1 The Mickey Mindset: Disney Animation Reviews #19: The Jungle Book

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Disney Animation Reviews #19: The Jungle Book

Before we jump into the review, I'd like it to be known that I have read Mitchell's review of the film, and I have to say I whole heartily disagree with him. This review is fully positive of the film. Mitchell: How could you not love this movie? 

Disney Movie Review: 19/53 - The Jungle Book

Ryan Dosier - The Jungle Book (1967) was the final animated feature film to be overseen by Walt Disney. And boy oh boy, did Uncle Walt go out with a bang. I adore everything about this film and hereby declare it Walt Disney’s greatest film since Pinocchio. Every single thing about the film works beautifully. It is a comedy, it is a drama, and above all it is jazzy, unforgettable fun.

The first thing I noticed re-watching The Jungle Book was that the voice actors are credited as their characters for the first time in a Disney animated feature. Sebastian Cabot is credited as Bagheera the panther, Phil Harris is credited as Baloo, etc. Undoubtedly this is because of how incredibly important the voices are to this film. It’s hard to think of more perfect casting choices than Phil Harris as Baloo, Louis Prima as King Louie, and every other voice in the film. The voices are so crucial to the characters. By far, The Jungle Book possesses the best voice acting in a Disney animated feature yet.

The animation in The Jungle Book is impeccable in every single scene. Bagheera moves like a real panther, the Vultures fly and squat like real vultures, Kaa the snake coils and curls incredibly, and Shere Khan is outstanding with his movements and facial expressions. The highlight, animation wise, is a tie between Baloo and King Louie. The great Ollie Johnston animated Baloo through most of the movie, especially in his dancing scenes, and it stands out as some of the greatest cinematic animation ever. King Louie appears only briefly but he is completely perfect. It’s impossible to describe how he moves and jumps and dances. It’s just wonderful.

Baloo the bear is the film’s greatest success. Baloo immediately commands the film as soon as he is onscreen scatting. He takes control of the story, the humor, the charm, and the fun of the picture. Baloo’s relationship with Mowgli is the delightful heart of the film and is one of the most wonderful Disney friendships you can find. But it is Phil Harris’s outstanding voice work that makes Baloo soar. His performance of “The Bear Necessities” is one of the greatest Disney songs period. Baloo never stops impressing throughout the entire film, right up until his “death” scene at the end, where gets the biggest laugh.

Mowgli is also a fantastic character that benefits greatly from the supporting cast but still manages to be entertaining and charming on his own. Viewers care for Mowgli because he is the viewer. Who wouldn’t want to stay in the jungle with Baloo and King Louie? Mowgli grows and learns and we learn and grow with him.

Then there’s King Louie, who does the most with the smallest amount of screen time. Louis Prima adds so much to the character and the film with his exceptional voice. The song “I Wan’na Be Like You” is sweet, jazzy perfection. However, it is King Louie’s astounding animation by the astounding Frank Thomas that makes him an incredible character. He jumps and jives and dances about through the scene in hilarious fashion. Again, it’s impossible to describe how he moves. King Louie is the animated embodiment of swinging fun. Unbelievably perfect.

Shere Khan is another bafflingly great character. The main villain of the film does not appear until 47 minutes in. But as soon as he’s there, Shere Khan commands the screen. He sneaks through every scene so beautifully thanks to the animation from Milt Kahl. I love watching Shere Khan’s facial expressions because each one is incredible. His mouth can go so small it almost disappears and so wide that his fangs show. Shere Khan, although very brief in appearance, is one of the truly great Disney villains.

I could go on and on about the characters and the animation of The Jungle Book. I found myself completely stunned by the animation and I really can’t get over how perfect, beautiful, hilarious, and unbelievable it all is. The Jungle Book may be the most perfectly animated Disney film of all time—and I don’t say that lightly.

The story of The Jungle Book film is absolutely wonderful as well. The film never, ever lets you get bored. It’s packed to the brim with fun, excitement, and humor. There is never a dull moment with Baloo, King Louie, Bagheera, Kaa, Shere Khan, and the rest of the glorious cast. It flows and bounces like a great jazz song, climaxing with a terrific fight between Baloo and Shere Khan, which leaves Baloo fallen. Bagheera goes on to eulogize Baloo beautifully... while Baloo, still very much alive, listens with tears in his eyes. It is so very funny. If you don’t laugh when Baloo says, “I wish my mother coulda heard this!” you need a sense of humor check.

So that’s my love letter to Walt Disney’s final masterpiece, The Jungle Book. This movie represents the best of Disney animation. It is full of heart, humor, songs, fun, and stunning animation. The things that come together in The Jungle Book make for a true masterpiece and one of my favorite Disney films. It’s a Disney bear necessity.

5/5 Prickly Pears

1 comment:

  1. A good film and as one animation historian puts it. "one of the most funniest Disney aninmated features".