Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Jungle Book at 50

Director Woolie Reitherman called The Jungle Book "that little movie". Its 1967 budget was a modest $4 Mill., ( just under $ 30 Mill. in today's dollars).
I saw the film way back in Germany during its first theatrical release, and all I can say is that it became a HUUUGE movie. Lines around the block for movie tickets, almost always sold out.
Over the years The Jungle Book was re-released several times, and as of today it is the most watched film (live action or animated) in movie theaters of all time in Germany.

If this film had failed at the box office, Walt Disney Productions would have most likely shut down its legendary animation department (This according to Frank and Ollie).
Luckily it was a huge hit worldwide, grossing over $ 205 Mill. ($ 1.5 Bill. in today's dollars).

And yet a lot could have gone wrong with this production. Walt Disney died before the film was finished. Top story artist Bill Peet left Disney over creative differences. The film's plot deviated greatly from Rudyard Kipling's original book. Mowgli's much simplified story was told with musical Jazz numbers in the Indian Jungle, a concept that sounds absurd.
But in the end everything fell into place. The very simple story line allowed the animators to fully develop their personalities through breakthrough animated acting. The main characters' relationships are extremely well worked out, and you really get to know them.

So here's to The Jungle Book at 50! A film that changed many people's lives including my own.

A look back at some of the artists involved in the film.
Walt Disney showing a Ken Anderson sketch of King Louie to singer and musician Louis Prima, who  voiced the character in the movie.

Sterling Holloway (the voice of Kaa, the snake) and Walt.

Director Woolie Reitherman working with his son Bruce on dialogue for Mowgli.

From left to right: Writer Larry Clemmons, Sterling Holloway, Woolie and Sebastian Cabot (Bagheera).

Background artists Al Dempster, Bill Layne and Art Riley

An experimental background, most likely painted by Walt Peregoy.

Songwriters Robert and Richard Sherman with Louis Prima.

Louis Prima (on the far left) and his band performing "I wanna be like you".

The world Premiere in Hollywood.

Sonny and Cher at the premiere.

The original first release movie poster. To be honest I was never crazy about this depiction of the characters in this composition.

Over the years I have posted endless times about this film. Here are links to some earlier posts:



  2. Indeed, JUNGLE BOOK is simply a feel-good type of animated feature, and it really foreshadowed the greatness to come in the Disney Renaissance and Disney Revival. As such, its 50th anniversary is one that calls for joyous celebration! (I celebrated it yesterday, in fact, by watching the 2007 Platinum Edition DVD.)

  3. Well, if The Jungle Book turns 50 today, then I know what my Friday movie will be this week, after Strictly Come Dancing (the Danish version) ends.

  4. what is it with weird-looking promo art? You'd think that something as important as the poster would be under intense scrutiny.
    We have the same problem on the TV shows I work on- they can be pretty strict about staying on-model in the animation, but often the promo stuff has problems that we would never get away with!

    I'm surprised about the budget being so low, compared to today's Disney films. I guess they were all really experienced by this time so they knew where to spend the money.

  5. Still waiting for someone to do full justice to Kipling's original Kaa; but yes, Disney's Jungle Book was one of the handful of VHS tapes we had, growing up, and was almost worn out from playing! Heck, we all knew 'The Bare Necessities' before we even saw the film. The performances - voices and animation - really made it.

  6. When my mother recalls Jungle Book first coming out, what she remembers is the old jazz musicians promoting the film on TV and whatnot. That kind of music was very out of fashion by 1967, and she was struck by how these old Big Band guys were so THRILLED to be doing something again.