October 18, 1967 – The 19th Animated Feature Film, The Jungle Book, is Released to Theaters
“As an animator, [The Jungle Book is] probably the greatest film in terms of character development and how characters play against one another. The animators poured their whole heart and soul into every scene in that movie.” – Animator Glen Keane
On October 18, 1967, the 19th animated feature, The Jungle Book, was released to theaters. The film was based on the book of the same name by Rudyard Kipling, and was the last film which Walt Disney supervised; Disney passed away during its production. The movie was also known for the vultures being a caricature of the famous band The Beatles, as Disney wanted them to be in the film, but they turned him down due to scheduling conflicts and John Lennon’s disgust with the idea; the vultures did remain in the film without The Beatles’ involvement. The film was directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, and stars Phil Harris as Baloo, Sebastian Cabot as Bagheera, Bruce Reitherman as Mowgli, Louis Prima as King Louie, George Sanders as Shere Khan, and Sterling Holloway as Kaa.
Storyman Bill Peet was the one that suggested Kipling’s book to Disney as an animated feature, making the point that the company could do more stories with more interesting characters. Although Peet usually ran a one-man show when it came to story, and Disney liked the story sketches he was seeing for Jungle Book, Disney wanted to have more hands-on involvement in the story process after the let-down of Peet’s last project, The Sword in the Stone. The two could not reach an agreement on the film, and Peet left the studio. The story was then given to Larry Clemmons for his first writing on an animated feature film. “…[H]e launched into how he wanted to tell the story,” Richard Sherman recalled. “And he said, ‘But I want it to be fun. I want this to be a fun story; an adventure with fun. No mysterious…none of this heavy stuff…and I want to have a little heart in it, too.’”
The songwriting team of the Sherman Brothers, who were brought in to write the songs for “The Jungle Book” when Walt Disney came in to rewrite the story
The music for the film is considered one of the greatest soundtracks of Disney animation. The first songs written for the film followed Peet’s darker version of the story, and was done by Terry Gilkyson. When the story went through its rewrite, the Sherman Brothers were brought in to write new songs that were more upbeat and help to progress the story. The only song to survive from Terry Gilkyson was the one that would go on to be nominated for an Academy Award: “The Bare Necessities.” One of the songs that the Sherman Brothers had written for Mary Poppins was retooled to be used for the character of Kaa, called “Trust in Me.” The film was scored by George Bruns, who was well known for writing for Davy Crockett.
The story opens with narration from Bagheera, a black panther, who stumbles upon a basket upon a riverbank in India. Inside, he finds a baby; taking pity on the poor orphan child, he places him with a wolf that had recently had cubs. The mother adopts the child, who is named Mowgli, and raises him alongside her litter. Ten years later, the wolves find out that Shere Khan, a Bengal tiger, will be returning to the jungle and killing anyone who dares protect Mowgli. Bagheera offers to take Mowgli to the man village for his own safety, although the boy is determined to stay in the jungle. While the pair rest in a tree for the night, a python named Kaa appears, who attempts to hypnotize the boy and devour him. Luckily, Bagheera wakes up and interrupts Kaa, with Mowgli sending the python flying out of the tree.
Mowgli meets up with the members of Colonel Hathi’s elephant pack, and hopes that by becoming a member, he can remain in the jungle
The next morning, Mowgli attempts to join Colonel Hathi’s elephant pack, but is quickly intercepted by Bagheera. The two get into an argument about Mowgli’s wish to remain in the jungle, which ends with Bagheera leaving Mowgli to fend for himself. As Mowgli wanders the forest, he comes across Baloo, who aims to teach Mowgli how to fight. When he tries to teach the boy how to roar, Bagheera believes the boy to be in trouble and rushes back to help. Baloo shows Mowgli the carefree life of the jungle, which only makes Mowgli more certain that he will never go back to the village. Unfortunately, just as Baloo and Mowgli begin to bond, a gang of monkeys capture Mowgli to take him back to their leader, King Louie, an orangutan.
Mowgli is brought to the ancient ruins where King Louie lives, and King Louie promises to help the boy remain in the jungle if Mowgli tells him the secret of how to make fire. Baloo, entranced by the music the monkeys are playing, disguises himself so he can sneak in and take Mowgli away. In the ensuing fight over Mowgli, the ruins fall apart, leaving King Louie without a kingdom. That night, Bagheera convinces Baloo that the best thing for Mowgli is to be taken back to the man village, so he doesn’t get killed by Shere Khan. Baloo is torn with what to do, as he loves Mowgli like he was his own cub. When Baloo tries to explain the situation, Mowgli accuses Baloo of breaking his promise and runs away. Bagheera enlists the help of Colonel Hathi to help find Mowgli before Shere Khan shows up, but Shere Khan is seen eavesdropping and is even more determined to kill the boy.
- After the fight with Shere Khan, Mowgli gives Baloo a hug, with all being forgiven
As Mowgli wanders the jungle, he runs across Kaa again, who is still hungry. He hypnotizes the boy, but his plans are again interrupted, this time by Shere Khan, and Mowgli escapes. Depressed, he finds a place to sit as a storm fast approaches, and meets a group of vultures who agree to be his friends. Shere Khan finally catches up with Mowgli, scaring the vultures away. Baloo, having finally found the boy, rushes in to save him during the storm, with the vultures returning to create a diversion. When a nearby tree is struck by lightning, Mowgli grabs a flaming branch and ties to it Shere Khan’s tail. The tiger’s only fear is fire, and he flees when he is unable to remove the flaming branch. Baloo and Bagheera still maintain that Mowgli should be taken to the village, but Mowgli remains adamant that he should stay in the jungle. His mind changes, however, when he spies a beautiful girl near the river’s edge. He follows her, helping her carry her water pot. Although Baloo is saddened to lose the boy, Bagheera reminds him that Mowgli will be safe with his own kind, and the two dance off into the sunset together.