I have to admit, I had no particular expectations of being quoted in WashPo, but I was more than happy to talk to a reporter who called asking about the old Kimba the Lion and The Lion King “controversy.” You can read my thoughts and those of many other anime scholars in the article itself.
One thing I found myself pointing out was that the structure of IP law, which is currently very much a binary original/derivative, property/theft model, doesn’t fit very well with how influence and creativity actually work. And it is increasingly out of step with the remix model of creativity that prevails in the postmodern era. I found myself wanting to argue that the quotations from Kimba in The Lion King are more like sampling than “copying”–I’m not even sure that’s true, but I do know that Tezuka did the same thing in reverse, quoting shots from the Disney animated films of the 1950s in his manga of the time. In any case, if The Lion King quotes Kimba on an artistic level, it’s quoting Hamlet on a story level, and the question of “originality” is wildly overblown. (There’s a particular irony in the controversy being revived in the context of the 2019 movie, which is virtually a shot-for-shot remake. A shame, since Jon Favreau can be a very good director when he has actual creative freedom.) (You knew this next pun was coming.) Creativity has its own circle of life.