Monday, April 21, 2014

The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book; animated adventure, USA, 1967; D: Wolfgang Reitherman, S: Bruce Reitherman, Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot

Bagheera, a black panther, discovers an abandoned baby in the jungle, Mowgli, and gives it to a wolf family to take care of him. 10 years later, Bagheera decides to bring Mowgli back to the human world and undertakes a journey to the nearest village, because a human hating, dangerous tiger, Shere Khan, returned to the jungle. On his way, Mowgli meets a bear, Baloo, and encounters dangers from a monkey king who wants to discover fire from humans and a giant python. On a meadow, Shere Khan attacks Mowgli, but thanks to fire caused by thunder, the tiger is scared off. Mowgli returns to a village.

One of the most popular animated films by the Walt Disney studios, "The Jungle Book" is the 3rd highest grossing film of the 60s and still holds up fairly well - whereas it is also one of only a handful of Disney's animated films where the villain is not killed off at the end. The majority of the criticism was aimed at the storyline that dropped most of the darker elements from Rudyard Kipling's original book and instead just focused on a care-free, simplified quest of Mowgli returning back to the human world equipped with a lot of singing and dancing, and some of that thinking has a point since a chance for the weight of pathos was slightly watered down due to it - we do not find out much about Mowgli and the ending does not have such an emotional punch as, let's say, the thematically almost identical ending in "Dot and the Kangaroo" - yet as a film on its own, "Book" has a lot of merits. The musical numbers were not so heavily imposed as some other Disney films (except for the tiresome song of the monkey king) but seem natural, and the songs are catchy, especially the fantastic elephant parade that goes into heights; the animation is meticulous (most memorably in depicting the movements of the black panther and the hypnotic snake) and the jokes are just plain innocent and fun (Baloo scratching his back on a rock wall; the four vultures that look almost as the Beatles), all adding to a very good, unassuming little film about the search for the hero's roots.


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