The Jungle Book (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1967)

What's it about? Rudyard Kipling's book gets the Disney treatment as an assortment of creatures, including Bagheera the responsible panther, Baloo the easy-living bear, Kaa the hypnotic python and Shere Khan the dangerous tiger, attempt to either protect and eat Mowgli, the little mancub raised in the jungle by wolves.


Is it any good? People think this is a film about finding your rightful place in the world, but in fact it is a sobering reminder of that moment when a bloke abandons his mates (who he has laughed and soldiered with, and who have stood by him through thick and thin) as soon as some bint flutters her eyelids at him. Happens the best of us. It's a slight tale, but an enjoyable one, thanks to some brilliant, timeless animation and wonderful characterization - Bagheera and Baloo as Mowgli's squabbling parent figures make a great double act, whilst the sneering vocals of George Sanders as the villainous Shere Khan is a marvelous piece of voice casting. But best of all, we get two of the all-time great Disney songs in here. "I Wanna Be Like You" descends into a deliriously infectious scat-off between King Louie the orang-utan and Baloo in coconut-drag, which is as funny a thing as you will ever see in the movies. And few songs can boast the sing-a-long-ability and moral message of "The Bare Necessities". Admit it, you're humming them now aren't you?


Anything else I should know? This was Walt Disney's last film - he died the day before it was completed. It was a sad end to a troubled production, which had seen Disney demand that his animators ignore the source novel and early storyboards, and replace the dark stuff with a more upbeat feel. This revamp resulted in walkouts by key Disney collaborators and called for new songs - only the Bare Necessities remained from the original planned music. But even that didn't go too smoothly. Because of their busy schedule, big band entertainers Louis Prima (King Louie) and Phil Harris (Baloo) had to record  "I Wanna Be Like You" separately. That didn't stop them improvising wildly as they ignored many of the written lyrics for some nonsensical scatting. Harris was originally supposed to simply mimic Prima's scat, but insisted on contributing his own, hence the chaotic scat-off present in the final film. Just as well it's bloody brilliant. Not to mention allegedly racist! Elsewhere, the four British-accented, mop-top vultures who croon "That's What Friends Are For" might bring to mind a certain famous Liverpudlian pop group. But shame on The Beatles, who refused to do the song, with Lennon haughtily declaring they didn't do animated stuff. This was three years before Yellow Submarine, by the way. Guess what kind of film that is?

Early Disney sketches of The Jungle Book characters,
including Rocky the Rhino who didn't make it to the final cut.
Read more about the production here

What does the Fonz think? DAYz a BONES a BAP BAP De BAbaay. Yeah, bring it home baby.





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