Ranking Disney: #12 – The Jungle Book (1967)
Do I really need to say anything about this one?
It’s The Jungle Book.
One day the jungle cat Bagheera is walking along when he hears a baby crying. The baby is in a basket in a broken raft. Taking pity on the creature, he brings it to a family of wolves nearby (knowing it will die unless it gets nourishment immediately), who adopt the baby as one of their own.
Ten years later, the baby has grown up to be Mowgli. Bagheera watches over Mowgli, taking a liking to him, but knowing he must eventually go back to live with humans. The decision to do so happens when it is discovered that Shere Khan, a vicious tiger, has moved back into their part of the jungle, and has sworn to kill Mowgli (since he hates humans, who hunt tigers). Begheera volunteers to bring Mowgli to a human village where he will be safe. Bagheera takes Mowgli with him and explains the situation. Mowgli, naturally, doesn’t want to go.
While he and Bagheera make camp for the night in a tree, Kaa the snake tries to eat Mowgli, using his eyes to entrance Mowgli and encircle him. Just as he’s going to eat Mowgli, Bagheera wakes up and slaps the shit out of Kaa. Kaa tries to entrance Bagheera, but Mowgli tosses him out of the tree.
The next day, they are awakened by Colonel Hathi, an elephant, marching his regiment of elephants and treating them like soldiers. Bagheera explains the situation to him, and Hathi leads the herd away. Mowgli and Bagheera continue on their way, but Mowgli still doesn’t want to go. Bagheera then gets fed up and tells Mowgli he’s on his own. Mowgli then runs into Baloo, the happy-go-lucky bear. (He sounds a lot like John Wayne, too.)
Baloo sees that Mowgli won’t stand a chance in the jungle, so he teaches him to fight. Bagheera hears Baloo growl (as he teaches Mowgli how to growl), and thinks Mowgli is in trouble. And his fear for Mowgli’s safety turns into a different type of fear for Mowgli’s safety, when he sees Baloo, whom he calls a “shiftless, stupid, jungle bum.”
Bagheera tells Baloo of the need to bring Mowgli to a human village, and Baloo is completely against it. He tells Bagheera he’ll teach Mowgli everything he knows and help him to survive. He teaches him all about “The Bare Necessities.” As they sing, they are spotted by King Louie’s apes, which kidnap Mowgli and bring him to King Louie’s palace at the ancient ruins.
King Louie sings to him (“I Wan’na Be Like You”) about how he wants to learn to walk and talk like the humans. He says he’ll allow Mowgli to stay in the jungle if he teaches him how to make fire (which he has no idea how to make. I can’t tell if this is racist or not.).
Bagheera and Baloo show up, and Baloo creates a distraction as Bagheera tries to get Mowgli out of there. Eventually the disguise is blown and Baloo and Bagheera manage to get Mowgli out of there by destroying the rest of the ruins.
Later that night, as Mowgli sleeps, Bagheera explains the need to bring Mowgli to a human village. He finally gets through when he mentions Shere Khan. Baloo agrees to bring Mowgli to the human village. But when he tells Mowgli, Mowgli runs away.
Meanwhile, Shere Khan is hunting a deer in another part of the jungle as Colonel Hathi marches through with his herd. He overhears Bagheera tell Colonel Hathi that Mowgli is missing. This intrigues Shere Khan, who sets off to kill him. Colonel Hathi doesn’t want to help look for Mowgli until his wife forces him to (and his son says Mowgli is his friend). He sends his regiment to look for Mowgli.
Meanwhile, Mowgli is wandering the jungle and is captured by Kaa. Just as Kaa is about to eat him, Shere Khan shows up and says he’s looking for Mowgli. Kaa tries to pretend he doesn’t know where Mowgli is. Shere Khan intimidates Kaa long enough for Mowgli to escape.
Mowgli then wanders off and runs into some vultures, who take pity on him and try to be his friend. They sing to him to cheer him up. Shere Khan happens by and sees them. He comes to kill Mowgli. He is impressed by Mowgli’s lack of fear of him and tells Mowgli he’s going to close his eyes and count to ten and give him a chance to run away. Mowgli instead grabs a branch and prepares to defend himself. Shere Khan attacks, but Baloo arrives just in time to stop Shere Khan. He holds his tail as Mowgli runs away. The vulture pick up Mowgli and get him out of harms way. Baloo and Shere Khan fight. Lightning then strikes a tree and causes fire. Mowgli grabs a flaming branch and ties it to Shere Khan’s tail. Shere Khan, being terrified of fire, runs away.
Mowgli then goes to Baloo, who is on the ground, not moving. He begs Baloo to get up, but Baloo doesn’t move. Bagheera arrives and tries to explain that Baloo is dead. He starts saying great things about Baloo (which he hadn’t done before), and Baloo tells him to keep going, which, naturally, pisses Bagheera off. That’s always a great moment – “Son of a bitch, making me think you were dead and letting me say nice things about you.”
Baloo and Bagheera then bring Mowgli to the human town, where Mowgli sees Shanti, a young girl his age. She flirts with him and he finally decides he wants to try out this human thing after all.
He goes into the village as Baloo and Bagheera go off, arm in arm, singing “The Bare Necessities.”
Come on. It’s The Jungle Book. Of course this goes here. It’s top fifteen, easily. Not top ten, but top fifteen. Where in the top 15 doesn’t really matter. I put it here mostly because I love “The Bare Necessities” and “I Wan’na Be Like You.” To me, 12-15 are totally interchangeable, and 1-11 are pretty much all top tens. We know it’s great. No need to try to explain that.
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Official Disney Number: #19
Run Time: 78 minutes
Release Date: October 18, 1967
Budget: My guess is around $4 million.
Box Office: $73.7 million in its initial run, $141.8 million all-time domestically and $205.8 million worldwide.
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- “Colonel Hathi’s March (The Elephant Song),” performed by J. Pat O’Malley, Verna Felton and Clint Howard
- “The Bare Necessities,” performed by Phil Harris and Bruce Reitherman
- “I Wan’na Be Like You,” performed by Louis Prima, Phil Harris and Bruce Reitherman
- “Trust in Me,” performed by Sterling Holloway
- “That’s What Friends Are For,” performed by Chad Stuart, Lord Tim Hudson, Digby Wolfe and Bruce Reitherman
- “My Own Home,” performed by Darleen Carr
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- The film was nominated for Best Original Song for “The Bare Necessities.” It lost to “Talk to the Animals” from Doctor Dolittle. (I know.) And “I Wan’na Be Like You” wasn’t nominated at all.
- This is the last film personally overseen by Walt. He died during production.
- Walt had his animators throw out the book, since it’s very dark.
- The Vultures were originally going to be voiced by the Beatles. Apparently Lennon vetoed the idea, but they kept the vultures’ look as Beatles-esque. Plus they talk with Liverpool accents. The only real change was that the song they sing was turned into a barbershop quartet, to make it more timeless.
- Had this film failed, it’s likely Disney animation would have been shut down for good. (I know this happens a lot, but this time Walt died during the film, so, it actually was a possibility.)
- I love this piece of trivia: all of the scatting in the film was improvised by Louis Prima and Phil Harris.
- Verna Felton actually died a day before Walt did. (That’s weird.)
- I’m copying this as is. I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s important: “When Gregory Peck was the President of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Science, he tried his hardest to get a full-length animated feature film (most notably the The Jungle Book) not only nominated for Best Picture Academy Award but actually win the award. He resigned as President in 1970 when other members didn’t agree with him about animated films being nominated for the award. It would be over 20 years later before the Academy would reconsider, allowing Beauty and the Beast to be nominated.”
- Apparently, in the book, Kaa is actually a friend and advisor to Mowgli. Interesting. I actually kind of prefer it this way.
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1. These two shots are basically the same, but I put both anyway. This is a shot where — if you see any Disney movie with shots in the jungle, or the forest — this shot is basically that model. Seriously, any Disney movie that takes place in either of those locations — you’ll see this shot in it. Every time.
2. You’ve seen this shot a bunch in Disney.
3. Just like Tarzan.
4. Characters/objects framed by foliage. Classic Disney shot.
5. This is the closest thing to a visual gag in the movie. There really is something about these 1961-1977 Disney films that leaves them devoid of visual gags. (I think it’s because they’re in that dark period where technology wasn’t advanced enough.)
6. Characters reflected in the water. Both from above and directly.
7. This reminds me of almost an exact same shot in Disney’s first short in color — “Flowers and Trees”
8. Love me some dawn/dusk shots.
9. They copied the shit out of this in The Princess and the Frog.
10. This is some fucking deforestation right here.
11. Great shot. Kind of perfectly encapsulates everything in a single image.