"The Jungle Book" was the last film to be produced personally by Walt Disney, who died before it was completed. The story is loosely based on Rudyard Kipling's book of the same name. Mowgli, a young orphan boy, is found abandoned in the jungle and is raised by a pack of wolves. Some years later the wolves learn that Shere Khan, a tiger with a hatred of humans, has returned to their part of the jungle and decide that, for his own safety, Mowgli must return to the "Man-Village". The problem is, he wants to stay in the jungle, which is the only home he has ever known, with the animals he regards as his friends.Apart from Mowgli, the main characters are Bagheera the black panther and Baloo the bear. The wolves play a surprisingly small part in the film, and Shere Khan does not make an appearance until more than halfway through. Bagheera and Baloo are both friendly towards Mowgli and both believe that they have his best interests at heart, but they cannot agree what those interests are. Bagheera is portrayed by Sebastian Cabot as a serious-minded, rather fussy individual who sees it as his duty to make sure Mowgli leaves the jungle as soon as possible. Baloo, voiced by the comedian Phil Harris, is a laid-back layabout with a carefree attitude, believing that if he only has a little patience the good things of life will come to him without any effort on his part. Unlike Bagheera, he sympathises with Mowgli's wish to stay in the jungle.Along the way Mowgli, Bagheera and Baloo meet various other inhabitants of the jungle, including Colonel Hathi and his troop of military elephants, the treacherous snake Kaa, King Louie, the jazz-singing orang-utan King of the monkeys, and a flock of friendly vultures. (The original idea was to have the vultures voiced by The Beatles, and although this idea fell through the group's influence can be seen in the vultures' "mop-top" hairstyles, or should that be feather-styles, and the fact that one of them has a marked Liverpudlian accent).The original scriptwriter Bill Peet wanted to follow Kipling's work closely and envisaged something dark and sinister in tone. Walt Disney, however, was dissatisfied with this concept, and he sacked from the project not only Peet but also the original composer Terry Gilkyson, whose songs had mostly been written to fit in with Peet's conception of the story. (One of Gilkyson's songs, the cheerful, upbeat "The Bare Necessities", survived into the finished film). He brought in Larry Clemmons as his new writer and the Sherman Brothers as songwriters, and the result was the lighter and more family-friendly film we know today.This was one of my favourite films as a child. Indeed, I might even go so far as to say it was my favourite film as a child- certainly my favourite Disney cartoon, just ahead of "101 Dalmatians". I always enjoyed films about animals, and I loved the dancing, singing bears and monkeys in this one. I knew all the words to "The Bare Necessities" and "I Wanna be Like You" (and probably to the elephants' marching song as well) off by heart. What I particularly liked about the film was its excellent balance of humour and drama- just enough thrills without ever getting too frightening for young children. Shere Khan, portrayed by George Sanders with a plummy, supercilious upper-class British voice, is a villain, but no more frightening than King Rat in a pantomime. He might want to eat Mowgli, but we know he will never stand a chance. It is notable that not a single character is killed throughout the film- even Shere Khan is merely driven off.The one thing I did not like about the film was the ending, which survived from Peet's original story. Mowgli leaves the jungle because he has fallen in love with a girl from the man-village. Even in my childhood this struck me as inappropriate; Mowgli is supposed to be a little boy, not an adult or even a teenager, and little boys generally do not fall in love with little girls.I recently watched the film again for the first time in many years- the BBC showed it on New Year's Day, having shown the 2016 live-action remake on Christmas Day- and I can report that my youthful enthusiasm for it remains intact. It remains one of the most magical children's films ever made, with a great story, superb characterisation, infectious songs, plenty of laughs and wonderful animation. Another great admirer of the film was Gregory Peck, at the time President of the Academy, who lobbied hard, but without success, to get it nominated as "Best Picture". I am not sure that it would have won my own personal "Best Picture" award for 1967- that would probably have been "The Graduate"- but it would certainly have been on my list of nominees. 10/10. (Yes, I know that objectively speaking the disappointing ending means that I should drop that to 9, but this is a film about which I am quite unable to be objective).A goof. I know that zoologically-inclined goof-spotters will have plenty of fun with this one- orangs aren't found in India, and so on- but I not too worried about these aspects as the world of the film is so obviously a magical fantasy land and not intended as a realistic recreation of the jungles of India. The name of the hero, however, is consistently mispronounced- Kipling indicated that the first syllable of "Mowgli" should rhyme with "cow", but here it is always pronounced to rhyme with "slow".
Bagheera the black panther finds a baby boy in a basket. He brings him to be raised by mother wolf. Years later, the tiger Shere Kahn returns to their part of the jungle and threatens to kill the man-cub. The pack decides to send the man-cub back to a man-village with the help of Bagheera. The boy isn't happy to leave the jungle. On the way, he encounters elephants led by Colonel Hathi, orangutans, Kaa the python and the irresponsible fun-loving bear Baloo.It's a fun collection of memorable animal characters. The plot is a little random but I don't think that matters too much in this movie. Compared to its other Disney cohorts, this ranks slightly lower than the classics. The story just isn't that compelling. On the other hand, 'The Bare Necessities' is a great song and there is a childlike joy that permeates much of the movie. 2b1af7f3a8