Steve’s Wonderful Reviews of Disney: The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book

Release Date: October 16th, 1967

Inspiration: “The Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling

Budget: $4 million

Domestic Gross: $141 million

Worldwide Gross: $378 million

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%

IMDB Score: 7.6/10

Storyline (per IMDB): Abandoned after an accident, baby Mowgli is taken and raised by a family of wolves. As the boy grows older, the wise panther Bagheera realizes he must be returned to his own kind in the nearby man-village. Baloo the bear however thinks differently, taking the young Mowgli under his wing and teaching him that living in the jungle is the best life there is. Bagheera realizes that Mowgli is in danger, particularly from Shere Khan the tiger who hates all people. When Baloo finally comes around, Mowgli runs off into the jungle where he survives a second encounter with Kaa the snake and finally, with Shere Khan. It’s the sight of a pretty girl however that gets Mowgli to go to the nearby man-village and stay there.

Pre-Watching Thoughts: We come now to the final film the 1960s and sadly, the first film to be released following the death of Walt Disney less than a year ago. This was going to be a pretty trying time for Disney as they were now without their patriarch and were going to have to adjust to life without him. On a personal note, this was always one of my favorites growing up and it has been a long time since I had seen this version as I did see the live-action remake when it came out a few years ago. A lot of the films have held up pretty well to this point and hopefully this one does the same for me.

Voice Cast: Now in doing these recaps, the voice cast has usually been fairly balanced between actors and actresses that have appeared in these films, but this one is out of the ordinary in that we have only two actresses in this film and the majority of it are male actors. We also do have a few returns here though not that many as we have a lot of new voices though some of them will also become regulars going forward. One of those returns is Verna Felton who voices Winifred the Elephant in what ended up being a posthumous release as she had sadly passed away prior to the release of the film, and then we have the return of Sebastian Cabot who voices Bagheera the Panther as well as the narrator of the film. We then have Sterling Holloway return after a lengthy absence as he voices Kaa the Snake in a good role, and then we have J. Pat O’Malley who voices Col. Hathi the Elephant as well as Buzzie the Vulture. Finally we have Ben Wright who voices Rami the Wolf and as mentioned, a lot of the cast is relatively new and there are a few that will become regulars going forward. First we have Bruce Reitherman who voices Mowgli in what would end up being his most memorable role aside from an upcoming role, and then we have Phil Harris who voices Baloo the Bear as he would become a regular going forward for Disney. We then have Louis Prima who voices King Louie the Orangutan in what would be one of his last film roles in his career, and then we have George Sanders who voices Shere Khan the Tiger in a great role as he was natural at playing villains. We then have Clint Howard in one of his first roles as Junior the Elephant and then we have Darleen Carr in one of her first roles as she voices the human girl that Mowgli sees in the village. We then have John Abbott as Akela the Wolf in a good role and then we combine the next few as we have Chad Stuart, Tim Hudson, and Digby Wolfe who voice the remaining vultures. We also have Hal Smith and Ralph Wright voicing two of the elephants and finally we have Bill Skiles, Pete Henderson, and Leo De Lyon voicing the various monkeys under King Louie’s rule. It does seem like the number of actors that are returning does seem to be getting smaller and we will see when we get to the point where they only return to do sequels.

Hero/Prince: I strongly debated whether or not any character deserved to be included in this category especially after the last film which should’ve had one on the surface, but ultimately didn’t which was a shame. However, we do have a pair of characters that deserve a mention in this category and first is Baloo the Bear who takes Mowgli under his wing until he realizes Mowgli needs to be with his own kind which leads Mowgli to run away, but then Baloo fights Shere Khan to save Mowgli and nearly loses his life only for Mowgli and the vultures to save him in the end. We also have to give a mention to Bagheera the Panther who watches over Mowgli since he gave him to the wolves who raised him, and he is adamant about Mowgli returning to his own kind and he at one point saves Mowgli from Kaa. While they will probably not end up ranking very high amongst the other heroes and princes, they deserve some recognition for how they look after Mowgli as one of their own.

Princess: N/A

Villain: We have had some pretty memorable villains over the last few films though we did step down a bit with our last one, but we do step back up a bit here as we have Shere Khan the Tiger who returns to the jungle and makes it clear he will kill Mowgli if he finds him. He finally confronts Mowgli when he is with the vultures and he fights Baloo whom he almost kills, but he is stopped when Mowgli ties a burning branch to his tail and frightens him as he retreats into the jungle with his fate being unknown. Shere Khan is an interesting villain in that he sounds very refined and proper, but he never hides his demeanor given that he is a tiger and has no qualms of wanting to kill Mowgli. I also want to give a mention to Kaa the Snake who tries on two occasions to eat Mowgli himself only to be thwarted first by Bagheera, and then again by Shere Khan himself with Kaa being left to think of another plan. He uses hypnosis on his victims which he does to Mowgli twice and even to Bagheera at one point, but his size becomes his biggest determent as when part of him is shoved off a tree, the rest of him follows suit. While these two may not be as memorable as some of the other villains in the Disney film canon, they are good villains and work well for this film.

Other Characters: This is a film that doesn’t have a ton of characters involved, but almost all of them do play a main role in the film in some form or another whether it be a major role or a minor role. At the top we have the man-cub Mowgli who is found by Bagheera as a baby and taken to be raised by the wolves, and when he is old enough Bagheera tries to take him to the man-village though Mowgli wishes to stay in the jungle and Baloo takes him under his wing. Eventually, everyone tells Mowgli he needs to leave and he runs away before coming face-to-face with Shere Khan, but with the help of the vultures he ties a burning branch to Shere Khan’s tail and scares him off before being brough to the village by Baloo and Bagheera where he becomes smitten with a young girl and heads into the village. We then have the wolf clan that looks after Mowgli while he is growing up until it is determined that he must be taken to the man-village, and then we have the jungle patrol of elephants led by Col. Hathi and Mowgli befriends Junior which leads the elephants to search for him when Mowgli runs away. We then have King Louie and his monkeys who kidnap Mowgli under the pretense that he knows how to make fire for Louie though he ends up having his home destroyed by Baloo and Bagheera, and then we have the vultures that befriend Mowgli and help him and Baloo in fighting off Shere Khan. Finally we have the girl at the village that Mowgli quickly becomes smitten with and he leaves the jungle to follow her into the village. As I have mentioned a few times before and not to sound like a broken record, but a film like this is fine with not having a ton of characters and instead only focusing on a main few while some minor ones get some shine as well.

Songs: After the last two films which either didn’t have a lot of songs to begin with or just had songs in there to have them, this film has quite a good number of songs and pretty much almost all of them are memorable not just for the film, but in the history of the Disney film canon. Right at the top of the list is “The Bare Necessities” that Baloo and Mowgli sing and it is still one of those songs that is just fun to sing, and then we have “I Wanna Be Like You” which King Louie sings and that is another fun song to sing along with. We then have a few songs that might not be on the same level as those two, but they are still solid including “Trust in Me” which Kaa sings to Mowgli to put him under a trance and that is also pretty memorable as well. We then have “Col. Hathi’s March” that Col. Hathi and the elephants sing while on patrol which is catchy as well, and then we have “That’s What Friends Are For” that the vultures sing to Mowgli prior to the showdown with Shere Khan. Finally, we have “My Own Home” which the young girl from the village sings and Mowgli is drawn to her through that soft ballad. It is going to be interesting to see where these songs rank amongst the rest, but they are still a collection of good songs that help make the film pretty memorable.

Plot: On the surface, it would seem like Rudyard Kipling’s book would be one of the last things to be adapted into an animated film, but when it was first being adapted the original screenplay had the film resemble the book a lot more closely to the point that it was considered too dark for a family film. Eventually, while certain aspects of the film did follow the original book, there were some parts that were tweaked including the fact that it had a more linear plot as opposed to the episodic nature of the book. Much like the book, Bagheera finds Mowgli as a baby and takes him to the wolves who raise him as their own, and when he is older the wolves and Bagheera determine that Mowgli must return to his own kind lest Shere Khan finds him. Mowgli wants to stay in the jungle and befriends Baloo while avoiding being eaten by Kaa and he is kidnapped by King Louie, and finally even Baloo realizes Mowgli needs to return to his own kind and Mowgli runs away. He is found by a pack of vultures just as Shere Khan finds him and Baloo fights Shere Khan who nearly kills him, but Mowgli ties a branch that is on fire on Shere Khan’s tail and scares him back into the jungle. Mowgli is reunited with Baloo and Bagheera only to be drawn by a young girl’s singing, and he falls in love with her leading to him going to her village while Baloo and Bagheera return to the jungle. While this film does add a lot more light-heartedness to the story than the book does, it is still a good plot that sees Mowgli basically come of age and realize that his place is not in the jungle but rather with his people.

Random Watching Thoughts: I never realized that even this film had the storybook beginning; Interesting enough it says that the film was inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s “Mowgli” stories and not the actual book; I believe this is the first time where they mention who is voicing what character; For some reason, I never thought that India had any jungles; That boat looks like it had been like that for quite a long time which makes you wonder if Mowgli’s parents did survive, why did they not take him with them?; It was a good thing Bagheera didn’t follow his first impulse and walk away; It does seem random that Bagheera would take Mowgli to a family of wolves, but he explains it fine by saying they just had cubs so the mother would be more inclined to look after Mowgli; Rama didn’t need that much swaying into taking Mowgli in; So in the jungle, they tell how many years had gone by the rains; Is Shere Khan that strong that this entire pack of wolves would be unable to kill him?; Bagheera was quite up front with why Mowgli was in danger due to Shere Khan yet Mowgli believes that they can just explain that he won’t grow up to become a hunter; Mowgli made some good points about not being able to get up the tree as Bagheera assumed he would climb up it with ease; Mowgli just shoves Kaa away like he’s nothing even after Kaa called him delicious; You would think that a panther wouldn’t be afraid of a snake yet Bagheera cowers in fear of Kaa after helping Mowgli; How long was Kaa that he was so wrapped around that tree and how at any point was his tail able to get tied in a knot?; So Hathi had them march one way, turn around and march a few paces only to turn back around and come to a halt, that just seems like a waste of energy; How many other herds of elephants are there really in this jungle that the one can transfer to another one?; They all stick their trunks out and Mowgli just stands completely upright until Junior tells him to stick his nose out; Of all the military groups that are out there, there are none more prestigious than the Maharajah’s Fifth Pachyderm Brigade; There aren’t many elephants that can say they were awarded the Victoria Cross; How sharp is Hathi’s stick that he was able to slice off that elephant’s hair so easily?; So Hathi thinks that because he’s a colonel he is in charge of the jungle; Hathi says that an elephant never forgets yet in the span of a minute, he forgot about his son and then he forgot to tell the brigade to stop marching leading to an elephant pileup; That is quite the loin cloth Mowgli is wearing that Bagheera grabbed at it with all his might and yet it didn’t rip off, though obviously they won’t do that in a Disney film; Of all the names Baloo could’ve thought of, he comes up with “Little Britches” for Mowgli; Mowgli can yell as loud as he wants, but he will never match up to Baloo’s yell; He didn’t even hit Mowgli that hard, it was just the momentum that sent Mowgli into the log; Mowgli did hit a nice uppercut there on Baloo; Well of course the man-village will make a man out of him, what else would you expect Baloo?; He knocks down a whole bushel of bananas, takes one out, and then throws the rest away, talk about a waste; He makes a stack of about six or seven prickly fruits yet he is able to scoff them down his throat with no trouble at all; With all the scratching he’s doing, he better be careful or he’ll end up bleeding; Baloo is floating on that water fairly easily and not sinking a bit which you would probably expect for a bear his size; Again, another example of wasted food with what the monkeys throw at Baloo; Apparently, these monkeys are also fans of puns; It is always weird hearing the animals make their actual sounds at points during the film; I wonder what the actor who played King Louie must’ve thought when he saw the script and noticed that most of the dialogue was nonsense words; Why would an orangutan really want to be a man for?; I’ve noticed watching this that Mowgli is very easily influenced as he goes along with whoever he is with; Baloo was all ready to take Louie apart until he was taken by the beat; Those monkeys must not be too bright if they couldn’t recognize Baloo immediately even with the disguise simply because he’s a bear; One thing to note is that a few of the motions that we see here would be used throughout the next couple of films, I’m guessing it was a cost-cutting measure; I know that Louie and his crew live in ancient ruins, but they must be really ancient if they came down after knocking out just two pillars; So Baloo and Bagheera both had a black eye to the point that they could barely open them, and then in one shot they are both able to open those eyes with no pain at all; Depending on what time of night it was when the scene started, you have to wonder how many hours they were up talking when the sun came up and morning started; The way Baloo answered that question about if he would marry a panther make me wonder if he would actually marry a panther if they asked him; It is a bit odd that Bagheera would assume that Mowgli would grow up to become a hunter; You do feel bad for Baloo because he truly sees Mowgli as his son and he doesn’t want to give him up; We are over 47 minutes into the film and finally we see Shere Khan; Is it just me or this that deer that Shere Khan was hunting look suspiciously like Bambi’s mother?; I love how Hathi is so confident that Shere Khan is nowhere near in the jungle not realizing that he is mere feet away listening to them; Winifred sure put Hathi in his place in threating to taking over his post unless he finds Mowgli; Hathi tells them to take one pace forward if they want to volunteer and they all take a step back to get out of it, yet when Hathi turns around he thinks they are all trying to volunteer; I always laugh when people are leaning in to hear a whisper and then all of a sudden the person shouts and startles everyone; How long has Mowgli been walking and isn’t he getting hungry at all, or has he eaten and it was just off screen?; It just would happen that Mowgli sits under a tree where Kaa is; Mowgli says that he doesn’t trust anyone anymore so Kaa has to resort to his hypnosis to lure Mowgli in; Kind of funny seeing Kaa and Shere Khan interact and Kaa basically have to try and convince Shere Khan that he doesn’t have Mowgli; That would’ve been something if Kaa could’ve hypnotized Shere Khan, but he clearly has too strong of willpower to fall for that; Shere Khan must have hyper hearing if he could’ve heard that soft snore from Mowgli way up in the tree; We have repeated animation with Kaa being pushed out of the tree and getting his tail caught up in a knot before slithering away all bent out of shape; These are not just vultures, but they are British vultures; These vultures must not have exciting lives if they argue about just wanting to do something; These vultures definitely have some great harmony; Why would they let the shortest and roundest vulture have to be the base of their little tower?; Mowgli is either the bravest person ever or the dumbest person ever if he is willing to stand face-to-face with a tiger, but then again Shere Khan isn’t the brightest in that he doesn’t just attack him and gives him a fighting chance; Baloo tells Shere Khan to take it easy and slow down while he continues to hang onto his tail; Shere Khan really put a beating on Baloo; He takes that burning branch all the way through that grass yet somehow it doesn’t cause a massive brush fire; Bagheera gives this really heartfelt speech putting Baloo over for his courage and his sacrifice, yet Baloo shows he is still alive and sells being dead just so he can hear Bagheera put him over; The vultures started this by asking what they were going to do, they befriended Mowgli, they helped him and Baloo fight off Shere Khan, and now they finish by wondering what they would do now; Baloo says that nothing will come between him and Mowgli until Mowgli hears the girl singing; I love how Bagheera is all smiles when he sees Mowgli go to see the girl knowing that he’s going to go after her; Mowgli had never seen another human before and then he sees the girl, and he quickly falls in love with her to the point that he would carry her water jug back to the village; You know, this girl has never seen Mowgli before yet she is immediately smitten with him, it makes you wonder what she really thinks about the other boys in her village; How often would you ever see a bear and a panther walk arm-in-arm in the jungle?

Overall Thoughts: Overall, this film was one of my favorites growing up and thankfully, that hasn’t changed at all as it is thus far the best film I have watched since starting these recaps. I had mentioned during the Sleeping Beauty recap that I had that pegged as my first perfect score, but it ended up falling just a bit short while I was just hoping this one held up and instead it wound up being far better than I remembered it being. As mentioned, this was a trying time for Disney as Walt had passed away and they were not going to have to move on without him, but if the films end up like this then they will have absolutely no problems as we head into the next decade. In conclusion, this was a tremendous film and it ends up being the first film since starting this recap that gets my first perfect score.

Final Grade: 10/10

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