A young boy gets separated from his village and ends up in the jungle where he needs help from a panther and a bear to escape a tiger and a snake in the 1967 Walt Disney animated classic, “The Jungle Book.” The film is loosely based on Rudyard Kipling’s book of the same name. This is the final film of what is known as Disney’s Silver Age of Animation. It was the first film released after the death of Walt Disney and the final film to experience his personal touches in the production process.
This is an all-time classic. It’s one of the best animated films ever made. Mowgli is a captivating protagonist as we are enthralled by his journey to get out of the jungle, his desire to stay with Baloo and his eventual exit from the jungle because, after all, man-cubs belong in the village. Bagheera and Baloo serve as excellent “adoptive” parents during his journey through the jungle, at least by 1960s standards. Bagheera acts like any other mother concerned with her child’s well-being and wanting only what is best for him. Baloo represents the father who always wants to have fun, but who steps up and protects the child when necessary. These representations may be outdated today, but they were how many people saw the world in the 1960s, so it makes sense that’s how they were written for this film.
On top of the great antagonists and the great supportive characters for Mowgli, Shere Khan and Kaa are two of the best villains in the Disney canon. Shere Khan’s motivations are just. Men can bring destruction to jungles. I understand Shere Khan wanting to protect the jungle, but his methods are wrong. He shouldn’t try to kill the man just because he fears him. We’ve seen that too often in life and that’s a bad decision even if his motivations make sense. Meanwhile, Kaa is just a hungry constrictor. He’s a secondary villain who has less motivation and is more in line with nature than Shere Khan. Both make you feel fear when you see them on scene. Those are excellent villains.
This film also features some of the best music from the Sherman Brothers. The pair of musicians have written some of the most iconic songs in Disney history and this film is no exception. “I Wanna Be Like You” and “That’s What Friends are For (Vulture Song” are two more in the amazing lineup of songs Disney has given us and two of the best works from the Sherman Brothers. The only song in the film that isn’t by the Shermans is, ironically, the most iconic. “Bare Necessities” was written by the original composer for the film and is the only one of his songs that survived the re-writes because the crew loved it. It’s a song that has been covered several times by musical artists over the years and is good no matter who sings it. It’s just iconic.
I said it earlier and I’ll say it again, this is not just one of the best Disney films of all time, it’s one of the best animated films of all time. It allowed the Silver Age of Animation to end on a high note. It was the perfect bookend to the return to full length narratives that began with “Cinderella” and is an amazing film to be the last Walt worked on production.