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Bagheera the panther is prowling around
The jungle when suddenly he hears a sound,
A helpless man-cub that has need to be found,
And he can’t bring himself to forsake him.
He then has a thought of who might raise the child,
A family of wolves that at first may seem wild,
But, with all their cubs, they’re surprisingly mild,
And Bagheera’s relieved when they take him.
They name the boy Mowgli, but, after some years,
The threat of Shere Kahn, a great tiger, brings fears
That Mowgli must leave; the black cat volunteers
To take him where more humans dwell.
But Mowgli insists that he’d much rather stay;
The jungle’s his home and he can’t run away.
Though dangers like Kaa the snake threaten each day,
The boy’s quick to fight and rebel.
Bagheera gives up on the man-cub, annoyed.
Baloo the bear sees a chance he can’t avoid;
He tells Mowgli life should be simply enjoyed,
And both of them get very close.
Then monkeys take him to their coolest of kings,
But Mowgli’s friends save him while everyone sings,
When the bear tells him he ought to leave, the truth stings,
And Mowgli flees, sad and morose.
Though many tell Mowgli that he need not leave,
Repeated deceit makes him loath to believe.
He’s joined by some vultures, who help him not grieve,
But soon he is met by Shere Khan.
The tiger attacks, but Baloo holds his tail,
But, as the cat strikes, Baloo cannot prevail.
Yet Mowgli wields fire to make Shere Khan wail,
And soon the great tiger’s withdrawn.
Though hurt, Baloo rises, still quite the wise guy.
Bagheera and he then observe from nearby
As a beautiful girl catches young Mowgli’s eye,
And he follows her home and is gone.

As the last film that Walt Disney worked on before his death, The Jungle Book is a true classic, and both my VC and I remembered it fondly from our childhoods. It has a number of enjoyable songs from the Sherman Brothers, such as King Louie’s “I Wanna Be Like You” and the vultures’ “That’s What Friends Are For,” but the most memorable tune, “The Bare Necessities,” was actually done by a previously involved songwriter, Terry Gilkyson. The Jungle Book was also one of Disney’s first films to employ several well-known voices, such as radio comedian Phil Harris as Baloo, George Sanders (Rebecca, All About Eve) as Shere Khan, Sebastian Cabot (Family Affair) as Bagheera, musical great Louis Prima as King Louis, and Sterling Holloway (Winnie the Pooh) as Kaa.

While there is no denying The Jungle Book’s status as a classic, I will say that it seemed much slower than my VC or I recalled. The best scenes are the musical numbers and the action scenes with King Louis and Shere Khan; most of what is between these scenes is a tad boring, to be honest. Also, while the film has inspired several fine animators, such as Brad Bird, the thick-lined animation just doesn’t seem to be on the same level as many Disney films that came before, such as Peter Pan or Lady and the Tramp.

Still, where the film most excels is in the characters. Every character with his distinctive voice is indelible in the memory: Baloo, with his original “Hakuna Matata” worldview; Bagheera, who doesn’t get enough credit for essentially saving Mowgli’s life; King Louie, whose monkeying around can’t help but entertain; Shere Khan, with his deep, seductive voice; and Kaa, who gets some of the most visually interesting scenes. The film’s plot is quite loose overall, and it is Mowgli’s interactions with these immortal characters that really make it the classic that it is. While it’s very different in tone from Rudyard Kipling’s original story and it is a clear product of its time (those mop-topped vultures were originally going to be played by the Beatles, if Disney had had his way), Disney’s take on The Jungle Book was the last really good animated film for over fifteen years.

Best line: (Bagheera) “This will take brains, not brawn.” (Baloo) “You better believe it, and I’m loaded with both.”

Artistry: 5
Characters/Actors: 9
Entertainment: 6
Visual Effects: 5
Originality: 5
Watchability: 5
Other (slow parts): -2
TOTAL: 33 out of 60

Next: #276: Dave

© 2014 S. G. Liput