The Jungle Book

by Erika Cox
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In 1967, Disney created yet another full-length animated film, this one based (very loosely) on the 1890s book by Rudyard Kipling novel, The Jungle Book.

Disney's film, also called The Jungle Book, is centered on a boy named Mowgli, who is raised in the wild jungles by wolves, with the help of the panther Bagheera and the bear Baloo.

This was Disney's 19th feature animation, and was re-released in 1978, 1984, 1990, 1997, and 1999. It is scheduled to once again be released from the Disney vault at the end of 2007.

The story of The Jungle Book begins when Bagheera finds the baby Mowgli in a basket. It is never said how the baby came to be there or what happened to his parents, but Mowgli is taken to a mother wolf who is friends with Barheera and who just had pups. She raises him as one of her own, but soon the animals find out that Shere Khan has returned to the jungle.

This vicious tiger loves the taste of man and will surely hunt Mowgli, so his wolf mother and Bagheera decide that the best thing they can do is take Mowgli to the villiage, where other humans can protect him from the man-eating tiger.

Of course, Mowgli wants to stay in the jungle, not return to the world of man. He repeatedly runs away from Bagheera, who rescues him from Kaa, the python. Mowgli then tries to join a troop of marching elephants, and Bagheera leaves, after they have a heated discussion.

Mowgli meets the fun-loving Baloo next, and he promises to teach Mowgli all about surviving in the jungle, singing "The Bare Necessities," which is now a classic Disney song. He gives his world that he will not take Mowgli to the village, but after only a short while together, a band of apes kidnap Mowgli.

Their leader, King Louie, wants to keep Mowgli prisoner so he can learn the secret of creating fire, which is known only to man and not to the animals.

Bagheera and Baloo team up to rescue Mowgli, and Baloo understands that the jungle is just to dangerous for the small boy. He breaks his promise for Mowgli's own good, but the boy get upset when he realizes where Baloo is taking him and once again runs away.

This time, he first meets a group of vultures, who are on Shere Khan's side. In a stormy battle with lightening that causes a fire, Shere Khan appears and tries to kill the boy. Baloo rescues him, but not without what seems like a horrible injury. In the end, Baloo lives and he and Bagheera take Mowgli to the edge of the jungle.

The boy is still hesitant about living in the village, but then he sees a girl about his own age gathering water. Her beauty captures Mowgli, who rushes to help her when she drops her water pot, and he follows her into the village, much to Bagheera's relief.

Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures and directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, The Jungle Book stars a variety of great voice talent.

The director's own son, Bruce, gave voice to Mowgli. Other voice talent included Phil Harris (Who also voiced Tom O'Malley in Disney's The Aristocats and Little John in Disney's Robin Hood) as Baloo, Sebastian Cabot as Bagheera, Louis Prima as King Louie, George Sanders as Shere Khan, Sterling Holloway as Kaa, and Verna Felton (who did a number of other Disney animations), as Winifred, the elephant mother.

The Jungle Book includes a variety of now-popular Disney songs. Originally, Terry Gilkyson was hired as songwriter for the film, but Walt Disney felt that his songs were too dark, so the Sherman Brothers were hired in his place. However, Gilkyson does hold claim as the writer to "The Bare Necessities," which is probably the most popular song in the film.

In 2003, Disney released The Jungle Book 2, featuring the adventures of Mowgli and the girl from the end of the first film, who we find to be named Shanti. The Jungle Book also inspired to Disney television series: Talespin and Jungle Cubs. None of these was as successful as the original movie.

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