The Jungle Book is the story of a young boy named Mowgli, who has been raised by a wolf pack in the jungle. When the evil tiger Shere Khan threatens their safety, Mowgli runs away to go live with man instead. On his journey to the village, Mowgli encounters many new friends, such as a fun-loving bear named Baloo and the wise panther Bagheera, who teach him many important life lessons. Mowgli soon gains the courage and bravery to fight back against the evil tiger.
Walt Disney thought the first version of the script was too dark.
Most of the songs were deemed too dark as well
An early version of “The Jungle Book” was storyboarded by Bill Peet, a Disney story artist who had worked at the company since 1937. It had a more coherent plot than Kipling’s episodic tales but maintained the grim tone of the original book. Peet’s delivery was too serious for a Disney movie, so Walt wanted it changed. Peet declined, giving up on the project as well as his position at Disney. He later achieved fame as a children’s book author and illustrator.
It was the last animated feature Walt Disney oversaw.
Walt Disney passed away in 1966 as a result of lung cancer complications. When “The Jungle Book” was published the following year, it became the final animated movie Walt directly oversaw throughout production. Following Walt’s passing, the future of animation at the Disney company was uncertain, therefore “The Jungle Book’s” critical and commercial success was welcome good news for Disney animation.
While many of Peet’s original ideas for the film were dropped, some of them survived, notably King Louie and the climax in which Mowgli falls in love with a little girl and returns to the human community with her.
They wanted the Beatles to voice the vultures
but unfortunately they turned the offer down.
The Jungle Book dance sequence
King Louie and Baloo’s “I Wan’na Be Like You” dance was later borrowed for Robin Hood.
“Mowgli” is pronounced wrong
The mispronunciation was not unique to Disney, as it appeared in at least one prior cinematic production of the book, and according to Kipling’s daughter, the first syllable of Mowgli’s name rhymes with “cow” rather than “show.” It’s unclear whether Disney just didn’t know how to pronounce “Mowgli” or didn’t care, but Kipling’s daughter is said to have never forgotten that mistake.
Kaa and Winnie the Pooh have the same voice
Streling Holloway could perform a number of roles, although he lacked some voice actors’ vocal range. His unusual voice suited a variety of Disney characters, including a wicked snake with hypnotic abilities, Christopher Robin’s beloved bear with very little brain, and many others.
Kaa and Winnie the Pooh Have the Same Voice
“Trust in me” was originally written for Many Poppins
Kaa’s song “Trust in Me” was initially named as “Land of Sand,” and it is a part of a multi-song sequence in “Mary Poppins,” in which Mary and the Banks children travel the world with the use of a magic compass.
The section had been removed in favor of the “Jolly Holiday” scene, and Kaa the snake’s hypnotic song was composed using the tune from “Land of Sand.”
‘Trust in Me’ Was Originally Written for Mary Poppins
Verna Felton Voiced an Elephant
In This Film and ‘Dumbo’
Louis Prima improvised a lot of his singing as King Louie
Since celebrity voice actors weren’t often used in the older Disney films, the hiring of musician Louis Prima as King Louie was a bit unusual. Prima called the studio often with ideas for the character and even proposed killing him off because he knew he could perform an amazing death scene. Prima contributed a lot of energy to the part, even making up his own scat vocals with Phil Harris on “I Wanna Be Like You.”
Phil Harris made baloo a star
Baloo didn’t play a significant part in Disney’s adaptation of “The Jungle Book” until Harris was cast in the part, but the Disney artists adored the warmth and spontaneity Harris brought to the bear. Baloo, a loving but not quite father figure caught between his own wish for Mowgli to remain in the jungle and his duty to act in the man cub’s best interests, became the emotional core of the tale.
Thomas O’Malley in “The Aristocats” and Baloo’s brown-furred twin Little John in “Robin Hood” were the next two Disney characters Harris voiced.
The vultures were supposed to be voiced by The Beatles
The four vultures that befriend Mowgli when he feels betrayed by Baloo were originally supposed to be voiced by the Beatles. However, the Fab Four’s busy schedule left little time for them to record their lines, and John Lennon was against the notion in general. There are certain vocal and physical similarities between the Vultures and the British Invasion, even if “That’s What Friends Are For” by the Vultures is more barbershop than British Invasion.
Verna Felton Voiced an Elephant in This Film and ‘Dumbo’
Verna Felton, an actress, frequently appeared in Disney movies. She provided the voices for Flora in Sleeping Beauty, the erratic Queen of Hearts from “Alice in Wonderland,” Aunt Sarah in “Lady and the Tramp,” and Cinderella’s fairy godmother.
By pure coincidence, elephants appeared frequently during her whole Disney career. She portrayed Colonel Hathi’s cool-headed wife Winifred in “The Jungle Book,” and performed the imperious Matriarch and Mrs. Jumbo in the animated film “Dumbo.” Winifred was Felton’s final part because she died the day before Walt Disney went away.
Songs by the Sherman Brothers…Mostly
Disney hired the songwriting duo of Robert and Richard Sherman to make the movie lighten up after rejecting Bill Peet’s darker version of “The Jungle Book” in order to do so. Several Disney productions, including “Mary Poppins,” “The Sword in the Stone,” and Disney theme parks attractions like It’s a Small World and The Enchanted Tiki Room, had already featured iconic music composed by The Sherman Brothers.
Although Terry Gilkyson had already written songs for an earlier version of the movie, he disagreed with the new approach. The only song of his to still be heard in the movie was ‘The Bare Necessities,’ which was nominated for an Academy Award.
A rhinoceros character got cut
Rocky the Rhino was created as a comic relief character who would be dim-witted, stupid, and nearly blind. Before he was fired, his scenes had been fully story-boarded: He was scheduled to show up after King Louie’s segment, but Walt didn’t want to put the comical moments back-to-back.
The timeless plot and endearing characters of “The Jungle Book” have captivated audiences for decades. “The Jungle Book” has continued to amaze and entertain audiences of all ages since it was first published as a collection of short stories and through all of its media adaptations. Its influence on literature, cinema, and popular culture cannot be exaggerated, and its continued appeal is proof that it is a genuine masterpiece. The story of “The Jungle Book” continues to captivate readers and viewers alike with its depth of themes, distinctive setting, and endearing characters.