My opinion right after watching movie
My opinion right after watching the movie is that it is very fun. The music is enjoyable, and the jazziness of it gives it a relaxing theme, the characters are good enough, and when the plot is actually focused on, it is good. I say that because there are a few scenes that add absolutely nothing to the story. The animals carry the film instead of Mowgli. One of Walt Disney’s better films, which is good because it is the last film he was involved in for the production. Things will only go on a southward path from here on out.
The film came to be initially by the studio waning to create more animal characters…… I am not joking. Walt Disney had little to no involvement in the earlier drafts of the film (like the other 2 films, and some aspects of Sleeping Beauty). That completely changed when the mixed reviews of The Sword in the Stone poured in, disappointing Disney.
His long time friend Bill Beet was working on the story, and changed the episodic feeling in the novel. He wanted it to be about the struggles between the man and a man giving a darker feel to it. Disney did not like the idea, and demanded it to be changed, but Peet refused. After a LONG falling out in January 1964 (when Sword in the Stone was in theaters), Peet left the studio and never saw Disney again after.
Disney wasted no time in hiring new writers and told them to not read the book. Disney wanted the film to be simple and fun, making the story as simple as possible, wanting the characters to drive the film
the wrong characters. He was involved in many meetings, and had a lot of input before his death on December 15th 1966; 10 months before it was released.
They used celebrities to promote the film (ANOTHER example of this being done before Aladdin). Louis Prima, and Phil Harris were brought in the film, and were definitely used for promotion. The Beatles were going to be in the film (the eagles), but John Lennon was not feeling it, Disney felt like they would age the film (as they would have the worst breakup in a few years), and scheduling conflicts ruined the idea.
So the story starts with a baby Mowgli (Bruce Reitherman), found in a basket in the middle of the forest. He is found by Bagheera (Sebastian Cabot), who’s first instinct was to abandon him, but he could not leave the baby by himself. Bagheera is narrating the beginning of the movie, which is establishing the film being in mostly his perspective.
He takes the baby Mowgli to a wolf family (who just gave birth to 3 babies), and they have no issue with taking him in. So
3 minutes later 10 years later, he is sent away from the wolf pack because Shere Khan (George Sanders) returned, and he hates humans. Reasonable enough.
Bagheera takes it upon himself to take Mowgli to the man village, and it is revealed that Mowgli does not want that. Kaa (Sterling Holloway) tries to eat Mowgli as they sleep, but Bagheera stops it. In the next morning, Mowgli goes and joins an elephant herd with Colonel (J.Pat O Malley) and Winifred (Verna Felton’s final role before her death a day before Walt Disney’s). This scene is entirely useless, but it is a fun scene.
Bagheera finds him and they argue about the village, and here is where a formula is solved. Mowgli is gonna need to be saved from a situation, Bagheera walks out on him to only come back a minute later, and……wait a minute.
So Mowgli is walking off angry, and then bumps into Baloo (Phil Harris) who he tries to fight. Baloo laughs it off, and starts to teach him how to fight, which causes them to have fun. Bagheers returns when he hears a growl, but sees them have fun. Mowgli tells Baloo about his situation, which leads to the standout song Bear Necessities. It is explaining how you only need the simplest things to have fun, and to not worry and stress, because we only need the basics and to have fun. This only makes him want to stay in the jungle more.
During this time, Mowgli plays the D.I.D. role better than the rest of them, as he is kidnapped by monkeys, who the King Louie (Louis Prima) wants to be like. This song is nice, but entirely pointless. About the racism thing, I will let this quote from Swanpride say it for me.
So they rescue Mowgli and after he falls asleep, Bagheera tells Baloo that he has to return to the man village because Shere Khan is after him. This causes Baloo to agree with him. He tells Mowgli in the morning that he has to go to the man village, which makes the boy upset and flee.
So we encounter more filler with Bagheera warning the elephants to look out for Mowgli, and the indian boy almost getting eaten by Kaa, who is approached by Shere Khan. Mowgli manages to run away to a dark area of the jungle, and cries about how he is alone and has no one. We are introduced to the beatle-like vultures, who sing That’s What Friends are For.
Shere Khan shows up, and the most anticlimatic and boring climax happens. Khan barks around, Baloo tries to stop him, but is thrown off, and Khan, the most powerful, feared animal in the jungle chased off with a fire trunk tied to his tail -_-.
So Bagheera, Mowgli, and Baloo are gleeing off of beating Shere Khan, and it seems like Mowgli is gonna stay in the jungle, until Shanti (Darleen Carr) shows up to get water. She is singing My Own Home that establishes what Mowgli will get himself into. He has never seen a girl before, and is lured to go after her, to the chagrin of Baloo. He decides to go to the man village, and they go back to the jungle. This is a great ending.
The characters are entertaining for the most part. There are many characters that are non factors, and play an extremely small role. the main characters are not deep characters, but play their roles well, except for Mowgli.
The animation is actually really good. Though this movie made it extremely obvious that they were reusing footage of animation, I did not even really notice the Xerography. The backgrounds are so lush and detailed, and the designs and colorings for everything are nice. Certain things do change (like Ka’s designs), and the reused animation is distracting, but it is the prettiest Xerography I will probably ever see.
The music has a lot of jazz in it, but the score has an indian theme as well. The songs are very catchy, though half of them are useless (I Want To Be Like You, Elephant Song, That’s What Friends Are For is debatable). This soundtrack is kind of showing the laidback tone to the film, and it is a standout.
Reception at Release
When the film was released on October 18th, 1967, it was a HUMONGOUS success. It was unheard of to make $73 million in the box office in those days. It is the first film in the canon to make an extremely huge amount of money like this (though today, this would be an embarrassment to make this much). I think it was so successful because of the jazz songs, that attracted more adult viewers. Walt Disney’s death had something to do with it as well.
It was praised critically during release, feeling like it brought some of the magic that was not there in the previous film. People were fighting for this to be nominated for Best Picture, but an animated film would not be nominated for another 24 years.
It is one of the biggest classics in the canon, and is the 29th highest grossing film (via inflation). It was released 3 times after it’s release, and had many characters appear in their television shows in the 90s. There is also a 2002 sequel called The Jungle Book 2. Many people see this as an end of an era, and in many ways it was. A lot of the regular voice actors and crew members were retiring and dying, and there would be a slow transition through the 70s and early 80s.