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Saturday, January 31, 2015

30 Fun Facts - Walt Disney's Jungle Book!

This past month in my Walt Disney Maniacs group on Facebook we have been talking about JUNGLE BOOK, the 1967 release which was the last film that Walt Disney himself had his hands on, as he passed away in December of 1966.  This movie has always been my all time favorite Disney movie. The fact that it was Walt's last, makes it even more dear to my heart.  We hope you enjoy reading these interesting and whimsical trivia tidbits about this wonderful movie.

1.  Walt Disney passed away in 1966 from complications from lung cancer. 'The Jungle Book' was released the following year, making it the last animated film to have its production personally supervised by Walt.

2.  The fate of animation at the Disney studio was uncertain following Walt's death, so the critical and financial success of 'The Jungle Book' was much needed good news for Disney animation.

3.  Bill Peet, a Disney story artist who had been with the studio since 1937, storyboarded an early draft of 'The Jungle Book' that had a clearer storyline than Kipling's episodic tales, yet still retained the dark tone of the original book. Walt found Peet's version too serious for a Disney film and wanted changes.

4.  Peet refused and quit both the project and his job at Disney. He went on to become a successful writer and illustrator of children's books. Though much of Peet's version of the movie was scrapped, some elements that he created remain, including King Louie and the ending where Mowgli falls for a young girl and returns to the human village with her.

5.  Before Phil Harris was cast in the role, Baloo didn't have a huge role in Disney's version of 'The Jungle Book.' But the Disney artists loved the warmth and spontaneity that Harris gave the bear. Can we say that Phil Harris made Baloo a star?

Baloo the bear.jpg
6.  Baloo became the emotional center of the story, an affectionate not-quite father figure torn between his own desire to have Mowgli stay in the jungle and his responsibility to do what's right for the man cub.

7.  Phi Harris went on to voice two more Disney characters: Thomas O'Malley in 'The Aristocats' and Baloo's brown-furred twin Little John in 'Robin Hood.'

8.  According to Kipling's daughter, the first syllable of Mowgli's name rhymes with "cow" rather than "show." The mispronunciation was not unique to Disney, as it showed up in at least one previous film adaptation of the book. It's not clear whether Disney just didn't know or didn't care how to pronounce "Mowgli," but Kipling's daughter reportedly never forgave the mistake.

9.  Celebrity voice casting was not that common in the earlier Disney movies, so singer Louis Prima playing King Louie was a bit of an oddity. Prima brought a huge amount of enthusiasm to the role, which included improvising his own scat singing with Phil Harris on 'I Wanna Be Like You.'

10. Phil Harris frequently called the studio with suggestions for the character and even proposed killing him off because he knew he could perform a phenomenal death scene.

11. Sterling Holloway didn't have the vocal range of some voice actors, but he could play a wide variety of roles. His distinctive voice worked equally well as Christopher Robin's favorite bear of very little brain, a villainous snake with hypnotic powers and numerous other Disney characters.
Image result for kaa

12. The original plan was for the Beatles to voice the four vultures who befriend Mowgli when he feels betrayed by Baloo. But the Fab Four's schedule didn't leave time for recording their lines and John Lennon was opposed to the whole idea as well. The vultures still bear some physical and vocal resemblance to the famed British band, though their song, 'That's What Friends Are For,' is more barbershop than British Invasion.

13. Actress Verna Felton was a staple of the Disney films. She voiced Cinderella's fairy godmother, the temperamental Queen of Hearts from 'Alice in Wonderland,' Aunt Sarah in 'Lady and the Tramp' and Flora in 'Sleeping Beauty.' By sheer coincidence, her Disney career began and ended with elephants. She played both the imperious Matriarch and Mrs. Jumbo in 'Dumbo' and voiced Colonel Hathi's level headed wife Winifred in 'The Jungle Book.' Winifred was the final role of Felton's entire career, as she passed away one day before Walt Disney's death.

14. After rejecting Bill Peet's darker version of 'The Jungle Book,' Disney brought in the songwriting team of Robert and Richard Sherman to help lighten the tone of the film with a new set of songs. The Sherman Brothers had already penned memorable music for several Disney projects, including 'Mary Poppins,' 'The Sword in the Stone' and Disney park attractions including It's a Small World and The Enchanted Tiki Room.

15. Terry Gilkyson had already composed songs for the earlier draft of the film, but wasn't on board with the new direction. The only song of his that remained in the film was 'The Bare Necessities,' which was nominated for an Academy Award.

16. Kaa's song 'Trust in Me' was once called 'Land of Sand.' It was written as part of a multi-song sequence in 'Mary Poppins' in which Mary and the Banks children travel around the world with the aid of a magic compass. The sequence was scrapped in favor of the 'Jolly Holiday' scene and the melody for 'Land of Sand' was reused as a hypnotic song for Kaa the snake.

17. While many of the later Disney feature films had animators being responsible for single characters, in The Jungle Book the animators were in charge of whole sequences, since many have characters interacting with one another. The animation was done by Xerography, with character design, lead by Ken Anderson, employing rough, artistic edges in contrast to the round animals seen in productions such as Dumbo.Anderson also decided to make Shere Khan resemble his voice actor, George Sanders.

18. Backgrounds were hand-painted - with exception of the waterfall, mostly consisting of footage of the Angel Falls - and sometimes scenery was used in both foreground and bottom to create a notion of depth. Following one of Reitherman's trademarks of reusing animation of his previous films, the wolf cubs are based on dogs from 101 Dalmatians. Animator Milt Kahl based Bagheera and Shere Kahn's movements on live-action felines, which he saw in two Disney productions, A Tiger Walks and the "Jungle Cat" episode of True-Life Adventures. Baloo was also based on footage of bears, even incorporating the animal's penchant for scratching. Since Kaa has no limbs, its design received big expressive eyes and parts of Kaa's body did the action that normally would be done with hands. The monkeys' dance during "I Wanna Be Like You" was partially inspired by a performance Louis Prima did with his band at Disney's soundstage to convince Walt Disney to cast him.

19. The Jungle Book was released in October 1967, just 10 months after Walt's death. It was a success, earning $13 million in just its domestic release, mostly due to the popularity of its musical numbers. The film made its VHS home video debut in Mexico on October 31, 1987, twenty years after its original release. This 1987 release was dubbed in Spanish. The Jungle Book was released in the United States on VHS in 1991 as part of the Walt Disney Classics product line. The American version was subsequently re-released in 1997 as part of the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection for the film's 30th anniversary; this transfer had washed-out colors. A Limited Issue DVD was released by Buena Vista Home Entertainment in 1999. The DVD was barebones and used the 1997 VHS transfer with analog video. The film was released once again as a 2-disc Platinum Edition DVD on October 2, 2007 to commemorate its 40th anniversary. The Platinum Edition presents the film for the first time in 1.75:1 widescreen aspect ratio and also includes brand new luscious and rich colors. This is the first Disney release titled "Platinum Edition" in the UK instead of "Special Edition". The film was released on Blu-ray on February 11, 2014. On February 11 a petition was made to The Walt Disney Company to restore the original aspect ratio of the film to the Diamond Edition release. The other request the petition stated was to release the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack like its other Diamond Edition predecessors had before it. The petition has been proven effective by multiple people who feel the films current release was not up to par with other Disney releases.

20. The Jungle Book received an outpouring of positive reviews upon release, undoubtedly influenced by a nostalgic reaction to the passing of Disney.Time magazine noted that the film strayed far from the Kipling stories, but "the result is thoroughly is the happiest possible way to remember Walt Disney". The New York Times called it "a perfectly dandy cartoon feature", and Life magazine referred to it as "the best thing of its kind since Dumbo", another short, bright, unscary and blessedly uncultivated cartoon. Some negative reviews came from Judith Crist, who said the film was "devoid of mood or atmosphere." Variety's review was generally positive, but they stated that "the story development is restrained" and that younger audiences "may squirm at times".

21. Retrospective reviews were also positive, with the film's animation, characters and music receiving much praise throughout the years. In 1990, when the film had its last theatrical re-release,Entertainment Weekly considered that The Jungle Book "isn't a classic Walt Disney film on the order of, say, Cinderella or Pinocchio, but it's one of Disney's liveliest and funniest", while the Los Angeles Times thought the film's crew was "near the height of their talents" and the resulting film "remains a high-spirited romp that will delight children--and parents weary of action films with body counts that exceed their box-office grosses." In 2010, Empire described the film as one that "gets pretty much everything right", regarding that the vibrant animation and catchy songs overcame the plot deficiencies.

22. The song "The Bare Necessities" was nominated for Best Song at the 40th Academy Awards, losing to "Talk to the Animals" from Doctor Dolittle. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Gregory Peck lobbied extensively for this film to be nominated for Best Picture, but was unsuccessful. It was not until 1991 when Disney's Beauty and the Beast that an animated film would be nominated for Best Picture.

23. The song "Trust in Me" is based upon a song entitled "Land of Sand" which had been written by the Sherman Brothers for, but not used in, Mary Poppins. Part of "Bare Necessities" was remixed for the theme song of its short-lived 1990s TV spin-off, Jungle Cubs. In the scene where Bagheera, the vultures, and Mowgli believe that Baloo is dead as well as Bagheera funerals Baloo, Paul J. Smith's organ score from Walt Disney's first film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is heard from the scene where the seven Dwarfs mourn Snow White on her bed before she is put into the glass coffin.

24. Bill Lee of The Mellomen sung Shere Kahn's part in "We're Your Friends", due to George Sanders, (the speaking voice of the character) not being available.

25. On February 14, 2003, DisneyToon Studios in Australia released a sequel to the 1967 classic, entitled, The Jungle Book 2, in which Mowgli runs away from the man village he moved into at the end of the first film, to see his animal friends, unaware of the danger he's facing with the not-yet-dead Shere Khan who is more determined to kill him than ever, due to embarrassing him earlier. This film earned $47,901,582 at the box office. At Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently

26. There are two video games based on the film. The Jungle Book was a platformer released in 1993-4 for Master System, Mega Drive, Game Gear, Super NES, Game Boy and PC. A version for the Game Boy Advance was later released in 2003. The Jungle Book Groove Party was a dance mat game released in 2000 for PlayStation and PlayStation 2. Kaa and Shere Khan have also made cameo appearances in another Disney video game, Quackshot.

27. The score features eight original songs:
"Jungle Book Overture" - (instrumental)
"Colonel Hathi's March" - Colonel Hathi and the elephants
"The Bare Necessities" - Baloo and Mowgli
"I Wanna Be Like You" - King Louie and Baloo
"Colonel Hathi's March (reprise)" - Colonel Hathi and the elephants
"Trust in Me" - Kaa
"That's What Friends Are For" - The Vultures, Mowgli and Shere Khan
"My Own Home" - The Girl
"The Bare Necessities (reprise)" - Baloo and Bagheera
28. Deleted songs
All of the below songs were the original songs by Terry Gilkyson.
"Brothers All" – Opening
"The Song of the Seeonee" – Wolf Pack
"Monkey See, Monkey Do" – Monkeys
"I Knew I Belonged to Her" – Mowgli
"In A Day's Work" – Baloo and Bagheera
"The Mighty Hunters" – Shere Khan and Buldeo the Hunter

29. In the climactic battle of the movie, Shere Khan finds Mowgli, who refuses to run off and instead stands up against Shere Khan, saying that he's not afraid. Impressed, Shere Khan, for his own amusement, gives him a ten second head start to run away, but Mowgli still refuses to run off. When Shere Khan reaches ten and charges for the boy, Mowgli jumps in fear, finally understanding the true danger of the powerful beast before him. Just as Shere Khan is about to reach Mowgli, Baloo grabs his tail and holds him back. Shere Khan chases the now terrified Mowgli, who is being carried away by vultures, while dragging Baloo behind him. Baloo proves such an impediment to Shere Khan that he decides to battle the bear, nearly killing him, until the vultures arrive and distract him. Inspired by his current display of courage, Mowgli finds a burning branch from a lightning-struck tree and ties it to Shere Khan's tail. Shere Khan flees in panic from the fire.

30. Shere Khan returned in The Jungle Book 2, despite being defeated by having his tail tied to a burning branch in the original film. He has sworn to kill Mowgli, this time as revenge. During the conclusion of the final battle in an ancient temple surrounded by lava, Shere Khan falls into a pit of molten lava but lands on a stone slab, trapped underneath the head of a tiger statue. He is not killed, and is last seen being teased by Lucky (voiced by Phil Collins), the new member of the Vultures who had been teasing him throughout the whole movie. In The Jungle Book 2, Shere Khan was voiced by Tony Jay, who reprised his role from the Disney Afternoon series TaleSpin.

We hope you enjoyed this segement of Triva Tidbits about this wonderful Disney film.  Join us again at the end of February when we will feature Disney's Pocahontas!  

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