The Jungle Book (1967)
"The Jungle Book" was a staple of my childhood viewing material. I probably have seen this Disney movie more than any other one, with the possible exception of "Beauty and the Beast". While I really liked the fairy tale aspects of "Beauty and the Beast" (an a side note, "Beauty" was the first animated movie that became nominated for Best Picture—it lost to "The Silence of the Lambs"), "The Jungle Book" was always my favorite. Who doesn't like the bluesy, ska style music that punctuates by George Bruns score? It's probably no fun to grow up in a real jungle with spiders that can kill and snakes that will poison; but based on (the much darker) Rudyard Kipling book, "The Jungle Book" can make the lush, livid world of the jungle fun and enjoyable.
"The Jungle Book" is based in the jungles of India where Bagheera the panther finds a 'man cub' deserted. He brings the boy to a wolf family and they raise him, but Bagheera knows that eventually the man cub will have to return to the village where men live to live the rest of his life with his own kind.
The movie appears to be metaphorical for taking responsibility, but unlike so many current kid's movies, it doesn't beat you over the head with this. Mowgli, the man cub, would rather loaf around and goof off with Baloo, the bear and wants to stay in the jungle.
There's another reason why Mowgli needs to return to the village, Shere Khan the tiger has a vendetta against humans and will kill the child if he ever hears about him.
So Bagheera volunteers to take Mowgli to the village and they have many adventures along the way that include meeting the hypnotically snake, Kaa, and the man cub being kidnaped by monkeys and taken to their king, King Louie the orangutan.
The voice acting in this movie is sensational. From regular Disney collaborator, Phil Harris as Baloo to the British voices of Sebastian Cabot as Bagheera and the magnificent voice of George Sanders as Shere Khan, this movie always brings like to the characters with the perfect voice.
I loved the movie as a child but when I watched it recently I noticed a few things that I really appreciated:
Since it is sent in India, I liked the fact that most of the names of the characters aren't American-ized. The names are exotic but not too difficult to pronounce for children.
The voices go on to include Sterling Holloway (more known as Winnie the Pooh) as Kaa and Louis Prima as King Louie.
The musical numbers are fun, the more notable ones are "The Bare Necessities" and "I Wanna Be Like You".
Another thing that I didn't notice about the movie when I was younger, was the villain itself. Shere Khan doesn't enter the picture until over half of the movie is done and after that he doesn't have that many scenes. But Shere Khan is one of the better Disney villains because of those few scenes. He shares company with Scar from "The Lion King" (the similarities between Shere Khan and Scar are remarkable) and the Queen from "Snow White".
The animation itself isn't seamless and represents some of the more non-perfected Disney works like "The AristoCats" and "The Rescuers" although the story of two mice helping a little girl is on my list of the best Disney films.
I have some criteria for kid's movies. Some people say that they shouldn't be held to such high standards because they were designed for kids but I disagree. There have been magnificent movies made for kids such as "Babe", "Up", "How to Train Your Dragon" and "The Lion King" and virtually anything that Pixar does. A kid's movie needs to entertain the child and the adult. As a child I was entertained by "The Jungle Book" and I enjoyed it when I grew up, too.
Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones