The Jungle Book is one of Walt Disney’s early works, and the last he was to oversee in his lifetime. It opens in the jungles of India, where Bagheera the black panther finds a crying baby. This baby is revealed to be Mowgli, our protagonist. Bagheera brings Mowgli to a wolf pack, where he is raised to be a young boy. As he is brought up, he learns to live in the jungle, until news comes of Shere Khan. The tiger Shere Khan is tipped that Mowgli is living amongst the jungle animals, and aims to kill him before he becomes a hunter like all the other humans. His wolf family asks Bagheera to take him to the man-village, away from safety. As Mowgli realizes what happens, he argues that he wants to stay in the jungle. They find Kaa, the snake, who tries to hypnotize the two. Mowgli proves a point by fending him off and they get a day’s rest before they progress to the village. In the morning, they wake up to elephants parading, where Mowgli finds a friend and joins the march. Bagheera, frustrated with Mowgli straying from the travel to the village, leaves him to fend for himself. As Mowgli and Bagheera storm off, Mowgli meets Baloo, the bear. They find companionship in one another, and hearing Baloo’s bellowing, Bagheera thinks Mowgli is in trouble. He comes to the rescue, but he is frustrated as he finds the carefree Baloo. As Mowgli and Baloo are just having a good time together, Bagheera is about to leave, but Mowgli gets abducted by the monkeys. As Mowgli is taken to the king of the monkeys, King Louie, he is asked for the secret to man’s fire. Bagheera and Baloo come to save him, and the monkeys are routed as their ancient ruins collapse. As the three escape, Mowgli takes the night to rest while Baloo and Bagheera talk. Baloo agrees to take Mowgli to the man-village for his own safety, albeit reluctantly – Baloo now sees Mowgli as his own child, and he knows he will miss Mowgli. The two start off, but Mowgli finds that they are going to the village and he again runs off on his own. Shere Khan appears, stalking Bagheera and finding out that Mowgli is missing. Kaa is stumbled upon by Mowgli, and by Shere Khan not shortly after. Shere Khan interrogates Kaa, but does not find Mowgli. As Mowgli continues to wander, despondent, he finds the vultures. The vultures comfort Mowgli and make him an honorary vulture. Shere Khan appears again, ready to attack Mowgli. As the tiger pounces, Baloo appears and thwarts him. The two battle and Baloo is knocked out, but Mowgli scares him off with fire. In the aftermath, Bagheera and Mowgli mourn Baloo, but Baloo awakes not soon afterward. The two are ecstatic and walk off together, but they walk by the village and they see a girl. Mowgli, intrigued, follows her, and joins the man-village. The film concludes as Bagheera and Baloo walk off, happy, and Mowgli walks off with his girl.
The cast of The Jungle Book helped bring the characters to life. It’s hard to point out a bad choice in casting, as each voice really fit each character. Bruce Reitherman is the director’s son, but fulfilled the childlike and adventurous voice of Mowgli. Phil Harris gave Baloo life and soul, and as the 2016 remake is about to release, it’s hard to imagine anyone else voicing Baloo. In specific, Phil Harris’s voice will be greatly missed in the performance of “Bare Necessities”. Bagheera and Shere Khan, voiced by Sebastian Cabot and George Sanders respectively, also fit their characters and performed their lines well.
The Jungle Book’s plot advancement was perfectly simple and very well-done. The incomplex intro of each character was perfect and was great for a family movie, while also being clever setups for the personalities of each character. Bagheera is introduced as the caring parental figure, Baloo is carefree and a wandering soul, Kaa is snakelike and conniving, and Shere Khan is confidently cool. One thing that was simply mediocre was the animation style. There was not much interesting going on in the animation, although it was done up to standard. This can be easily excused, though – the film was made in 1967 and, when compared to other Disney films, the technology was not there to make these intricately computer-generated graphics.
The theme of The Jungle Book is one of acceptance despite differences. Each character deals with Mowgli in a unique way, some accepting him and some treating him as an outsider. Bagheera and Baloo are Mowgli’s companions through and through, with each acting as a sort of parental figure in his jungle life. They enjoy the time they spend in the jungle and are blessed with a young boy alongside them. On the flipside, the people who treat Mowgli as an outsider are hit smack in the face by karma. Kaa is knocked around Tom-and-Jerry style for messing with Mowgli. King Louie of the monkeys covets man’s secret of fire and has the ruins he calls home destroyed for his greed. Finally, Shere Khan is turned into a coward for his hunting of Mowgli with a simple burning branch. The characters that accept Mowgli despite him being human are rewarded, while the ones that do not are duly punished.
The Jungle Book is a great family film that withstands the test of time. It is easily recommendable to families across the world, as it’s entertaining, lighthearted, and simply elegant – not to mention its catchy songs. However, if you’re looking for something serious, The Jungle Book isn’t the film to go to, as it’s fairly simple and jovial in nature. The film was Approved in 1967 and it was correctly so – there is not a drop of suggestive content. In closing, The Jungle Book is a great movie that’s nearly impossible to outgrow. Seeing this film at an early age and recently rewatching it, it is only natural that it would stick in a child’s mind; it is a measly 88 minutes, making it easily rewatchable, the catchy tunes are simple to sing along to, the characters are lovable, and it has a great moral for children to learn while they are young. Overall, a classic for families throughout the years, and for good reason.