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Is ‘The Lion King’ Plagiarized? Disney Faces Accusations of Stealing Story from Japanese Cartoon

Critics say the beloved Disney film is a rip-off of a 1960s Japanese anime.

Youtube/Alli Kat

The Lion King has long been considered one of Disney’s best creations. Aside from box office success, Walt Disney Pictures has taken pride in their original storyline that continues to capture so many hearts. Now, with the release of the live-action remake, decades-old plagiarism claims are resurfacing.

Upon the film’s original release in 1994, critics pointed out the similarities to Kimba the White Lion, a 1960s Japanese anime series created by Osamu Tezuka. It’s safe to assume that Disney creators were similar with Tezuka, given that his cartoon The Jungle Emperor was commissioned by NBC and aired in syndication through the 1980s. Tezuka is even often referred to as the “Walt Disney of Japan.”

There are certainly some undeniable similarities between The Lion King and Kimba the White Lion. Both stories four on a young lion cub in Africa whose father is murdered and both have similar villain characters: The Lion King‘s is an evil lion named Scar, and Kimba‘s is an evil lion named Claw. Many have also compiled shot by shot comparisons of the two animations, showing the similarities in color and composition.

Hollywood Reporter reports that in 1994, journalists at The Los Angeles times confronted Disney about the claims, to which they said they had “never heard” of the Kimba series. “Frankly, I’m not familiar with [the TV series],” co-director Rob Minkoff told the Times. “I know for a fact that [Kimba] has never been discussed as long as I’ve been on the project.”

It’s almost impossible to know for sure if these claims have any merit, but even if so, it’s unlikely that anything will come of it. After all, the original Lion King came out over 25 years ago and Disney has yet to face any legal ramifications. It’s really hard to imagine that changing now. Still, it does bring up questions about how original of a story one of the most beloved Disney movies really is.