Every artist in every field, (at least if your work is in the refined senses as opposed to the vulgar senses, (chefs, prostitutes and the like) will always owe a debt to another artist that came before him.
There is no shame in this. And the more admirable artist will nod in sagacious wisdom and embrace the fact that his work is acknowledged as being the inspiration for a successor work. After all, someone else inspired him first and some element of that forefather’s work found it’s way into his art as well.
The less admirable, the late Harlan Ellison leaps instantly to mind, will scream to the rafters about any aspect of his one damn episode of the Outer Limits being kinda sorta used as a very basic plot device in The Terminator.
But in truth, I can appreciate where Harlan came from. Seeing someone else make millions off of a plot that you came up with but everyone else has long since completely forgotten about is a pretty bitter pill to swallow.
However, credit where it’ due. When James Cameron got taken to court by Ellison he quietly admitted that the Outer Limits episode; Solider, inspired The Terminator. It was Cameron that handled the matter with class*.
What James Cameron didn’t do was send an Infringement Letter to anyone trying to broadcast that episode of the Outer Limits.
Because that is exactly what Disney did to Osamu Tezuka’s company.
Not too long ago a film festival in Toronto scheduled a Kimba movie Disney, sent them a Cease and Desist letter. After twenty years, Disney still regards any mention of Osamu Tezuka’s Kimba the White Lion as a slap in the face.
When Eisner and Katzenberg** announced The Lion King, a big part of their spiel was that it was Disney’s first “all original production.” All previous Disney animated films had a clearly identified source material. Either known fairy tales or copyrighted works. Lion King was proclaimed to be a story created completely in house.
Okay, regular readers know exactly what I’m about to say next. No, it wasn’t all that original, it was based on what I call the “Osiris Monomyth,” Although credit where it’s due, the production team claimed that Hamlett and Moses being driven into the desert were part of the inspiration.
And just to be clear from story standpoint, Kimba doesn’t resemble The Lion King in the least. Kimba was the son of a lion who was a king in Africa and there the resemblance in stories stops cold. Kimba’s father hunted human livestock and was hunted down himself and killed for that. Kimba and his mother were trapped and sent by ship to America. The bars of the cage were small enough in one spot for Kimba to escape, so his mother urged him to do so. Kimba didn’t want to but then the ship sank. Kimba could escape drowning but his mother could not. He is left plaintively calling out, “Mother? Mother!”***
He gets back to Africa has many adventures, gains friends and finally challenges and defeats the lion who has taken over his father’s kingdom. That lion, was not an uncle.
So what is the problem? You ask.
Kimba’s enemy looked like this:
The visual similarities don’t end there.
The Lion King was produced in the middle Disney Animation’s most chaotic period with one movie a year being produced when it used to take three or four. I honestly, believe that the artwork’s resemblance to Kimba’s wasn’t so much deliberate policy as it was lower level animators taking the path of least resistance in order to meet a deadline. Upper levels didn’t catch them at it because they were the wrong age to have seen Kimba growing up.
Tezuka’s studio at first took the high road and said, they were pleased to have been part of the inspiration for the Lion King.
Disney as is well known took the low road and proclaimed that Simba, Scar and company were wholly original creations and owe nothing to nobody, nowhere. They nailed their colors to the mast on that one and have stood by it ever since.
And you could completely get away with that in a world without the internet. Today, that bullshit story would be shot down by the second Reddit. But it’s too late for Disney to change direction now, they have long since overcommitted themselves to this sleazy course of action.
There is however, a new “live action” version of The Lion King coming out soon. I am more than reasonably certain that Tezuka’s studio will want no credit for inspiring this thing whatsoever.
Okay, I’m done here.
*Although now that I think about it, while the first Terminator film, really didn’t resemble Solider all that much, Terminator II damn well did. The money he had to pay to Ellison for the first movie was a pittance compared to what he would have had to have paid for the second.
** Hold off on the (((…))) comments. I’m kind of maxed out on them.
*** Yep, just like Bambi, the difference being Tezuka freely and proudly admitted what inspired him.