An animated adaptation of Rudyard Kiplings famous tale of a lost human child raised by a pack of wolves, who is helped by a clever panther and a easy-going bear, and hindered by a hungry tiger and the power-crazed king of the monkeys, to return to his ow
You could use Disney’s canon of animated tales as a fair barometer of the changing times and styles they were made in. The ornate, lovely classics such as Snow White and Pinocchio are steeped in the simpler, morally defined glow of the ‘30s and ‘40s, by the groovy end of the ‘60s The Jungle Book cuts loose of its Kipling origins for a jazzy, bopping nuthouse of a flick. It’s a favourite more for its giddy humour and belting songs, than the teeming prettiness of the animations. It’s arguable that the film, for all its joy, hardly does Kipling’s anthropomorphised fable that much justice.
Kipling is the framework for this jumble, not-to-say jungle, of loud characters who cross diminutive Mowgli’s path, and a clutch of amongst the best Disney songs ever written. It’s just a road movie with great pipes. There’s no forgetting the magic of Louis Prima’s ribald rendition of King Of The Swingers (loosely tugging at Louis Armstrong’s legendary style), a manic flurry of a routine that borders on the edgy, or, indeed, Phil Davis’ easy daydream Bear Necessities catchy as measles.
The characters too, care of Kipling and the actor-animator combos, bubble delightfully to life. Sebastian Cabot’s world-weary Bagherra, the dignified black panther, is wonderfully exasperated, and whoever decided George Sanders would make a good Shere Khan, the dreaded tiger burning bright, deserves a medal of some sort. Seductive and wicked, he has become one of cinema’s greatest villains, his words so honeyed they almost seem to drip from the cavern of his jaws. That the accents veer from the Cockney to Manhattan is of little concern, nor Mowgli’s miraculous ability to converse with animals. This was the first animated movie to be made following Walt’s death, and you can feel the slacking of storytelling detail. And for the jive it still ends with on a bittersweet damp squib.
It's a slight tale, of course, and incredibly short, but the characters and songs are pretty much perfect viewing time and again.