Uncle Walt-a-thon: The Jungle Book

<- Uncle Walt-a-thon: Sword in the Stone

It gives me a little sense of pride that mine must be one of the few blogs that can post a review of The Jungle Book right after a post on Doctor Zhivago, and it’s not even out-of-place.

Anyway, I already wrote up a closer for this series, but I did want to include The Jungle Book since it was the last film Disney worked on (though he passed away while it was still in production). Also, it was likely my favourite film as a child. I couldn’t even guess how many times I watched this movie before I turned ten, but it was enough that, even though I haven’t seen it in a solid decade-and-a-half, I could still remember every scene, almost every line, even. Only Robin Hood and Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day are even in the same ballpark for my favourite and most-watched childhood films.

The animation style is similar to Sword in the Stone, but a little cleaner than that film. It’s mostly up to Disney standards, except that this is the first movie where I noticed recycled animation - Kaa falling from a tree looks identical both times it happens. I didn’t think much of this when I saw it as a child, and it’s not a big deal, but it’s disappointing to see the studio begin to cut corners like this.

I’ve probably complained enough about Disney villains, especially Captain Hook, but The Jungle Book does give a good example of how to make effective antagonists. The primary villain, the tiger Shere Khan, doesn’t even show up until halfway in, but other characters talk about him so much, and are obviously terrified of him, that he’s already frightening before he even actually does anything. In his second appearance, he meets the film’s other villain, the snake Kaa.

Now, Kaa is a bit of a comic villain, but in his first appearance he hypnotises and almost kills Mowgli and Bagheera, and in their second meeting Mowgli’s smart enough not to make eye contact (necessary for Kaa’s hypnotism to work) but Kaa succeeds in capturing him anyway. Shere Khan, though, does maintain eye contact, but only out of the corner of his eye, and when Kaa does try his hypnotism trick Shere Khan smothers his face with his paw with a nonchalant comment. So, one villain who’s almost killed the protagonist twice poses no threat to Shere Khan.

If only every Disney villain were this effective!