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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.

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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.

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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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