Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Jungle Book {1967}

{Animated Disney Film #19 of 53}

Today I'm going to be talking about The Jungle Book, which was the last animated Disney film that Walt Disney personally supervised...he died in 1966 during the production of the movie.

We owned this movie on VHS (that's how I watched it this time, too, since I haven't bought it on DVD yet), and I remember watching it a lot as a kid. It seems like my brother liked it, but I don't remember it being a favorite of mine. So I was curious to see what I would think about it now.

Well, I really loved it. :) It was even better than I remembered it being, honestly.

The Jungle Book feels different from your typical Disney films. I guess the biggest reason is because most of the previous films have an American or English feel...I mean, setting-wise. This one is set in India. So while there's definitely still an English influence (Rudyard Kipling was English, after all), it feels different somehow. Also, I think the animation style of the 60s is definitely a change from the earlier films.

This movie is just so much fun. You've got an animal story set in an Indian jungle, with jazz music and 60s pop culture references slipped in. I haven't read the book, by the way, but apparently this movie is not at all faithful to the book. According to several people connected with the film, including the writers, Walt Disney asked them to not read the book. He wanted to make it lighter and more fun instead of having the darker tone, and honestly, I like the direction they took.

The best part of The Jungle Book for me is the music. It's so random that they put jazz music in a jungle story, but I love it! It makes this movie feel firmly set in the era it was made: the 60s. The Bare Necessities was a song already written for an earlier vision of the story, but the Sherman Brothers wrote the rest of the songs. I never would have guessed that one song was written separately, because it fits in so well with the rest of the music. I love The Bare Necessities, but by far my favorite song from the movie is I Wan'na Be Like You. I have lines from that song stuck in my head all the time. :)

My other favorite part of the film, which ties in with the music, is the voice acting. While still using some of his usual voice actors (the always awesome Sterling Holloway as Kaa the python, for example), Disney also bought in several big personalities to do the major voices of the film. And even better, he let the characters be influenced by the real-life or on-screen personalities of the actors he used. Phil Harris was the inspiration and voice for Baloo the bear, and he improvised most of his lines. (P.S. I wasn't sure if there were wild bears native to India, but I looked it up and there really are!) Louis Prima did the voice of King Louie, and for his song,  they incorporated his trumpet playing and the way that members of his band would dance along in a line while playing their instruments. George Sanders, who often played suave, sophisticated villains, was the voice of Shere Khan, the smooth-talking but evil tiger. They even animated Shere Khan's face to look a little like George Sanders.

I think the voices are absolutely perfect! I love how they fit the personalities of the characters. I especially love the contrast between lazy, jazzy Baloo the bear and the prim and proper, serious Bagheera the panther (or Baggy, as Baloo likes to call him, ha).

The story is okay, but I feel like it probably wouldn't hold up as well without the amazing music and casting and characters. I don't love the end, feels sort of silly.

A couple of things that I never noticed before: the vultures are spoofs of the Beatles! When I was watching them, I was thinking...this was the 60s. The vultures have mop-top hair and accents. They have to be referencing the Beatles and the British Invasion. I had to look around online to make sure I wasn't imagining it, and it's true! Apparently at one time they were even trying to get the Beatles to do the voices of the vultures, but it ended up not working out. Also, I was somewhat surprised that Bagheera basically references the Bible towards the end ("Greater love hath no one than this, that he would lay down his life for his friend").

The Jungle Book is a pretty significant movie in the Disney animated canon, if only for the reason that it was the last one Walt was involved in. The Sword in the Stone hadn't done so well in theaters, and after Walt's death there was talk of shutting down the animation department. But this movie did so well that they didn't. And I say thank goodness for that! :)

But even more than being significant, it's just incredibly fun, with memorable songs and characters. I love and appreciate it now more than I did as a kid.

Next up on the list is one that I don't believe I've ever seen (or if I have, only parts of it): The Aristocats! :)

What do you think about The Jungle Book? Who's your favorite character? Have you ever read the book?


  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I need to watch this movie again. It's been to long!

    You've *never* seen the Aristocats? That's one of my favorites! It's especially fun if you're a cat-lover. Can't wait to see what you think!

    1. I know, I can't believe I've never seen it! And I'm definitely a cat lover, so it should be right up my alley, especially after all of the dog-themed Disney movies I've seen lately. :)

  2. Don't remember this one much. Now, whenever I see the Jungle Book, I'm just put in mind of Meryl and Maks' dance on this season of DWTS. ;)

    Aw, yay for The Aristocats being next. I watched that one ALL. THE. TIME as a kid. Hope you like it.

    1. Ha, it reminds me of their dance, too. I'm excited to see The Aristocats! :)

  3. I actually read The Jungle Book for the first time a few months ago and it was definitely very different from the movie. I enjoyed the book, but the characters will always come to my mind as portrayed by Disney. :)

    I grew up watching this all the time and never made the connection between the vulture quartet and The Beatles! Probably because I didn't know who The Beatles were, but still... Now I need to watch it again. :)

    1. I'd like to read The Jungle Book at some point, but I think I'll still prefer the film. :) Well, I didn't realize that until this time! I didn't know who the Beatles were as a kid (I'm still not into them, but of course I am familiar with them :), so I wouldn't have put it together, either.

  4. The Jungle Book was the first film I ever saw in a cinema. It must have been a re-release because I wasn't even born in 1967, but even though the theatre where I watched it now stands empty the memory of that day still burns bright.


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