Jungle Book

The Jungle Book is one of Disney’s classic movies. It was the last film he worked on before he died and was received well in his passing. The Jungle Book is one of Disney’s family feel-good movies with upbeat catchy songs that keep replaying in your mind. However, most do not realize the time and effort the artists put into a movie that took years to make, how the movie was even chosen or why the artists chose to use the methods they did to bring the characters to life. The production of a movie is never simple and this is The Jungle Book’s story.

Producing a full-length movie is a long and arduous process. It is never done in only one take. There are many changes made along the way, made with the discretion of the producer. The Jungle Book started with many ideas and sketches formulated by the artists working for Disney. It is an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s written English stories. Kipling’s take was much more dark and somber than Disney had intended for his film (decentfilms). It took continuous editing to get the film to the more light-hearted standard Disney desired. The approved ideas for the film then became cels for the film as a whole, which is cel animation.

The Jungle Book was completed in 1967, produced by Walt Disney (telegraph). He did not live through the completion, however. He died in 1966, before production finished. His vision was to make a light hearted film that would be as big as his previous success, Snow White. Unfortunately, the film did not do as well in the theaters. It can be seen as less of a success because all of the time and work put into the film did not pan out in the actual showings. It took a long time to get the film to where it is now.

Original storyline concepts for The Jungle Book were quite different from the final production. Bill Peet, a Disney story artist at the time, formulated storyline ideas that were serious and even dark. They were closely based on Kipling’s version of the story. Disney didn’t approve these ideas, deciding they would be too serious. He wanted Peet to change his ideas. As a result, Peet refused and quit working on the project and for Disney (decentfilms).

There are always cuts during the production process and some original characters didn’t make it. It is important to cut down the movie to only the characters that seem completely necessary. These are decisions that must be made by the producer and director. One example is “Rocky the Rhino”. Rocky was loosely based on Selvester Stallone in the Rocky films. Rocky was drawn by artists initially, but did not make it to the final production. Another rejected character was Ticker the Tickworm (decentfilms). He did not make the final cut either. It all depends on who truly fits in the eyes of the producers.

Choosing music that best fits the film is crucial to making it successful on screen. This cannot always be done in one shot of course. Originally, Disney hired Terry Gilkyson to create all of the music for the film. Similar to Peet’s, Gilkyson’s concepts were deemed much too dark by Walt Disney, although “The Bare Necessities” was kept for the final cut (telegraph). Disney was convinced that a lighter tone was needed and that the best way to do that was to have light hearted music. In order to achieve this, Disney brought in the Sherman brothers to create new music. They had worked on such films as Mary Poppins and The Sword in the Stone. They were able to take the film in a more upbeat direction. An important aspect to note is that Disney decided to have set music early on. If this was completed first, he believed, the movie would fall into place more smoothly. It took careful editing from both Disney and director Wolfgang Reitherman in order to get to the finished product.

Another part of the production process is the recording of voice actors. Sometimes, initial choices do not work out, but often For example, the four vultures in the film that taunt Mowgli were originally supposed to be voiced by the Beatles. Due to timing conflicts and opposition by John Lennon, this did not work out (decentfilms). However, evidence of Disney’s intent is clear, in the vultures’ hair, accents, and singing. There are some voice actors that worked well in the film, however. The voice of Baloo the bear really brought the character to life. The voice actor, Phil Harris, added so much life to Baloo that he ended up having a bigger role in the film. He became an important emotional pinnacle in the story. Another important voice actor was Louis Prima (decentfilms). He voiced King Louie, improvising with his singing and scatting. He got really involved in his character, adding suggestions along the way. The performance of voice actors can have a strong impact on the production process. Depending on how they portray a character, producers may be inspired to edit or expand on a character.

Although The Jungle Book did not quite reach the high hopes of Walt Disney, it is still a key Disney film. It is one of the first to have such a conclusive and enduring storyline. It has lovable and dynamic characters, such as Baloo, King Louie, and Mowgli. The film has more dimension and energy than past-animated films. It is recognized as an important landmark in the history of Disney’s films. The production process of developing an animated film is definitely not straightforward. In order to perfect the ideas and concepts of the director and producer, there must be some trial and error. For the storyline, characters, music, and voice actors to all fit with in The Jungle Book, Walt Disney had to make crucial decisions according to production. It was a long road to make the lovable classic that Disney had in mind.

The Jungle Book’s concept was first presented by Bill Peet to Walt Disney, who gave him the okay to begin writing a script for an adaption of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. In the wake of the failure of The Sword in the Stone, Disney’s studio needed another commercial success to get back into their rhythm. However, when Peet presented his script to Disney, “what he found was that the team headed up by Bill Peet had come up with quite a sombre, dark, serious story – much more serious than any films they’d done in animation since the days of Pinocchio”. (McLean) After their confrontation, Disney scrapped and rewrote the script with Larry Clemmons into a lighter, more comedic work, while Peet left the studio.

In 1967, the year of the film’s release, there was a long series of riots. Detroit, Boston, Tampa, and Buffalo were only a few of the larger cities involved. Most of these incidents arose from acts of racism towards African-American citizens of the area—the 12th Street riot occurred when a rumor circulated stating “police had shot and killed a black prostitute two days before”. (History.com) This may have had impact on the film’s reception; having the light-hearted film be released following a string of violent riots may have attracted movie-goes who wanted to hear about something more pleasant than people being killed over tensions.

Jungle Book’s reception was overwhelmingly positive, to put it lightly. A LIFE writer, Richard Schickel, wrote in a review that it was “an animated cartoon that is the best thing of its kind since Dumbo, another short, bright, unscary and blessedly uncultivated cartoon.” (Schickel) Part of the success may have been in respect for Disney, who died 10 months before the release of the film in theatres. It could be considered a big draw; “come and see the very last film Disney himself worked on”.

Whatever it was that attracted people to see the film, it worked. Jungle Book’s initial run grossed $73.7 million in the box office, putting it at number four in terms of highest-grossing films in 1967. It was a complete commercial success, pulling the studio out of the ditch they dug themselves into with The Sword in the Stone’s failure. The film’s legacy includes a sequel by DisneyToon Studios, a television series, a live-action adaptation, and several video games.

The film was also nominated for multiple awards. The song “Bare Necessities” itself was nominated for an Academy Award (Best Song), but unfortunately lost to “Talk to the Animals” instead. However, the film itself was nominated for twelve awards in several different proceedings and won five of them- three of those awards being international shows. (IMBd)

And, even now, Jungle Book is still considered to be a masterpiece. J. Hoberman wrote in February 2014 “although the name Disney is synonymous for some with timeless entertainment, The Jungle Book occupies a special place in Disney company history” (Hoberman).

The movie, The Jungle Book, has certain (major) artists that helped made this movie. On some occasions, people would ask some questions about their background. Those questions would most likely be “What were they doing before this film, what did they do after, how did they get into this position, and what else might be notable about their work and history?” These major artists were Ken Anderson, Milt Kahl, Ollie Johnson, John Lounsbery, and Frank Thomas.

The first major artist is Ken Anderson or as Disney would refer to him, the “Jack of all Trades”. He had gotten a job in Walt Disney by applying for one in 1934. From there, Anderson worked on what were known as “Silly Symphonies.” These Silly Symphonies were 75 animated short films made between 1929-39 where each film had its own independent steadiness. The ones that Anderson worked on were “The Goddess of Spring” and “Three Orphan Kittens”. The very first featured film he did was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. With Anderson directing the art properties of this film, he helped animators picture the setting dimensionally and made models of the Dwarves’ cottage. He is also responsible for people remembering Dopey’s wiggling ears that were inspired by his own ability. After that, he was the art director for Pinocchio, Fantasia and The Reluctant Dragon. As a result, his qualifications for the position of animation art director for Pete’s Dragon were quite high. After working on the villain “Shere Khan” and gave some story contributions for Jungle Book, he had helped Walt (founder of Walt Disney Studios) with creating “Disneyland”. Walt partnered with Anderson’s knowledge with architecture, perspective, and art direction to help build the park. Anderson made the concept drawing, and designed work to the popular Fantasyland attractions. Some of these attractions were, “Peter Pan’s Flight”, “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” and “Storybook Land.” After giving 44 years of service to Walt Disney, Anderson finally retired. However, he still had a hand with the work with Walt Disney Imagineering. Anderson later died from a stroke in La Canada Flintridge, California on January 13, 1993. His most notable work was help creating Disneyland’s famous rides, and giving almost half a century’s worth of pure service.

A second major artist is Milt Kahl. He also obtained a job in Walt Disney Studios when he applied. He was then hired as assistant animator in Disney short films. Those films were “Mickey’s Circus”, “Lonesome Ghost” and “The Ugly Duckling.” He had also helped out in other movies such as Melody Time, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp, One Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Rescuers. After working for Disney, Kahl retired and went to pursue his own interests. This included sculpting delicate wire into human figures. The most well known is Kahl’s “Dancing Ballerinas.” He finally passed away in Mill Valley, California, on April 19, 1987. Milt Kahl is noted for his 40 years of service to Walt Disney and his inclusion in Disney’s list of “Nine Old Men.”

Another major artist is Ollie Johnston. Rather than applying for a job, Disney came to him with an offer. With just one week’s worth of training, he joined Walt Disney Studios in 1935. In addition to contributing on The Jungle Book, he inspired animation and direction to other classic films. Other films Johnston assisted on were Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Song of the South, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, Sword in the Stone, Mary Poppins, Robin Hood, The Rescuers and The Fox and the Hound. Ollie Johnston was responsible for drawing the musical antics of Mowgli and Baloo when they sing, “Bear Necessities” in The Jungle Book. After The Jungle Book, he authored four landmark books with his lifelong friend, Frank Thomas, who was also a collaborator in The Jungle Book. These four books were, The Illusion of Life, Too Funny for Words, “Bambi” The Story and The Movie and The Disney Villain. He also is the starring subject of a heartfelt 1995 documentary, “Frank and Ollie” written by Frank’s son, Theodore (Ted) Thomas. Ollie Johnston is remembered for being a member of Walt Disney’s elite group, “Nine Old Men”, of which he is the eldest. Johnston is the first animator to be honored with the National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony in 2005.

The next major artist is John Lounsbery. The story behind how he started working for Disney is quite interesting. While attending classes at the Art Center School of Design as a commercial artist, one of his instructors told him Walt Disney was hiring. The reason why is because his instructor notice his “draughtsmanship”. Thus, Lounsbery joined Disney in July 2, 1935. Since then, he has worked on various films and shorts such as the “Pluto” shorts and animating the witch in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with Norm Ferguson. John Lounsbery is responsible for the creation of “J. Worthington Foulfellow” and “Gideon” from Pinocchio as well as “Ben Ali Gator” in the “Dance of the Hours” from Fantasia. In addition, he jumped to animation director for the faithful mouse “Timothy” in Dumbo. He later worked on several shorts during WWII. These shorts include “Springtime for Pluto”, “Private Pluto” and the notorious “Chicken Little” short. While still being a directing animator, he was involved with “Song of the South” and animating “Willie” from “Fun and Fancy Free.” After being a directing animator, Lounsbery continued working by assisting Wolfgang Reitherman on Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too. This followed up to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Lounsbery will be remembered in history for his numerous characters he created. The characters he made were “George Darling and the Indians” for Peter Pan, “Joe and Tony” for Lady and the Tramp, “Tibs and Horace Badun” in 101 Dalmatians and the other elephants from The Jungle Book. Lounsbery died from heart failure during surgery in Los Angeles, California on February 13, 1976.

The last major artist is Frank Thomas. He started working for Walt Disney in 1934. He got his job when he and Walt wanted the same thing “ saw the acting possibilities in the animation, he was hooked.” From there, Thomas started his career as top animator, director, and story man. He worked on parts of Mary Poppins, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, animated the villain “Lady Tremaine” in Cinderella, the “Queen of Hearts” from Alice in Wonderland and “Captain Hook” from Peter Pan. After doing The Jungle Book, Thomas retired in 1978 to work on a book with Ollie Johnson. After five years, their first book (dedicated to the animations and pictures they had created) Disney Animation; the Illusion of Life was published in 1981. Their first book was followed up with Too Funny For Words, Walt Disney’s Bambi, The Story and The Film and The Disney Villain. Thomas is best remembered for “Frank and Ollie”. Frank and Ollie is the famous partnership of these two lifelong friends creating the classic Disney movies that are still watched today.

*(Frank and Ollie reading their book, Disney Animation; the Illusion of Life)

Of all the Disney movies released during the 1960s, The Jungle Book is one of the more renowned ones. Other well-known Disney works of the 60s are 101 Dalmatians released in 1961 and The Sword in the Stone released in 1963. Buena Vista Distribution Co., Inc., was the distributer of all three and in addition, these films share the usage of xerography during the animation process. Xerography was invented in the 1930s, but Ub Iwerks adapted this process and started using it for animation in 101 Dalmatians. (DisneyWiki) By using xerography in animation, it allowed animators to skip the hand inking process and kept their original artwork preserved. But the line quality was scratchy and not up to par with hand-inking quality, so it was only used in small parts at first. It was actually first tested in a rock falling scene from Sleeping Beauty as well as a bubbles water scene since it could only produce a black line at that point (DisneyWiki).

Since Disney artists often overlap between movies, it makes sense that there would be some repeating scenes and characters from different movies. This can be seen even within The Jungle Book movie itself, during Mowgli’s two running away scenes. Other parts are reused in later movies, such as Baloo and King Louie’s dance in The Jungle Book becomes Lady Cluck’s and Little John’s dance in Robin Hood (McLean, Craig). Even the voice actors overlap, leading to increased similarities between characters. An example of this is Phil Harris’s voicing of Baloo. Throughout the duration of the film, Baloo’s voice called to mind Robin Hood, and with some research, it was found that also voiced Little John. Two other instances of this occurring are with J. Pat O’Malley from Sword in the Stone also voicing Jungle Book’s Colonel Hathi and Buzzie the vulture and Sebastian Cabot from 101 Dalmatians voicing Bagheera (DisneyWiki). This repeating of familiar character voices creates a subconscious familiarity for the audience and allows them to connect with the characters on an emotional level, since they recall watching past movies with other beloved characters.

In order to create a realistic world for the viewer, Disney films are rotoscoped whenever possible and the movie, The Jungle Book, was no exception. High quality, realistic animation is Disney’s standard specialty and he was determined that The Jungle Book not be box office failure that The Sword in the Stone was. Main characters Mowgli and Bagheera the panther are clearly based off of a child and cat, from the way Mowgli runs through the jungle to Bagheera’s own run, as well as his jumps and landings. Mowgli also has some child-like tendencies during the movie such as throwing stones, kicking at the ground and running his hands over things as he walks. The beginning scenes with the wolves were clearly based off of dogs and Baloo the bear had some bear behavior. Scratching and sniffing were bear-like behaviors, but he had mostly human movements. Walking and dancing, he spent more time on his hind legs during the film than on all fours. Disney always does an amazing job creating believable animal characters that people can still identify with because they’ll emulate human behaviors too. Examples of this include when Bagheera becomes exasperated with Mowgli and rolls his eyes or Shere Khan is eavesdropping and chuckling to himself. These are two behaviors that everyone has done in their lifetime and thus allows the audience to connect more with characters on an emotional level.

In addition to rotoscoping, cel animation was used to keep backgrounds still while the characters moved around. Using the multiplane camera, animators could make the camera appear to pan across the scene and provide close-ups. However, sometimes the characters seem to slide across the ground, such as Mowgli or Bagheera walking on a fallen tree as the animators try to match the rotoscoped character to the background’s ground. There is an inconsistency in line weight between the characters and the background. The background is hand painted, and thus seems static and the lines are thinner. In contrast, the lines around the character are thicker and because of this the viewer expects them to stay in motion.

Depth is created within the scene by partially hiding the characters with ferns or having them go behind something that hides them from the viewer’s line of sight. This causes the character to create the midground between the foreground and background by becoming it. This can be seen when Baloo, Bagheera and Mowgli stumble across the man village and they’re watching the girl behind some ferns. Another instance is when Bagheera is running through the treetops to get to Mowgli after he hears Baloo roar. This is also a beautiful display of why rotoscoping is so important because without reference footage, Bagheera would probably just squash and stretch as he ran and the beauty of Disney’s tendency for realism would be lost.

101 Dalmatians was created in a more angular style following in the footsteps of Sleeping Beauty since films before that like Dumbo featured round, circular creatures. The Jungle Book also has more angular characters but not as noticeable as in 101 Dalmatians (DisneyWiki). The animators did adequate research on creation of the characters from how they look, to how they move, but there are some deviations from how some creatures act than how they would in the wild. Elephants are not lead by males, it’s the females that are the matriarch and decide where to go. In addition, female elephants have tusks too, the animators probably thought that tusks were too male of a trait to put on female elephants and took them out. The Jungle Book is in Technicolor and Disney shows it in the lush, green forest that has snippets of pretty sky blues and Mowgli’s bright orange loincloth.

Works Cited

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Hoberman, J. “Inadvertently Baring Necessities.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 22 Feb. 2014. Web. 18 Sept. 2014.

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McLean, Craig. “The Jungle Book: The Making of Disney’s Most Troubled Film.” The Telegraph. The Telegraph, 30 July 2013. Web. 10 Sept. 2014.

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Schickel, Richard. “Walt’s Good -and Bad- Goodby.” Rev. of The Jungle BookLIFE n.d.: 11. Print.

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About barberne

an animation student at alfred state from rochester
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