This is a letter from Satonaka Machiko, a Japanese cartoonist. She
summarizes a controversy that was quite heated last summer. Lots of people
were surprised when they saw Lion King, because it was so similar to a film
by Tezuka Osamu, Japan's most beloved animator. Everyone was mad except
Osamu's company; they said he would have been proud to be ripped off by
An open letter from Machiko Satonaka
The attached list of signees are only a fraction of the people you have
offended with your recent production that mirrors Osamu Tezuka's 40 year
old "Jungle Emperor" comic book and the 1966 "Kimba the White Lion"
American TV animated stories. In fact , the doubts about the close
similarities between the works began within the American cartoon community.
To Japanese Mr.Tezuka's works are a national legacy. Therefore, the respect
and admiration we Japanese felt for Disney Co. is severely diminished. It
is not possible to explain the damage inflicted upon our love of this
aspect of Japanese culture.
All Japanese admired Walt Disney. I personally thank him for teaching me
how writers should keep and protect their own rights and copyrights.
Therefore, it is very disappointing to feel doubt about your "Lion King"
movie as it is presented today.
As I said in my interview with Asahi News, Tokyo News, Tokyo News, Nikkan
Gendai and Mainichi Japanese newspapers, I think the works are so similar,
it cannot be co-incidental. The International Herald Tribune reported this
fact along with the San Francisco Chronicle, Nikkan Sports, Weekly Asahi
and the Sankei News.
The basic story of a Prince cast out to return as the hero King after his
father is killed, is only the beginning of a long list parallels. There is
the eye-scarred, black maned villainous Uncle backed by hyenas, the
chattering bird friend, the wise baboon, the promotional shot of the
jutting rock, the father lion in the clouds talking to his son, the stony
wilderness habitat, insect eating carnivores,even the names Kimba and Simba
are strikingly similar. I don't need to go on.
No one is claiming the stories are identical.
However,when my observations first reached Disney I was told abruptly,
"Disney has never heard of 'Jungle Emperor' or 'Kimba, the White Lion' ".
As I said on my interview with CNN, it is with sadness and regret that we
are forced to write this letter. I feel that Mr.Tezuka's works should live
as property of the Japanese people. It is not fair to dishonour the value,
repsect and importance that the "Jungle Emperor" has for them.
I also believe that Tezuka Productions' conciliatory stance is a typical
Japanese response:avoid an embarrassing confrontation at any cost.
At least a sub-title to pay homage to Osamu Tezuka or a few lines paying
respect to the origin of the story should be included. If these lines were
to appear at the beginning of the movie then surely both Walt Disney and
Osamu Tezuka would feel satisfaction.