Kimba was created by Tezuka Osamu, the father of manga. In Japan, it's called Jungle Emperor ( ジャングル大帝: Janguru Taitei) originated as a manga back in the 1950s and then later the little white lion became a popular , in Japan. Infact Tezuka's first color animation! Kimba went through a variety of remakes over the years:
Kimba's original name is "Leo" the name which he got back when Tezuka animated a new series called "Onward Leo" which features Kimba as an adult. This series aired in the 1970s in Japan, but was denied to be aired in the US by NBC because they felt young audiences wouldn't appreciate this version of Kimba being a parent figure. However this anime was dubbed unofficially and can be found on dvd.
Kimba was also redone in the 1980s, though Tezuka died during the making of this series, and controversy rose about the way it turned out ( see The 89 Series of Kimba for details on this), this series goes from one extreme to the other! Though most of the original fans do not really appreciate this series, this series brings on a whole new twist on Kimba as he is threated by great life and death challenges in order to protect his father's jungle.
The Leo the Lion series got it's own remake too in 1997 as a movie! The movie is a short summary of the Leo the Lion episode series, with a more realistic touch, and a smooth mix of action, adventure and drama. It is also the original intention of Tezuka Osamu. This movie of Jungle Emperor Leo is a great addition to the Kimba fans as it concludes the story of our favorite white lion.
Kimba's story is long, complicated, controversial, and often told with mistakes. I will try to keep this explaination brief but still touch on the important points.
Kimba's roots date back to 1950 in Jungle Emperor Japanese manga(comics) as written by . You might also see Tezuka's name written as last name first. Both are correct. The original white lion story is about 3 generations of white lions. Prior to 1966, only the character's Japanese names were used. Leo, Panja, Eliza, etc..
Since the name Kimba was first used in Fred Ladd's 1966 English version, I will start there. Kimba's story begins with his parents, Caesar and Snowene and some of the other supporting characters such as Dan'l Baboon, Pauley Cracker, Bucky, Dodie Deer, etc.. Snowene(Kimba's mother) is captured by big game hunters, Viper Snakely and his partner, Tubby. She will be used as bait to lure Caesar(Kimba's father) into an are where he can be easily killed. The objective is to rid the jungle of Caesar who has been stealing livestock from the local Jungle inhabitants. The local game warden sanctioned the killing of Caesar and hired Viper Snakely and Tubby to do the dirty work.
The plan was a success and Caesar was shot in front of a horrified (and pregnant) Snowene. As Caesar's life faded away, he instructed Snowene that if her unborn cub is a male, to name him Kimba. Snowene was put on a ship destined for a zoo. She gives birth on the ship and Kimba's adventures begin.
At first, Kimba seems to expect a normal, carefree childhood but Snowene tells him that he must leave the ship at once and swim for Africa to take his father's place as . Kimba is devastated at this order but his mother insists and he jumps from the ship. A storm sinks the ship and an unconcious Kimba awakens amongst the debris, confirming that is mother had no chance to survive as she was being transported aboard ship in a cage from which there was no escape.
Kimba gets swimming lessons from some fish and wins his first battle which is against a shark. A memorable scene took place at night, as Kimba swam, when the spirit of Snowene appeared in the stars to communicate a message of hope to her "little brave white lion." This scene was so emotional, some TV stations refused to air it. Later, a revised version was used that wasn't as sad. The revised version is what you will find on the DVD entitled "Go White Lion." The original (sad) version is available online and I highly recommend it.
Kimba does complete his journey back to the shores of Africa with the guidance of a swarm of colorful butterflies. 51 more adventures await young Kimba before he grows up.
-Submitted by CaptainKimba
Leo the Lion:
Kimba does grow up and 26 more episodes are recorded. Since NBC was not interested in Kimba as an adult, they were not shown in English as Kimba. They were shown as . In this part of the story, our white lion is an adult and has cubs of his own. The story concludes with a trip up a snow-covered mountain and they all live happily ever after(in that version). Now, before you get too comfortable with that nice ending, please understand that it was not what Tezuka intended. The 1997 Jungle Emperor Leo movie show the correct ending where Leo dies on the mountain. With two different endings, I wanted to know which was the correct intended ending so I asked one of my high-level Kimba show contacts and confirmed that the 1997 Jungle Emperor Leo movie ending is the intended one.
A Human Friend, or...
There are also some episodes that contradict each other. Kimba is supposed to have been raised in captivity by Roger Ranger and later released into the wild. In the episode, A Friend Indeed, Kimba is grateful to Roger Ranger for raising him. But wait, in the episode A Human Friend, Kimba is already back in the jungle and meets Roger Ranger for the first time. So, which one is correct? The best answer I have is that each episode is supposed to be it's own story and so that should not matter. Kind of confusing, isn't it? I'm going to just call that part of what makes being a Kimba fan fun. It makes you have to think.
In this episode Kimba is yelling to Speedy Cheetah to "wake up!" so they can join the other animals in cleaning the jungle on Spring cleaning day. Speedy is reluctant to wake up. Maybe because its not Speedy Cheetah that Kimba is yelling at. Kimba is yelling at Dash, the blue cheetah. Speedy is the yellow cheetah. Are we having fun yet?
-Submitted by CaptainKimba
I'm going to start by squashing a rumor that Kimba would have been named Simba if not for a soft drink named Simba that was produced in the 1960s by the Coca-Cola company. Kimba was indeed intended to be named Simba but Simba soda had nothing to do with the fact that he wasn't named that. If there is any doubt, I got my information directly from the highest source possible within the production. The real reason for not using the Simba name is a bit complicated but it was because NBC would not approve the intended Simba name.
How Kimba did get his name is an interesting story in itself. Here is the real (and confirmed) story: A co-worker at NBC had a daughter named Kim. Her nickname was Kimba. The co-worker suggested that Kimba might be a good name for the white lion cub. Initially, the idea was not liked but later was accepted.
-Submitted by CaptainKimba