Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Defending The Jungle Book

I've been noticing on several blogs that some people have gotten into roasting Walt Disney's
re-released 1967 film, The Jungle Book.
It seems that this very popular movie, after 40 years of successful re-releases in Movie Theatres and on home video, has found a handful of folks who are very vocal about its' flaws.
Well, I'm a believer that if you see a movie often enough over that length of time, you're going to notice something wrong with it. Heck, I found a continuity problem in the movie just the other day. I never noticed it the other 159 times I watched it.
I'll give you a clue where it's's in the section after the monkey sequence where Baloo and Baggy are talking about Mowgli and both have black eyes.
Let me know if you find it!
Another has nothing to do with their black eyes slowly disappearing.

Anyway, getting back to what I was talking about, The Jungle Book is indeed no great film.
As a matter of fact the first fifteen minutes of the movie feels like a different film until Baloo and the monkeys appear. The 'Book' does have a very episodic feel to it, with repetitive sequences regarding the elephants, Kaa The Snake and Shere Khan. And then there's the famous voice cast, which many have claimed that the animators used as some sort of crutch, making their work easier. Or the barbershop quartet thing with the Beatlesque vultures that only seems to exist because the story people needed some other characters to help save Mowgli from Shere Khan's attack.

The Jungle Book certainly has it's flaws...but it also has it's magic too.
It is certainly not the greatest achievement in Walt Disney's career, but it's one hell of a likable and fun movie.
While some bloggers are complaining about all the story flaws in the movie, they fail to miss the point of the picture. Walt Disney was more interested in making a picture that entertained an audience. He wanted his story people to keep the story light in order to get to the fun of the movie with the characters. Certainly "The Bare Necessities" and "I Wanna Be Like You" sequences are probably some of the most memorable out of all Disney movies. I've sat through too many movies where the entertainment clearly gets lost, because the story is just too complicated. The Jungle Book never has that problem because it's chock full of entertainment hung on a basic simple storyline.
While The Jungle Book does use Star talent for voices, none of them at the time were A or even B list talent. It's not like Disney hired Dean Martin for Baloo or Julie Andrews for the mother elephant, so I will never understand that criticism..especially when Disney used Ed Wynn and Jerry Colonna for Alice In Wonderland or Peggy Lee for Lady and The Tramp! I don't recall Disney ever caught criticism for using these stars in those pictures.
Besides, when I saw the movie for the first time when I was 5 years old in 1967, I never equated Baloo with Phil Harris or George Sanders with Shere Khan. Back then I didn't know who the heck Phil Harris and George Sanders were! To me, the illusion was complete; I was watching these cool animated personalities interact.

It's a movie that has stayed with me long after leaving the theatre, and the things I cherished were the those lush personalities, the funny sequences and the music! It succeeds in places where many other films fail.. it creates an emotional connection with the audience.
The personality animation actually inspired me to pursue animation as a profession. Funny how many pro animators say the same thing!
I guess my point here, is that the Jungle Book is pure entertainment. It wasn't meant to be much more than that. The picture unapologetically does what it's supposed to do; keep audiences enthralled and entertained for 80 plus minutes. So, what's wrong with that?

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