FERB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (13)
February 11, 2021
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite animated TV series.
KIMBA THE WHITE LION | d. EIICHI YAMAMOTO | 1965-66
Parented by the TV screen, it took a saintly talking lion cub to teach me how not to be a man. Kimba came to American television in 1966, a time when saviors were defined by sacrifice, even to the 2-year-old I was when I started watching. Once-and-future kings were the currency of the global imagination, with an era of assassinations (JFK, Patrice Lumumba) already underway. Somehow even to baby-me, the pervading atmosphere of lost paradise and stoic persistence was communicated. Never more so than in the image of Kimba, born at sea after poachers shot his regal dad and stole his mom to sell to a Western zoo, then paddling the ocean clutching a remnant of the storm-wrecked ship while the stars above form the shape of his martyred mother, fondly assuring him from heaven to survive and reclaim his homeland and heritage. With fur of unearthly white, Kimba is clearly messianic, and his birth, in the matted straw of his mom’s cage, attended by their only friends the onboard rats, might as well be a manger in Bethlehem. Making it back to Africa, Kimba works at preserving the peaceable kingdom foreseen in biblical prophecy, which his father began, leading all creatures away from being predators or prey, and trying to forge friendships with the two-legged ones.
Created as a manga by the immortal Osamu Tezuka just five years after the atomic bombings, this parable of compassion had a deep vein of urgency under the idyllic. While boys not all that older than me were burning down and dying in other jungles across Tezuka’s native Asia, Kimba was tending his into an Eden. Watching the episodes now, I pick up on the hilarious caricatures of clueless Western colonizers wandering into Kimba’s realm; I marvel at the lush painted landscapes on which the cameras of a long-ago attention-span linger. At the time, it was enough to read the white lion’s paradise as the refuge of childhood, his outsmarting of bullies and conquerors the inherent wisdom of the young against those bigger and less imaginative. This was also the underlying idea of worldwide youth movements then being dismissed as juvenile utopianism. That rejection made them in many ways a generation of orphans, cast off and forced to find their own way to shore. Kimba’s society, led by a child and governed on a maternal model, felt like a place that could and should be reached.
I don’t know if kids were less sheltered back then, or a disturbing world was just more inescapable. But Kimba’s grief, his parents’ loss, the hostility he faced and the cataclysm he came through, did not scare me away from life; this cartoon was what first taught me how to care.
FERB YOUR ENTHUSIASM: SERIES INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Miranda Mellis on STEVEN UNIVERSE | Luc Sante on TOP CAT | Peggy Nelson on PINK PANTHER | Charlie Mitchell on COWBOY BEBOP | Mimi Lipson on THE FLINTSTONES | Sam Glenn on BIG MOUTH | Mandy Keifetz on ROAD RUNNER | Ramona Lyons on SHE-RA | Holly Interlandi on DRAGON BALL Z | Max Glenn on ADVENTURE TIME | Joe Alterio on REN & STIMPY | Josh Glenn on SPEED RACER | Adam McGovern on KIMBA THE WHITE LION | Jonathan Pinchera on SAMURAI JACK | Lynn Peril on JONNY QUEST | Stephanie Burt on X-MEN THE ANIMATED SERIES and X-MEN: EVOLUTION | Elizabeth Foy Larsen on THE JETSONS | Adam Netburn on NARUTO | Madeline Ashby on AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER | Tom Nealon on TRANSFORMERS | Sara Ryan on BOJACK HORSEMAN | Michael Grasso on COSMIC CLOCK | Erin M. Routson on BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD | Deborah Wassertzug on DARIA | Lydia Millet on BOB’S BURGERS.
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