The Jungle Book (1967)

  • Time: 78 min
  • Genre: Animation | Adventure | Comedy
  • Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
  • Cast: George Sanders, Louis Prima, Phil Harris


Abandoned after an accident, baby Mowgli is taken and raised by a family of wolves. As the boy grows older, the wise panther Bagheera realizes he must be returned to his own kind in the nearby man-village. Baloo the bear however thinks differently taking the young Mowgli under his wing and teaching that living in the jungle is the best life there is. Bagheera realizes that Mowgli is in danger, particularly from Shere Khan the tiger who hates all people. When Baloo finally comes around, Mowgli runs off into the jungle where he survives a second encounter with Kaa the snake and finally, with Shere Khan. It’s the sight of a pretty girl however that gets Mowgli to go the nearby man-village.

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  • Disney in general has made numerous films that are deeply layered with themes that first time viewers may not recognize. It’s one of the reasons why Disney is so successful at making films. They also have their fair share of poor writing too but the entirety of them is not as voluminous as the ones many people remember and enjoy. Even with this though, Disney has also made films that weren’t as richly textured and scaled up to a more complex level of understanding. That is not to say that the movies that are simpler are lower on an intellectual basis, no. Instead, they are just as influential if not more because of just how simple they are compared to Disney’s other laminous movies. It would seem most of these particular types of films would go back to Disney’s classical period of all their hand drawn animated features that everyone considers classics today. Of this group of films, the film that best represents the one note feature is this movie. It doesn’t explore much other than one plot and that’s fine.

    The movie is based off of the “Mowgli Stories” written by Rudyard Kipling. Audiences are introduced to Mowgli, an orphaned boy in the middle of the jungle who is found and observed by Bagheera the panther as he’s raised by a wolf pack. After 10 years word gets out that Shere Khan the tiger is returning to kill Mowgli, so Bagheera decides to try and bring Mowgli back to the man village. The problem is, Mowgli won’t go because he loves the jungle and all of his friends are there. Helping solidify his belief that the jungle is where he belongs is Baloo the bear. A lackadaisical beanbag that loves to just enjoy his surroundings. Adapted by the writers of Bambi (1942), Peter Pan (1953), Robin Hood (1973) and 101 Dalmatians (1960), it’s obvious to why mostly everything about what goes on in this feature film is so amiable. The characters and the voice actors that play the characters are exceptionally fun and likable to watch on screen.

    Of the cast, the only one who is still living is Bruce Reitherman who voiced Mowlgi. At the time he was only 12 and his voice matches the look of Mowlgi well. Today Reitherman has filled other filmmaking positions but mostly has appeared as himself for various documentaries. Voicing Bagheera was Sebastian Cabot, who speaks from time to time but also narrates. Some might recognize him as the narrator to all the classic Whinnie the Pooh tales as well. Phil Harris as the lazy bear Baloo doesn’t stray far from his natural voice but nonetheless has made Baloo one the more memorable characters from this period in the mouse house’s filmography. Shere Khan the tiger played by George Sanders was amazing. Naturally the voice matches the presence of Khan and although he’s the antagonist, there’s a lot to like about him too. There’s also appearances from Sterling Holloway as Kaa the snake, Louis Prima as King Louie of the Apes and J. Pat O’Malley as Colonel Hathi the Elephant.

    There’s really only one thing that should be addressed and that’s the fact of how sexism plays a small role. It’s difficult to say without giving it away but there’s a moment where it plays a turning point for a character. Fine, it’s understandable but at the same time more than just one character could’ve played a part to help serve their purpose for the turning point. This was a different time when the movie was made but it seems a bit one sided. This is it though, the animation still has the Disney classic look to it and it’s important to know that animating is a very time consuming task so kudos to those who worked on that part of the film. There are a number of other discrepancies that don’t make sense like why is called the jungle book when it really doesn’t have to do with a book except the intro. Or how is that Kaa can hypnotize his victims with his eyes so easily. At this point, these are questions that are just asking for too much, so it’s not needed.

    The songs are also very catchy. With lyrics written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert M. Sherman, the same song writers from The Parent Trap (1961), The Sword in the Stone (1963) and Mary Poppins (1964), how could one not see why the songs in this film are so timeless. It’s hard to find anybody who doesn’t enjoy or at least tap a toe for “Bare Necessities”, “I Wanna Be Like You” or “We’re Your Friends”. For the film score, George Bruns composed the music. Bruns also composed the film scores to 101 Dalmatians (1961), The Sword in the Stone (1963), The Love Bug (1968), Herbie Rides Again (1974) and Robin Hood (1973). For this feature, the music again calls back to the classic Disney sound of orchestras from that time. There are a lot of strings, trumpets and drums. Plus considering the setting is in the jungle, it suitably fits. If still works, then there’s obviously no reason to knock it then.

    The writing is very simplistic and that is all the story needed. It does suffer from one apparent sin at a certain point in a story arc but the voice acting, animation and music make it difficult to really fault it at all.

    Points Earned –> 8:10

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