Spring was well on its way here in Chicago, and then it got a bit cold, and then it got warm again. Then it got cold, and rainy, and then it got warm again. And then it snowed a bit and rained and got warm again. It’s been a confusing time for all of us. To help shake off the funk of shifting from winter to spring, we hit the road for the humid tropical climes of India with this total favorite from the Disney archive. It’s also topical because the second live action remake of this particular film hits movie theaters on April 15th! That’s this Friday!!!
The Fella and I were joined this time around by our best bud and roommate Bill, who is (in many ways) Baloo personified.
The Film: The Jungle Book (1967)
- This was the last animated film Walt worked on, as he died in 1966. As many wondered what would become of the company without him, if The Jungle Book had failed at the box office, the studio would likely have closed down for good. Luckily, it did very very well, and the studio and animators continued to work.
- Based on the novel The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.
- The Vultures in the film are famously modeled after The Beatles – and the band was approached to provide their voices but John Lennon vetoed the idea and suggested Disney get Elvis Presley instead. Walt maintained that the design for the Vultures stay the same – and their song was re-written to be more of a timeless barbershop quartet.
- All of the jazz scatting in the film is improv’d by Louis Prima and Phil Harris.
- The voice of Mowgli is provided by Bruce Reitherman, son of producer and director Wolfgang Reitherman.
- At one point, Colonel Hathi’s wife threatens to take control of the herd – ironically, in real life, elephants are a matriarchal species and she should be leading by default.
- Reportedly, Rudyard Kipling’s daughter Elsie stated that the name Mowgli is pronounced “mau-gli” (as in rhyming with “cow”) and she never forgave Disney for mucking that up.
- “The Bare Necessities” shares the same philosophy as The Lion King’s “Hakuna Matata” — “Forget about your worries/and your strife” & “It means no worries/For the rest of your days” are pretty much the same lyrics.
- Kaa the snake is Mowgli’s friend and protector in the original book. Walt felt that audiences would not accept a snake as anything but a villain. Kaa is the only villain voiced by Sterling Holloway (not counting the chaotic neutral Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland).
- George Sanders, voice of Shere Khan, became the first Oscar winner to perform a voice role in a Disney film.
- In 1994, Disney released a live action non-musical remake of The Jungle Book which did reasonably well, but was puzzled over for keeping the story and spirit of Kipling’s original work even less than the 1967 animated version had.
Into the Jungle we go…
- Ah yes, Ye Olde Booke…of the Jungle!
- This is where we really start to see recycled cells of animation – Jungle Book is really a hub for it. We see bits of 101 Dalmatians and Sword in the Stone here, but later on we’ll see bits of Jungle Book throughout Robin Hood, The Rescuers, and others.
- I was always jealous that not only was Mowgli raised by wolves (frickin’ cool) but he is the most flexible, agile, bendy human I’ve ever seen. (The Fella: “Well he does a lot of yoga…”)
- Baloo is the same character as Little John later in Robin Hood. Same bear, same voice, same mannerisms – he even calls people “Little Britches.” They were just like “Ah, screw it, we’ve got Phil Harris again, let’s just have it be Baloo 2.0!”
- Bill: “I feel like Baloo’s skill in a D&D game is just pure dumb luck. He rolls really well. Like, ‘I want to break a coconut on my head.’ Natural 20. ‘I want to make a sandwich out of prickly pears and swallow it whole.’ Natural 20.”
- Me: “YES. Goodness. He’s like ‘I’m going to scratch my whole body on these trees and this rock.’ Natural 20 – crit. NAILED that back scratch.”
- But the minute the monkeys get involved, Baloo’s luck runs out and he starts rolling 1’s – which is why he gets pelted with fruit.
- Anytime anyone says ‘Shere Khan’ I imagine the Law & Order noise. SHUN DUN.
- It’s interesting how Mowgli’s voice (Bruce Reitherman) seems very real to a boy his age – it isn’t the perfected, polished transatlantic elocution of the child voice actors in the 1930’s and 1940’s anymore.
- UGH, Shere Khan is so sleek and civilized!!! It took him half the movie to actually show up and now that he’s here he’s even more terrifying because of how calm he is.
- So they didn’t even wait to recycle Kaa’s unraveling sequence in a different film – they put the same sequence in the same movie twice.
- Bill: “Well, I mean, John over there’s been working on that same bit of animation for like, four years now…”
- The Fella: “Yeah, I feel… I feel like we should get our money’s worth and put it in the movie again.”
- “Whatchu wanna do?” “I donno, whatchu wanna do?” THE MOST CLASSIC EVER.
- That’s what friends are for – until the biggest meanest tiger on the planet shows up and wants to eat you. Sorry, Mowgli.
- A terrifying fight with lightning and claws and a near death experience later – and Bagheera shares an incredibly overtly Biblical eulogy for Baloo… who then cries at his own funeral and isn’t dead after all YAY.
- Oh no. It’s a girl-man-cub.
- Bill: “Thiiiiiis is how they really get you. First, it’s carry the water back to the village… then there’s a kid…and alimony… maybe a pre-nup…”
- But let’s close it out with a THIRD reprise of “Bare Necessities” because the only song catchier than this is “I Wanna Be Like You.” EVERYBODY SING ALONG!
Surprise! We made you a video! 😀
Up Next: It’s not just 101 Dalmatians but with cats… it’s The Aristocats! Which is totally different. We promise.
Want more? There’s way more hilarious observations and exciting behind-the-scenes chatter… in the form of audio commentary! Consider joining me over at the Patreon – as a patron, you’ll get early access to future Disney Odyssey posts, the audio commentary for each one, fun behind the scenes updates about other projects, and even more!