The tale of the man-cub Mogli and his buddy
Baloo is back on a 2-disc special collector's edition DVD set. Walt's
re-working of the Rudyard Kipling tale is perhaps the most beloved and
cherished of the film versions made over the years.
Walt Disney's "The Jungle Book" isn't the best of the classic animated
features he produced. The story is simplistic and the animation isn't as
refined as "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," for example. What this 1967
film has is spirited comedic mischief and genuine heart. The friendship between Mogli & Baloo is sweet. Add to that some
wonderful songs like "The Bare Necessities" and "I Wanna Be Like You," plus
the voice talents of Phil Harris and Louis Prima, you've got yourself an
imperfect yet enjoyable classic.
Animation, which had been the backbone of the studio, had taken a backseat
to Walt's newest projects like Disneyland, his television series, and the
soon-to-be completed Disney World (it was later named Walt Disney World by
his brother Roy). Author Neal Gabler points out that Walt was onto bigger
projects and his heart wasn't into animation as he had once been. Just take
a look at "The Sword in the Stone" (1963) to witness his absence. The
animation was streamlined and made more simple, although it still was of
very high Disney quality. Crews were also trimmed. Though he wasn't
animating the films, he was a genuine guide in helping make the films the
best they could be. "The Jungle Book" was a return to Walt's storytelling
qualities and gut instinct.
The tale is simple. Mogli (Bruce Reitherman) is left in the jungle and
raised among the animals. As he grows, Bagheera the panther (Sebastian
Cabot) realizes that the young boy must go back to his own kind. The job of
getting Mogli back to civilization is left up to a carefree bear named Baloo
(Phil Harris). Chaos ensues in a bunch of very funny scenes where Kaa the
snake (Sterling Holloway), King Louis (Louis Prima) and Shere Khan (George
Sanders) all want the boy.
The strengths of "The Jungle Book" are many, despite it being thin on story
or plot. This is one of those rare Disney features that emphasizes comedy
over drama and incredible scenes. This is a fun and light film that is easy
to watch and not really have to think about. You just simply enjoy the
screwball comedy of Baloo, Kaa and King Louis.
The casting of this film is truly remarkable, though on paper, it might seem
implausible. Phil Harris had never voiced an animated character, nor had
Louis Prima. Both were known on the jazz circuit. Fine British actors
Sebastian Cabot and George Saunders were seasoned veterans. Sterling
Holloway was a classic Disney staple, having voiced the Cheshire Cat ("Alice
in Wonderland") and at that point, "Winnie The Pooh." His voice was so
familiar to audiences that animators groaned at utilizing his talents for
Kaa. Bruce Reitherman, the director's son, had done the voice of Christopher
Robin. When their voices came together on screen, the result was masterful.
Harris and Prima are hilarious, very jazz sounding personalities. Cabot and
Saunders add an air of dignity to the film. Holloway is very funny, and
Reitherman's voice is perfectly suited for the role of Mogli.
The friendship of Mogli and Baloo gives the movie its bittersweet heart. I
can't imagine anyone else voicing Baloo other than Phil Harris. His baritone
voice and personality are apparent within watching his alter ego on-screen.
Harris makes him totally believable, and you feel like he's that kind of
uncle you look forward to seeing at family gatherings. He's out to have a
good time, but he's also protective of you in times of danger. Baloo's
relationship with Mogli is sincere and you're sad when the little man cub
has to go back to civilization. But you know that Baloo has done the right
The music of "The Jungle Book" might seem unusual at first. This is a movie
that takes place in the jungle and there's Dixieland jazz music throughout!
George Bruns fleshes out the score with drums and classical orchestral cues.
The Sherman Bros. (and Tony Gilkyson on "The Bare Necessities") wrote the
bouncy songs like "I Wanna Be Like You" and "Trust In Me." These work so
well in the movie that it's hard to imagine it without them.
Walt passed away before his adapation of Rudyard Kipling's book was
finished. His studio was still trying to cope with his absence, but the film
was a huge hit for the studio. The animation staff that included Woolie
Reitherman, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, and Eric Larson,
clearly made a miniature masterpiece with "The Jungle Book." I'm sure Walt
would've been proud of the end result.
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photos: © Disney. All rights reserved.
Funny and charming Walt Disney classic
Director: Wolfgang "Woolie" Reitherman
Cast: Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, Louis Prima, George Sanders,
Sterling Holloway, Bruce Reitherman, Verna Felton and Clint Howard
Disney" bonus features, games and music
Sound: Very Good
*Tweaked to look like today's clean and bright animation
The soundtrack contains the original mono mix
Aspect Ratio (1.75:1) (1.33:1 on certain bonus features)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix
DVD RELEASE DATE
October 2, 2007