The Jungle Book is a 1967 American animated film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. Released on October 18, 1967, it is the 19th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. It was inspired by the stories about the feral child Mowgli from the book of the same name by Rudyard Kipling. Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, it was the last to be produced by Walt Disney, who died during its production.
The early versions of both the screenplay and the soundtrack followed Kipling's work more closely, with a dramatic, dark, and sinister tone which Disney did not want in his family film, leading to writer Bill Peet and composer Terry Gilkyson being replaced. The casting employed famous actors and musicians Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, George Sanders and Louis Prima, as well as Disney regulars such as Sterling Holloway, and the director's son, Bruce Reitherman, as Mowgli. The Jungle Book was released to positive reviews, with much acclaim to its soundtrack, featuring five songs by the Sherman Brothers and one by Gilkyson, "The Bare Necessities". The film grossed over $73 million in the United States in its first release, and as much again from two re-releases.
Mowgli (Bruce Reitherman), an orphaned boy, is found in a basket in the deep jungles of Madhya Pradesh, India. Bagheera (Sebastian Cabot), the black panther who discovers the baby, promptly takes him to an Indian Wolf who has just had cubs. She raises him along with her own cubs and Mowgli soon becomes well acquainted with jungle life. Mowgli is shown ten years later, playing with his wolf siblings.
One night, when the wolf tribe learns that Shere Khan (George Sanders), a man-eating Bengal tiger, has returned to the jungle, they realize that Mowgli must be taken to the "man village" for his own safety. Bagheera volunteers to escort him back.
They leave that very night, but Mowgli is reluctant to leave and is determined to stay in the jungle and so both he and Bagheera settle down in a tree for the night. Unknown to Bagheera however, Mowgli is met by Kaa (Sterling Holloway), a hungry Indian Pyhon who hypnotizes Mowgli and prepares to eat him. Bagheera realizes this and stops the snake just in time, but angers Kaa into hypnotizing him as well. Luckily, Mowgli was snapped out of his trance when Bagheera intervened and pushes Kaa out of the tree, causing him to retreat vowing vengeance. The next morning, Mowgli tries to join the Indian elephant Dawn Patrol led by Hathi (J. Pat O'Malley) and his wife (Colonel Hathi's March). Bagheera finds Mowgli and they argue which results in Bagheera leaving Mowgli on his own. The boy soon meets up with a laid-back sloth bear, Baloo (Phil Harris), who shows Mowgli the fun of having a care-free life and promises to raise Mowgli himself and never take him back to the Man-Village (The Bare Necessities).
Mowgli now wants to stay in the jungle more than ever. Shortly afterwards, Baloo is tricked and outsmarted by a gang of monkeys who kidnap Mowgli and take him to their leader, King Louie (Louis Prima) the orangutan. King Louie makes a deal with Mowgli that if he tells him the secret of making fire like a human, then he will make it so he can stay in the Jungle (I Wan'na Be Like You). However, since he was not raised by humans, Mowgli doesn't know how to make fire. After some issues with Baloo's addiction to music, Mowgli is rescued from King Louie and his monkeys by Bagheera and Baloo just before King Louie's palace's crumbles to the ground.
Later that night, Bagheera and Baloo discuss why Mowgli needs to go back to the Man-Village and the dangers of what could happen if he meets Shere Khan. Reluctantly, Baloo breaks his promise to Mowgli and informs him that he needs to go to the Man-Village, but soon Mowgli runs away from them after Baloo "betrays" him. As Baloo sets off on foot in search of Mowgli, Bagheera rallies the help of Hathi and his patrol to make a search party (Colonel Hathi's (reprise)). However Shere Khan himself, who was eavesdropping on Bagheera's and Hathi's conversation is now determined to hunt and kill Mowgli himself. Meanwhile, Mowgli has encountered Kaa once again in a different tree and the hungry python exacts his revenge by hypnotizing Mowgli again, and tries to eat him (Trust in Me), but thanks to the intervention of the suspicious Shere Khan, Mowgli awakens again, tricks the snake again, and escapes.
As a storm gathers, a depressed Mowgli encounters a group of puckish but friendly vultures (J. Pat O'Malley, Digby Wolfe, Lort time Hudson and Chad Stuart), who closely resemble the Beatles, and they agree to be his friends as they too feel are outcasts, and feel that everyone has to have friends (That's What Friends Are for). Mowgli warms up to their idea of friendship, but suddenly Shere Khan appears shortly after, scaring off the Vultures and confronting Mowgli. Impressed by the boy standing up to him, Khan, for his own amusement, gives Mowgli a ten-second head start to run before impatiently finishing the countdown and chasing him when he does not flee as intended. Baloo, along with the vultures, manage to prevent Khan from attacking a fearful Mowgli, but is mauled by the tiger in the process. Lightning then strikes a tree, causing it to burn, which gives Mowgli an advantage to drive Khan away because he is afraid of fire by tying a burning branch to his tail, causing him to flee.
Bagheera then arrives to find Mowgli weeping over Baloo's sacrifice, but after a dramatic speech given by Bagheera, Baloo awakens merely knocked unconscious but still sore from the fight. Mowgli is overjoyed but Bagheera is angered by this "trick."
Bagheera and Baloo take Mowgli to the edge of the Man-Village, but Mowgli is still hesitant to go there. His mind soon changes when he is smitten by a beautiful young girl from the village who is coming down by the riverside to fetch water (My Own Home.) After noticing Mowgli, she "accidentally" drops her water pot, and Mowgli retrieves it for her and follows her into the man village, in love. Baloo is initially heartbroken but Bagheera reassures him that he did the right thing and that Mowgli is now safe in the Man-Village, where he belongs. Baloo still laments but agrees for Mowgli's safety. The two animals decide to head home both singing a reprise of The Bare Necessities.
All of the voice actors are credited in the film's credits, with the exceptions of Leo De Lyon, hall Smith, Terry-Thomas and Diby Wolfe.
Development and writing
After the The Sword in the Stone was released, storyman Bill Peet claimed to Walt Disney that "we [The animation department] can do more interesting animal characters" and suggested that Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book" would be used for the studio's next film. Walt agreed and Bill created an original treatment all by himself, with little supervision of Walt, as he had done with One Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Sword in the Stone. However, after the disappointing reaction to The Sword in the Stone, Walt Disney decided to become more involved in the story than he had been with the past two films, with his nephew Roy Disney saying that "[he] certainly influenced everything about it. (...) With Jungle Book, he obviously got hooked on the jungle and the characters that lived there."
Peet decided to follow closely the dramatic, dark, and sinister tone of Kipling's book, which is about the struggles between animals and man. However, the writer decided make the story more straightforward, as the novel is very episodic, with Mowgli going back and forth from the jungle to the man village, and Peet felt that Mowgli returning to the man village should be the ending for the film. Following suggestions, Peet also created two original characters: Shanti, the human girl for which Mowgli falls, as the animators considered that falling in love would be the best excuse for Mowgli to leave the jungle; and Louie, king of the monkeys. Louie was less comical character, enslaving Mowgli trying to get the boy to teach him to make fire. The orangutan would also show a plot point borrowed from The Second Jungle Book, gold and jewels under his ruins - after Mowgli got to the man village, a poacher would drag the boy back to the ruins in search for the treasure. Disney was not pleased with how the story was turning out, as he felt it was too dark for family viewing and insisted on script changes. Peet refused, and after a long argument, Peet left the Disney studio in January 1964.
Disney then assigned Larry Clemmons as his new writer and one of the four story men for the film, giving Clemmons a copy of Kipling's book, and telling him: "The first thing I want you to do is not to read it." Clemmons still looked at the novel, and thought it was too disjointed and without continuity, needing adaptations to fit a film script. Clemmons wanted to start in media res, with some flashbacks afterwards, but then Disney said to focus on doing the storyline more straight - "Let's do the meat of the picture. Let's estabilish the characters. Let's have fun with it.". Although much of Bill Peet's work was discarded, the personalities of the characters remained in the final film. This was because Disney felt that the story should be kept simple he and that the characters should drive the story. Disney took an active role in the story meetings, acting out each role and helping to explore the emotions of the characters, help create gags and develop emotional sequences. Clemmons would write a rough script with an outline for most sequences. The story artists then discussed how to fill the scenes, including the comedic gags to employ. The script also tried to incorporate how the voice actors molded their characters and interacted with each other.
The Jungle Book also marks the last animated film from the company to have Walt's personal touches, before his death on December 15, 1966.
"In The Jungle Book we tried to incorporate the personalities of the actors that do the voices into the cartoon characters and we came up with something totally different. When Phil harris did the voice of Baloo, he gave it a bubble of life. We didn't coach him, just let it happen." – Wolfgang Reitherman
Many familiar voices inspired the animators in their creation of the characters and helped them shape their personalities. This use of familiar voices for key characters was a rarity in Disney's past films. The staff was shocked to hear that a wise cracking comedian, Phil Harris was going to be in a Kipling film. Disney suggested Harris after meeting him at a party. Harris improvised most of his lines, as he considered the scripted lines "didn't feel natural". After Harris was cast, Disneyland Records president Jimmy Johnson suggested Disney to get Louie Prima as King Louie, as he "felt that Louis would be great as foil". Walt also cast other famous actors such as George Sanders as Shere Khan and Sebastian Cabot as Bagheera. Additionally, he cast regular Disney voices such as Sterling Holloway as Kaa, J. Pat O'Malley as Colonel Hathi and Buzzie the Vulture and Verna Felton as Hathi's wife. This was her last film before she died. David Bailey was originally cast as Mowgli, but his voice changed during production, leading Bailey to not fit the "young innocence of Mowgli's character" which the producers were aiming at anymore. Thus director Wolfgang Reitherman cast his son Bruce, who had just voiced Christopher Robin in Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree. The animators shot footage of Bruce as a guide for the character's performance. Child actress Darlene Carr was going around singing in the studio when composers Sherman Brothers asked her to record a demo of Shanti's song "My Own Home". Carr's performance impressed Disney enough for him to cast her as Shanti.
In the original book, the vultures are grim and evil characters who feast on the dead. Disney lightened it up by having the vultures bearing a physical and vocal resemblance to The Beatles, including the signature mop-top haircut. It was also planned to have the members of the band to both voice the characters and sing their song, . However, scheduling conflicts, added to John Lennon reacting badly, lead to the idea being discarded. The casting of the vultures still brought a British Invasion musician, Chad Stuart of the duo Chad & Jermy. In earlier drafts of the scene the vultures had a near-sighted Rhinoceros friend named Rocky, who was to be voiced by Frank Fontaine, however Walt decided to cut the character for feeling that the film had already much action with the monkeys and vultures
While many of the later Disney feature films had animators being responsible for single characters, in The Jungle Book the animators were in charge of whole sequences, since many have characters interacting with one another. The animation was done by xerography, with character design, lead by Ken Anderson, employing rough, artistic edges in contrast to the round animals seen in productions such as Dumbo. Anderson also decided to make Shere Khan resemble his voice actor, George Sanders. Backgrounds were hand-painted - with exception of the waterfall, mostly consisting of footage of the Angel Falls - and sometimes scenery was used in both foreground and bottom to create a notion of depth. Following one of Reitherman's trademarks of reusing animation of his previous films, the wolf cubs are based on dogs from 101 Dalmatians. Animator Milt Kahl based Bagheera and Shere Kahn's movements on live-action felines, which he saw in two Disney productions, A Tiger Walks and the "Jungle Cat" episode of True-Life Adventures. Baloo was also based on footage of bears, even incorporating the animal's penchant for scratching. Since Kaa has no limbs, its design received big expressive eyes, and parts of Kaa's body did the action that normally would be done with hands. The monkeys' dance during "I Wan'na Be Like You" was partially inspired by a performance Louis Prima did with his band at Disney's soundstage to convince Walt Disney to cast him.
The instrumental music was written by George Burns and orchestrated by Walter Sheets. Two of the cues were reused from previous Disney films, with the scene where Mowgli wakes up after escaping King Louie using one of Bruns' themes for Sleeping Beauty, and Bagheera giving a eulogy to Baloo when he mistakenly thinks the bear was killed by Shere Khan being accompanied by Paul J. Smith's organ score from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
The score features eight original songs:
Longtime Disney collaborator Terry Gilkyson was brought in to write the songs for the film. Gilkyson delivered several complete songs, but Walt Disney felt that his efforts were too dark. The Sherman Brothers were brought in to do a complete rewrite, on the condition that they not read Rudyard Kipling's book. The only piece of Gilkyson's work which survived to the final film was his upbeat tune "The Bare Necessities", which was liked by the rest of the film crew. In one of his first union jobs, famed songwriter Van Dyke Parks arranged the version of "Necessities" heard in the film.
Walt Disney asked the Shermans to "find scary places and write fun songs" for their compositions, and frequently brought them to storyline sessions. The duo decided to do songs that fit in the story and advanced the plot instead of being interruptive. The song "Trust in Me" is based upon a song entitled "Land of Sand" which had been written by the Sherman Brothers for, but not used in, Mary Poppins.
Part of "Bare Necessities" was remixed for the theme song of its short-lived 1990s TV spin-off, Jungle Cubs.
"We're Your Friends" was originally conceived as a rock and roll song, sung by the quartet of vultures. The vultures were even designed based on The Beatles, with moptop haircuts and Liverpudlian accents, and would be voiced by the band, which did not come into fruition due to problems with their schedule. During production Disney decided the 60's style rock would cause the song to be considered dated later, leading "We're Your Friends" to be changed to the barbershop quartet that appears in the film. One of The Mellomen's members, Bill Lee, sang as Shere Khan during recording of the song because George Sanders was unavailable, and can be heard in the soundtrack. However, during the film all singing was done live and Khan's singing was provided by Sanders himself.
On Classic Disney: 60 Years of Musical Magic, this includes "Colonel Hathi's Colonel March" on the red disc, "The Bare Necessities" on the blue disc, "I Wanna Be Like You" and "Trust in Me" on the green disc, "That's What Friends Are For" on the purple disc, and "My Own Home" on the orange disc.
The Disney's Greatest Hits collection includes the song "I Wanna Be Like You" on the blue disc and "The Bare Necessities" on the green disc.
All of the below songs were the original songs by Terry Gilkyson.
Release and reception
The Jungle Book was released in October 1967, just 10 months after Walt's death. Some copies were in a double feature with Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar. The film was a success, earning $73 million in just its domestic release, mostly due to the popularity of its musical numbers. The film was re-released theatrically in North America three times, 1978, 1984, and 1990, and also in Europe throughout the 1980s. The total gross is $141 million in the United States and $205 million worldwide. The North American total, after adjustments for inflation, is estimated to be the 29th highest grossing film of all time in the United States.
The Jungle Book was released in the United States on VHS in 1991 as part of the Walt Disney Classics product line, and in 1997 as part of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection for the film's 30th anniversary. A Limited Issue DVD was released by Buena Vista Home Entertainment in 1999. The film was released once again as a 2-disc Platinum Edition DVD on October 2, 2007 to commemorate its 40th anniversary. The Platinum DVD was put on moratorium in 2010.
The Jungle Book received an outpouring of positive reviews, undoubtedly influenced by a nostalgic reaction to the passing of Walt. Time noted that the film strayed far from the Kipling stories, but "the result is thoroughly delightful...it is the happiest possible way to remember Walt Disney." The New York Times called in "a perfectly dandy cartoon feature," and Life magazine referred to it as "the best thing of its kind since Dumbo, another short, bright, unscary and blessedly uncultivated cartoon."
Some negative reviews came from Judith Crist, who said the film was "devoid of mood or atmosphere." Variety's review was generally positive, but they stated that "the story development is restrained" and that younger audiences "may squirm at times."
The song "The Bare Necessities" was nominated for Best Song at the 40th Academy Awards, losing to "Talk to the Animals" from Doctor Dolittle. Academy of Motion Picture arts and Sciences Gregory Peck lobbied extensively for this film to be nominated for Best Picture, but was unsuccessful.
In 1968, Disneyland Records released the album More Jungle Book, an unofficial sequel also written by screenwriter Larry Simmons, which continued the story of the film, and included Phil Harris and Louis Prima voicing their film roles. In the record, Baloo (Harris) is missing Mowgli (Ginny Tyler), so he teams up with King Louie (Prima) and Bagheera (Dal McKennon) to take him from the man village. On February 14, 2003, DisneyToon Studios in Australia released a film sequel, The Jungle Book 2, in which Mowgli runs away from the man village to see his animal friends, unaware that Shere Khan is more determined to kill him than ever.
Elements of The Jungle Book were recycled in the later Disney feature film Robin Hood due to that film's limited budget, such as Baloo being inspiration for Little John (who not only was a bear, but also voiced by Phil Harris). In particular, the dance sequence between Baloo and King Louie was simply rotoscoped for Little John and Lady Cluck's dance.
Many characters appear in the 1990-91 animated series TaleSpin. Between 1996 and 1998, the TV series Jungle Cubs told the stories of Baloo, Hahti, Bagheera, Louie, Kaa, and Shere Khan when they were children.
Disney later made a live-action remake of the movie, which was more of a realistic action-adventure film with somewhat-more adult themes. The film, released in 1994, differs even more from the book than its animated counterpart, but was still a box-office success. In 1998 Disney released a direct to video film entitled The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story.
There are two video games based on the film: The Jungle Book was a platformer released in 1993-4 for Master System, Mega Drive, Game Gear, Super NES, Game Boy and PC. A version for the Game Boy Advance was later released in 2003. The Jungle Book Groove Party was a dance mat game released in 2000 for PlayStation and Play Station 2. Kaa and Shere Khan have also made cameo appearances in another Disney video game, Quackshot. A world based on the film was intended to appear more than once in the Square Enix-Disney Kingdom Hearts video game series, but was omitted both times, first in the first game because it featured a similar world based on Tarzan, and second in Kingdom Hearts" Birth by Sleep, presumably due to time constraints, although areas of the world are accessible via hacking codes in the latter.
Since the movie's release, many of the film's characters appeared in House of Mouse, The Lion King 1 1/2, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Aladdin and the King of Thieves.
An artwork by British artist Banksy featuring the jungle book characters which had been commissioned by Greenpeace to help raise awareness of deforestation has gone on sale for the sum of £80,000 pounds sterling.