The Jungle Book (1967)

Article 3937 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-17-2012
Posting Date: 5-25-2012
Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman
Featuring the voices of Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, Bruce Reitherman
Country: USA
What it is: Animated fantasy

An abandoned baby is raised by wolves in the jungle. When a man-hating tiger returns to the area, a panther undertakes to escort the young boy to the man-village for safety, but the boy wants to remain in the jungle and runs away. Can the panther and a bear befriended by the boy save him before he encounters the tiger?

This is the first movie I actually saw in a theater, so it’s no surprise that I have a real affection for the movie. Had there been home video in those days, I probably would have gotten a copy and seen it over and over again. As it is, many years passed before I saw it again, and by that time, I’d had a chance to see many of Disney’s other animated features, and I came to the sad realization that it didn’t rank with the company’s very best work. Watching it now, I think the primary problem I have with it is that its episodic structure makes the movie seem a bit aimless, and though there is talk of Shere Khan the tiger, he really doesn’t appear until the movie is half over. I think the movie would have worked better had Shere Khan appeared much earlier in the action; it would have added an urgency to the trek to bring the boy to the village. I do like the choice of George Sanders as the voice of the tiger. Still, the one thing I remember most from the initial viewing in the theater is Mowgli’s encounter with the orangutan king, and that remains my favorite musical moment from the movie. And if I don’t place the movie in the front rank of Disney’s animated features, I do at least recognize it as being one of the strongest of Disney’s animated movies from that period in their history.

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