The life and adventures of Leo the white lion (The Jungle Emperor) and his family and their adventures in the harsh environments of jungles, deserts, mountains and valleys of Africa and ...
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The life and adventures of Leo the white lion (The Jungle Emperor) and his family and their adventures in the harsh environments of jungles, deserts, mountains and valleys of Africa and their struggle to keep law and order, to maintain peace between animals and their trials to protect their realm from invading animals, greedy hunters and even from the natural disasters
"Leo the Lion" - unsung follow-up to "Kimba the White Lion"
"Leo the Lion" is the American title given to "Jungle Taitei Susume Leo!" (Jungle Emperor Onward Leo!), the 1966 follow-up to "Jungle Taitei," the 1965 series shown in the United States as "Kimba, the White Lion," one of Japan's first animated series in color. Both series were adapted from Osamu Tezuka's pioneering 1950 manga (comic book) about a white lion cub who grows up (in the course of the manga's four-year run) to become a firm, but benevolent, king of the jungle. For the first TV season, Tezuka and his director, Eiichi Yamamoto, had to work with NBC, an American TV network, and keep Leo/Kimba a cub throughout and cut down on the violence, drama and death which were an integral part of the epic tale of one lion's calling to unite the animals of the jungle to live in peace and harmony and keep out greedy humans.
For this second season, Tezuka and Yamamoto worked on their own, without NBC's input, and depicted Leo reaching adulthood and having all the adventures previously featured in the manga. It was a much more dramatic series with less comic relief involving Leo's baboon, parrot and gazelle sidekicks and more interaction with malevolent lion rivals and rifle-toting humans. There were many passages of stark imagery with an expressionistic use of color distinguished by jagged lines, bold splashes and occasional abstract designs. All the action was accompanied by a stirring and unpredictable music score by Isao Tomita.
The stories were often quite compelling. When Leo and his wife Liya give birth to their cubs, Rune (a dead ringer for Kimba) and Rukyo, the lion king displays a penchant for tough love as he takes the timid Rune far out into the wild and orders him to return home alone and face any obstacles on his own. Another episode has Leo and his family help an African warrior and his young son, the last of their tribe, as they elude their enemies. Throughout the series, there are violence, death and animals eating other animals, elements that were all forced out of the first "Kimba" season by NBC.
Unfortunately, Americans have had few opportunities to see this second series. NBC rejected it out of hand when they weren't consulted on its content and it eventually saw TV release in the U.S. only on the cable channel, Christian Broadcasting Network, in 1984. Eight episodes were released on home video under the title, LEO THE LION. These episodes were edited somewhat but had much more dramatic content than was seen on "Kimba." However, these home video versions are undermined by one of the worst soundtrack jobs ever cranked out, with terrible voice dubbing, poor quality sound recording and a minimum of sound effects. At least Tomita's original score is intact.
If you can find these Leo episodes anywhere, they're worth getting because you get to see some of Tezuka's work at least partly in the way it was intended. The storylines used for this series were later adapted for a feature-length theatrical film, JUNGLE EMPEROR LEO (JANGURU TAITEI, 1997), which is also reviewed on this site. Anime fans should also try and locate the original "Kimba the White Lion" episodes (English dubbed version) that have been released on tape in the U.S., but please don't confuse them with "The New Adventures of Kimba the White Lion," a later series, or "Kimba the Lion Prince," badly redubbed and reedited versions of some of the first "Kimba" episodes. Try not to confuse them with Disney's THE LION KING either, a mistake for which one can easily be forgiven.
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