Kimba, The White LionBy Fred Ladd, Original U.S. Director of Kimba, the White Lion, 2006
Having created the greatest Japanese comic icon ever (Tetsuwan Atom, known in the U.S. as Astro Boy), Toyko-based artist Osamu Tezuka felt that he could top that success with the creation of a white lion cub that he called Jungulu Taitei Leo (Jungle Emperor Leo). Leo was the son of Panja, an intelligent and mighty white lion, who was acknowledged far and wide as the King of the jungle. Panja believed in fairness, in equal justice for all, and mutual respect among all animals in his domain. Tragically, Panja was shot and killed by heartless human poachers, leaving his son (Leo) to carry on the work of reforming the bloody, violent Law of the Jungle.
This was the concept Tezuka pitched to Japan's Fuji Television Network. Fuji TV agreed to underwrite and broadcast the series, just as they had previously done with Tezuka's previous smash hit, Tetsuwan Atom, but under two conditions: 1) Tezuka would have to shoot in color because, in 1965, Fuji Network was converting from black-and-white to colorcasting, and 2) because the projected budget for Leo was substantially higher than that of Tetsuwan Atom, Tezuka would have to find financing from another source. Presumably, this source would be America's NBC Enterprises, which had distributed Tezuka's Tetsuwan Atom under the name Astro Boy worldwide.
Those two conditions posed a huge problem for Osamu Tezuka and his Mushi Production studio. NBC, like Fuji TV, liked the concept of the series (in Astro Boy they had seen another Pinocchio, and in Leo they saw another Bambi), but NBC too demanded color, not black-and-white. Further, Tezuka would have to amend his original concept of the series to keep Leo always a little white lion cub.
Having no choice, Osamu Tezuka relented and agreed to both conditions. In late summer of 1965, the first episode of Jungle Emperor Leo arrived in NBC's New York City office (the film cans were labeled "Go White Lion!") and the package was delivered to me to create the English adaptation.
The first thing I did, for several reasons, was change the white cub's name from Leo to the Swahili word for "lion", Simba. NBC pointed out, though, that they could not merchandise the generic word "simba", so instead we changed the cub's name to Kimba.
WORLD RENOWN AS ONE OF OSAMU TEZUKA'S GREATEST MASTERPIECES!
• Features an interview with series producer Fred Ladd
• A special "How Kimba Came to Be" booklet written by Fred Patten and Robin Leyden and includes: an Osamu Tezuka biography; Character Profi les; and much more!
• See the Original Japanese Episode 1 (with English subtitles) Deleted Scenes; the Textless English Opening; the Original English Closing; and much more!
• Original Character Art and Merchandise Galleries
• This 11 Disc DVD Box Set spans 1345 minutes and is housed in a beautiful high-quality telescopic artbox!
The actual recording of English voices began in New York in November of 1965, with the same basic cast members that had voiced key roles in Astro Boy: Billie Lou Watt, the voice of Astro Boy, was now speaking for Kimba; Cliff (Ray) Owens was reciting Dan'l Baboon's lines; and Gilbert Mack spoke for the parrot Parley Cracker. Recording was going somewhat slower than usual - not surprising, given that the actors were hammering out new voices that were to be used for a wide assortment of wild exotic animals.
Then, suddenly, all the lights went out! The studio was plunged into total darkness! The date was November 9, 1965 - the day of the great power failure on the eastern seaboard! Somehow, all of us managed to return to our homes that night, half-joking that this event had better not be an omen of things to come, regarding Kimba.
As things turned out, nothing bad ever materialized. Quite the opposite. Power returned the next day, and the cast and I returned to the studio that afternoon to complete our recording. The rest is history.
NBC's production of Kimba, The White Lion, a 52-episode series in all, sold well both in the U.S. and abroad.
A full generation after its initial release, The Right Stuf International, Inc., in association with Madman Entertainment in Australia, have gone back to the original color negatives in Tokyo and made digital copies to recreate Kimba, The White Lion in high resolution. Their respective Kimba DVD sets were released in both Australia and in America in fall of 2005.
Osamu Tezuka, had he lived to see this day, would surely have been pleased.