Disney plans to pull `The Lion King' and re-release in fall

IN an unprecedented move, Walt Disney Company has decided to pull the biggest film in its history, ``The Lion King,'' out of United States theaters and re-release it with a new advertising campaign during the Thanksgiving holiday, Daily Variety reported.

The animated feature has grossed more than $232 million since its June 15 release, and was most recently ranked seventh in the Top-10 films at the US box office, the paper said.

The movie will be pulled on Sept. 23 after the start of the school year, when attendance will drop off. The re-release in late November will be in holiday season and refresh it for Oscar consideration.

Daily Variety, reporting the move in its Aug. 12 edition, said overseas screenings of ``The Lion King'' would not be affected.

Disney executives were not available for comment.

Disney stock was unchanged at $43.75 on the New York Stock Exchange. Japan questions film's originality

Is Simba, star of ``The Lion King,'' related to Kimba, the leonine hero of a hit 1960s Japanese cartoon series?

Dozens of Japanese cartoonists think so. They have signed a letter of complaint to be sent to Disney this week.

And the president of a TV production company founded by Kimba's creator suggests the company was rethinking its original position that any similarity between the two projects was a form of flattery.

Earlier reports have noted the Disney film's resemblance to the TV series ``Kimba, the White Lion,'' which was shown dubbed into English in the United States beginning in 1966.

That series was inspired by a comic book called ``The Jungle Emperor,'' by the late Osamu Tezuka, sometimes called the ``Walt Disney of Japan.''

Both stories feature orphaned lion princes who lose their crowns to an evil adult lion, then reclaim their thrones. The good lions are aided by a wise old baboon and a talkative bird, while the evil lions get help from hyenas. Kimba's foe was a one-eyed lion named Claw, and Simba's a lion named Scar.

Last month, Disney declined to comment about the parallels in the story.

``The Lion King,'' which opened two weeks ago in Japan, has earned about $5.7 million so far, making it a hit by Japanese standards.

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