Disney claims they had "never heard of it"

THR reports that Disney is being accused of plagiarizing Japanese cartoon Kimba the White Lion in The Lion King.

When The Lion King was originally released in 1994, critics drew similarities to Kimba the White Lion -a 1960s Japanese anime series created by Osamu Tezuka.

Now that The Lion King has been released as a live-action remake, plagiarism claims are resurfacing.

Both cartoons feature a young lion cub in Africa whose father is murdered. In The Lion King, the lion villain is named Scar, whilst Kimba’s nemesis is called Claw.

Matthew Broderick, who voiced grown-up Simba, had even referenced Kimba when he was cast. “I thought [they] meant Kimba, who was a white lion on TV when I was a little kid. So I kept telling everyone I was going to play Kimba,” he said at the time.

Tzeuka is often referred to as the ‘Walt Disney of Japan’ and even created The Jungle Emperor for English-speaking audiences for NBC in the 1980s.

However, when journalists approached Disney in 1994 regarding the similarities between The Lion King and Tezuka anime series, Disney claimed they had “never heard of it”.

“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.”

“This is the first I’ve heard of Kimba or Tezuka. I never heard anything or saw anything about his work,” screenwriter Linda Woolverton told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Disney has not yet faced any legal consequences.