes. The 1966 Japanese version uses an opening theme and a closing theme. The opening, entirely instrumental, is called "Junguru Taitei (Jungle Emperor)." The end song is "Leo and Leah´s Song". For the Japanese remake, the opening song is "Sabanna wo Koete (Past the Savanna)" sung by Ichiro Mizuki, and the ending is "Yuubae ni Nare" sung by Tomoko Tokugai. The opening song for the sequel series is "Go Ahead Onward Leo!" written by Isao Tomita and sung by Mieko Hirota.

See also


  1. Kimba the White Lion (manga) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia. Accessed on 2007-06-13.
  2. "Jungle Emperor Leo (special)". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2009-09-07. 
  4. "Kimba the White Lion: History of the original series"
  6. TAF 2009: Osamu Tezuka’s “Kimba the White Lion” to be renewed in summer 2009
  7. Hong, Peter (2002-05-19). "The Lion King/Kimba controversy". Los Angeles Times. pp. L4. Retrieved 2008-08-12. 
  8. Peter Schweizer and Rochelle Schweizer, "Disney: The Mouse Betrayed", pp. 167-168.
  9. Trish Ledoux and Doug Ranney, "The Complete Anime Guide: Japanese Animation Video Directory and Resource Guide", p. 16.
  10. Buress, Charles. "Uproar Over 'The Lion King'", The San Francisco Chronicle, July 11, 1994, pp. A1, A13.
  11. "Did Japanese Animator Inspire 'Lion King'?", The Washington Times, July 15, 1994, p. C15.
  12. Arar, Yardena. (June 12, 1994) Los Angeles Daily News "Disney expands on animation tradition with 'Lion King'" Section: L.A. Life. Page L4.
  13. Ybarra, Michael J. (June 6, 2007) Los Angeles Times "Osamu Tezuka has been called Japan's Walt Disney. But his drawings aren't happy fantasies." Section: Calendar; Page 1

Further reading

External links

ar:كيمبا الأسد الأبيض ca:Kimba, el lleó blanc it:Kimba, il leone bianco nl:Kimba de Witte Leeuw no:Kimba the White Lion pt:Jungle Taitei ru:Kimba the White Lion zh:森林大帝