The Jungle Book is one of my favourite movies. I've now seen it exactly 17 times and each time I see it, I see something new, something inspiring, and something that makes me cherish the movie even more.
I first saw this movie when I was six, and I don't recall seeing a movie before then (though I'm sure I was taken to some). So The Jungle Book is the first movie I saw and remember. The soundtrack was introduced to me when I was slightly older, and has been a tremendous influence on my own music, in spirit at least.
The story is based on Rudyard Kipling's tales about Mowgli the Man Cub (Bruce Reitherman), which, if anyone has read, will know are a lot darker than the santized Disney version. But this is one of those rare cases where such santization has actually improved the end result. At the story goes, Mowgli is found as a baby in the jungle by Bagheera the Panther (Sebastian Cabot), who leaves the Man Cub with a wolf family with its own share of cubs. Years later, upon hearing of the arrival of Shere Khan the Tiger (George Sanders), who would destroy any man, Bagheera plans to take Mowgli back to the man-village so he can be with his own kind.
However, Mowgli has other plans and runs away from Bagheera and meets Baloo the Bear (Phil Harris). As Baloo and Mowgli's friendship begins to blossom, Mowgli is kidnapped by King Louie of the Apes (Louis Prima), who wants to learn the secret of man's red fire. Bagheera and Baloo retrieve Mowgli from the apes in a hilarious sequence, and Baloo sides with Bagheera which makes Mowgli run away again. This time he encounters a group of vultures who together face Shere Khan and manage to scare him off. With Shere Khan out of the way, Mowgli is safe to remain in the jungle. Unfortunately (from Baloo's perspective), he sees a girl in a nearby village (Darleen Carr), falls for her, and leaves his friends.
Also included in the cast of characters are, Kaa the Snake (Sterling Holloway) who has a taste for Mowgli, the Elephant patrol led by Colonel Hathi (J. Pat O'Malley), and the friendly vultures, making The Jungle Book an imaginative movie for children and a thought-provoking one for older audiences.
For me, The Jungle Book has had a tremendous impact on my life, both from its somewhat simplistic plot, to the creativity involved in the execution of that plot. It's hard for me to understand today how such creativity could've arisen from the Disney Studios.
Since the The Jungle Book is one of my favourite films of all time, I was eagerly looking forward to watching the sequel. After doing so, I am disappointed.
The story ostensibly is about how Mowgli adjusts to life in the man village, where he was left off by Baloo the Bear and Bagheera the Panther. He appears to be doing quite well in his adopted home, but then the jungle calls him and he goes off to answer the call. In doing so, he runs into all his old friends and enemies, including the Vultures and the Elephant Patrol, Kaa the Snake, and of course, Shere Khan the Tiger. His friends obviously help him fight his enemies.
The problem with the film is that it anthropomorphises too much. Even though the original had human-like characters, none of them could readily be pigeonholed (unless you want to compare the Vultures to the Beatles). Here, it's just another sappy Disney story with The Jungle Book characters. This is not a film about a boy who is trying to grow up in a world that he didn't grow up in, but about how to create the flimsiest story based on characters from an incredibly successful one.
There are still some good songs in the film, and the story and animation are probably attractive to kids. Worth a rental to test that hypothesis.