Walt Disney Animation Studios Review: The Jungle Book

Walt Disney Animation Studio’s 19th feature film.

http://www.cornel1801.com/disney/Jungle-Book-1967/movie-film.html

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.

Production

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.

Story

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.

So no interaction with humans for 10 years, and has no problem standing upright. It is not like he was raised by apes like Tarzan, or learned to walk on 2 feet like Tarzan. I will leave it alone. It sucks that they automatically skip over the part with his upbringing as quick as they could, because in a way, it does give the film less substance.

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.

But it is done here better because Pinocchio is not a brat and Mowgli is.

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.

“Okay, there are some instances on this list which are very much a matter of how sensitive one is concerning stereotypes, but this one is simply nitpicking. I once saw a vid in which the movements of the dancing apes are compared to the movement of some natives in an old movie, drawing the conclusion that this is deliberate. Yeah, obviously it’s not possible that this old movie gave (inaccurately) the natives the moves of apes (as many very old movies did), and that the apes in jungle book are simply moving like the apes they are. King Louis himself is btw voiced by Swing legend Louis Prima who was, no, not black at all, his family originated from Sicilia. And you might realize something…Swing, apes swinging from tree to tree? Yeah, the choice of music is actually a small wordplay. The character is so much based on Louis Prima that Disney is still forced to pay for the use of it to his estate (which was the reason why not King Louis but his brother made an appearance in one episode of House of Mouse, supposedly the estate protested against the inclusion). There is also this white-haired ape, who acts like some sort of misunderstood classic musician. And in fact, the main reason Louis Prima got this role instead of Louis Armstrong (hidden joke aside), is because Disney wanted to avoid unfortunate implications.But the most nonsensical part of the argument is that being human like Mowgli equals being white, for the simple reason that Mowgli isn’t white in the first place. He is an Indian boy, which, I guess, qualifies him as a person of color.”

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.

I think I know the huge issue with this movie; Mowgli is just not an engaging character. Or much of a character at all. He is just a plot device who needs to be saved and everyone is fighting over. All he does is complain and mope. Just bland.

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.

There is something there. There is a plot. There is a flowing narriative, but at the same time, it feels like there is a lot of nothing. This film is really fun, and one of the easiest to go through so far in the canon. The music is good, the characters for the most part are likable, and you can get invested in the story, but there IS NOT ENOUGH. It lacks substance, and it is a product of it’s time with it’s ridiculous pop culture. It could have been a lot better than it was, and the pacing was not that good. Such a shame., It had a lot of potential.

Characters

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.

I think I covered most of this in the Story section. He is a plot device. Most things do not really come from his perspective, and is something to fight over and to protect. And when we do see him, he is complaining about not getting his way about getting to stay in the jungle. He is the annoying child instead of the sweet child.
He is the serious and sensible one. It is clear that he is impatient, and everything would fall apart without him. He has Mowgli’s best interest.
He is very chill and relaxed. He is very fun and likable, but he is very goofy and immature.
I think what makes hims o threatening is the way he was built up, because from what we have seen….. his defeat was more than pathetic. His voice and charisma is great though.
He is creepy, selfish and a real sneak. He can be seen as a pedophile under a dirty person’s mind.

Animation

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.

Music

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.

Reception Today

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.

Final Score

Story: 6.5/10

Characters: 7/10

Animation: 8/10

Music: 8/10

29.5/40= 74%

Next Time…

Review: April 28th, 2014
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28 thoughts on “Walt Disney Animation Studios Review: The Jungle Book

    1. He’s one of my faves. Top 10 definitely. A tiger + George Sanders’ voice = AWESOMENESS! No villain can compete with Frollo, IMO, though.

      1. Well, Tony Jay has my respect for voicing two of the best villians in the canon!
        (I can just imagine Shere Khan singing ‘The world is wicked/the world is cruel’ right now)

      2. @Cestler Can you imagine Shere Khan, Scar and either Nala or Sarabi in a love triangle, with Shere Khan singing “Hellfire?”

      3. Eh, not really, Shere Khan’s not really one to get sexual desires 8D
        Actually Scar was originally going to try and get Nala to marry him for some reason, but they deemed it too dark (funny how Hunchback came out a few years later with a G rating). There are shades of this in the Broadway adaption, though it’s downplayed.

  1. I’d have to agree with most of this review. The animation can be a bit iffy for me at points, but it’s still good. Overall, this is one of my favorite films in the canon. The songs are fantastic, the characters are memorable, and I like the laid-back tone to it.

      1. Thanks. I wrote the review over a month ago for it, and while I do not necessarily bash it, it is not one that will receive positive reception. I am currently writing The Great Mouse Detective.

    1. Thank you. I don’t know if I could say it is one of my favourites. The songs definitely bring the movie up by a lot, and the laid-back tone to it really works. Have you ever thought about making a blog on your own?

      1. I’m probably going to start around the summertime, so I’ll have more time when school’s out.

  2. What a coincidence! I just watched this movie today. I have the impression thar I watched it at least one time before, but I didn’t remember anything from it apart the wolf meeting (and the My Own Home scene, which I had seen in Youtube). I liked it much more than I thought I would. I suspect Baloo and Bagheera are the protagonists rather than Mowgli. There is some filler, though I didn’t notice it, prolly because it was my first time (supposedly) watching it. My guess is that they are there mainly to showcase Shere Khan’s character and make him seem more frightening and caluculative. I thought the animation was good, it had charm, though I prefer by far the sketchier look of 101 Dalmatians, which I saw yesterday.

    It’s a pity that this was Verna Felton’s last movie: she’s probably my favorite Disney voice actress. Oddly enough, “The Bare Necessities” ended up being my least favorite song. Ah, and I thought the scene with Shanti seducing Mogli into going to the village was quite daring.

    1. Why is Bare Necessities your least favourite song?

      I have watched this film many times before, so maybe that is why I know when filler in this movie is taking place. When I am watching a movie to review it, I am in a different mind state, and I think of why certain things are said, done, and I am really looking for more detail to make the review more legit.

      It is a weird coincidence that you watched this film today, so it is literally fresh on your mind. Now that I think about it today (this review was written 2 months ago), I can definitely see Bagheera and Baloo as the protagonists instead of the plot device known as Mowgli. Shanti seducing Mowgli was daring for many reasons. One is that they are little children, and two, it is a film in the 1960s.

      1. Bare Necessities is my least favorite song just because it is. I like it, but it’s a bit repetitive and it lacks life. I prefer the others.

        Things in Fanpop are ok. Well, Maisie (MacytheStrange) left and it was all my fault, because I was being stubborn and stupid about something. TheFabulousFan, now known as BeautifulBeast, is worse than ever. She is a despicable human being, no joke. There are some good new users: Diazdiaz95 and Onyxis, for example. But there is still certain new users who annoy me. Well, I guess it’s not as bad as it can be.

        I watched The Aristocats yesterday. I was already thinking about it anyway, and your future review gave me a push.

      2. I am sad that MacyTheStrange left. It is a circle of life on the internet; out with the old, in with the new. I am glad you are looking forward to my Aristocats review.

  3. Question: after Disney films, which studio r u planning on doing next? The only 2 animation studios I know that have as amazing qualities as Disney r Pixar and Ghibli. R u gonna review those as well?

    1. Disneytoons Studios, which won’t be until next year. I am pushing back Pixar more and more because there are a lack of films that I can bash, and by the time I do get to Pixar, there are a bit more films that I can review. I am probably going to do them right after Disneytoons is done.

      I never thought about reviewing Ghibli films, but I will probably end up doing it eventually. Thanks for the idea.

      1. Wow. I never actually thought someone would pay attention to DosneyToon Studios lol! I will read every review of that! Love to see ur opinions on the Disney studio with the worst reputation. 😀 tho I like all their films after Lasseter took charge, since they aren’t as bad imo.

        And I agree. Its hard to bash Pixar except for Car franchise and several others. Their films r pretty consistent in quality during the 2000s.

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