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  • Writer's pictureCollin Souter

Week # 25: "The Jungle Book"

(Originally published on 6/24/22)



6/20/2022

The Jungle Book

Run time: 78 min.

Release Date: October 18, 1967.

Where/when I first saw it: In the theater (not sure which), summer of 1978

How I watched it today: Blu-ray, Monday evening

The last film to have Walt’s imprint on it is also the loosest, most freewheeling of all the Disney films, almost to a fault. When watching it, it’s hard to latch onto a character or narrative that keeps the viewer in suspense or to identify an emotional anchor. It feels like it just goes from one party to the next. By this time, Walt and his team had amassed so many classics, the expectations for all the new ones back in the day must have been equivalent to what Pixar has to deal with today. If it doesn’t reach the emotional highs of their best work, it must be completely disposable (not true, of course).


It’s hard to view “The Jungle Book” without thinking of it as Walt’s Last Film, and as such, it probably deserves to cut loose and enjoy itself. Maybe that’s what Walt needed and the final image of Baloo and Bagheera happily dancing off into the sunset is about as fitting a final note as Mary Poppins sailing away in the sky (if that had been the case). It’s as if Walt just knew these would be his last. There are all kinds of metaphors one can read into Mowgli’s reluctance to join the man village and how he gets lured there in the film’s final moments and Walt’s untimely death during the production of the film does give it a kind of gravitas it might not have had otherwise.


Whatever the case, “The Jungle Book” remains an episodic concoction of songs and frivolity that comes alive mostly in the third act, and especially when Kaa the Snake enters the frame, voiced (against type) by Sterling Hayden, always one of the most welcome vocal performers in the Disney stable. It’s hard not to be charmed by Baloo the Bear and to be momentarily guided by his carefree philosophy. The storyline shakes off many potential complications and instead settles into taking the audience on a tour of the jungle without much in the way of journey or arc. It ends when it runs out of steam and maybe that’s the best one could have hoped for this last hurrah.

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