Alrighty, lets get down to business *rolls up sleeves*.
This is a really big topic people are extremely passionate about. For those who don't know, when the Lion King was released it was the highest grossing animated picture at the time. Alas, everyone knows that the brighter the picture the darker the negative and with great success there was great backlash (as well as a billion of horrid Lion King OCs). The backlash concerned a old franchise named 'Kimba the White Lion', and the fans of said series claimed that 'The Lion King' was a rip off of Osamu Tezuka's 'Kimba the White Lion'.
Osamu Tezuka is considered the 'God of Manga' and one of the pioneers of the anime style. So he obviously has a huge fanbase and a formidable army against Lion King's massive fanbase. There was a lot of blood shed, a lot of finger pointing and name calling...It was absolutely beautiful.
Now I am not a rabid fan of 'The Lion King'. I do love the movie don't get me wrong, but if theres something wrong in the film itself I will address it. However, I do not think 'The Lion King' ripped off Kimba the White Lion. Yes I'm the unpopular minority, but hear me out.
Now this image is the supposed 'evidence' Kimba fans use to prove that Lion King is a rip off of their beloved series. OH LOOK MUFASA IS ON A ROCK JUST LIKE PANJA! RIP OFF! KIMBA AND SIMBA SOUND SIMILAR OMG, RIP OFF!!!!
All I can say is...no. Just because the visuals look similar doesn't mean they ripped off from Kimba. We can easily debunk every single rip off claim with research and evidence. Also, keep in mind that I watched both Kimba and Lion King as a child and enjoyed them both so I'm am not biased on either side.
Firstly, the names. Simba means 'Lion' in Swahili. Since it has an actual and researched meaning, I highly doubt they switched the 'K' in Kimba around to avoid copyright infrigement.
Secondly, the lion on a rock angle and the aparation of the parent in the sky HAVE been used in other movies before. The rock angle was seen in two Disney shorts called 'Lambert the Sheepish Lion' (1951 -Before Kimba's creation) and the Social Lion. Also it has been used in dozens of movies to show how cool a character is. You can't copyright a 'rock angle' guys. The aparition of a parent was used in the successful movie 'The Land Before Time', and it also happens in the story Lion King is based on; Hamlet. Again, this is a device used in many stories so its not enough proof to be a rip off. Oh and so is dangling off a cliff, that has been seen countless of times.
I'll get to the similarity of the characters later, because thats a doozy.
Lets get to the evidence that truly proves that even if Lion King is a rip off ( which I highly doubt), you guys really shouldn't care. Why? Take a look at this.
Why hello there Bambi manga. Thats right, Osamu Tezuka adapted Disney's 'Bambi' into a manga. He asked Walt Disney permission, which means that he highly respected the Walt Disney company and took great influence from their movies. His 'Astro Boy; is similar to Pinnochio and Kimba is very similar to 'Bambi'. His style also uses large innocent eyes which are present in Disney films. Now lets take a moment and compare Kimba with Bambi, because honestly those two have more in common.
Both Bambi and Kimba have bird sidekicks, both Bambi and Kimba have a girlfriend,both had their parent killed by a human, and both are royalty. There is also a wide animal cast in Kimba and a wide animal cast in Bambi (compared to the Lion King). Most importantly, there is human influence something that Lion King lacks completely. Oh and guess who stands on a cliff in Bambi? The great prince and Bambi himself.
It is proven that Osamu Tezuka took a lot of influence from Walt Disney and highly respected him as an artist and animator. This is clearly shown in his artwork and stories.
Now what completely debunks this 'rip off' controversy? The plot of both movies are completely different.
Kimba the White Lion is about a lion prince who has his father killed by poachers and is taught his ideals by his captured mother. Then he goes to the jungle to fight for the rights of animals and wants humans and animals to get along.
The Lion King is a coming to age story about a lion prince who wants to reclaim his throne from his evil Uncle. (a la Hamlet)
And please don't cry to me 'BUT BUT THE VILLAINS LOOK SIMILAR' because it is a known fact that hyenas and lions are enemies in the animal kingdom. Also, darker palettes usually represent evil (wrongfully so) and scarred villains are a dime a dozen. I think this is just a coincidence.
My conclusion: I believe that without Disney's influence, Osamu Tezuka wouldn't have become 'the god of manga'. So even if I'm wrong that 'The Lion King' took stylistic influence from Kimba, I still dont care. Why? Because you can't sue someone for being influenced. The movie and the tv series differ in character personalities, plot, and morals and just because they look a like doesn't mean its a full on rip off. I see it like 'Aaaah! Real Monsters' and 'Monsters Inc'. Both involve monsters and some similarities but they are completely different from each other in terms of tone, story and characters.