1967 saw the release of The Jungle Book, the studio’s effort to “do more interesting animal characters” according to storyman Bill Peet. After writing the preceding two animated films, Walt gave Peet the assignment to work out the story. Walt took a more hands-on approach to this film, feeling that the disappointing reaction to The Sword in the Stone was based on a poorly developed story. Peet followed the dark, sinister tone of Kipling’s book closely, and Walt pushed him to a more light, musical adventure story.
Peet disliked the way the film was escalating into a full-scale musical (perhaps wanting it to progress along simpler lines, as in his “Sword in the Stone” script just before), and left Disney to write and illustrate children’s books full-time.
The voice casting for The Jungle Book was over the top. Many people felt comedian Phil Harris was totally wrong for a Kipling story, but that did not deter Walt. Harris improvised most of his lines, as he considered the scripted lines “didn’t feel natural.” Following Harris’ casting, Disneyland Records president Jimmy Johnson suggested Disney get Louie Prima to voice the wild King Louie, and a memorable musical sequence ensued. Many Disney regulars were brought in, such as Sterling Holloway (Kaa), J. Pat O’Malley (Colonel Hathi, Buzzie the Vulture) and Verna Felton (Hathi’s wife).
In what would have been a major coup, Walt originally cast The Beatles as the four mop-topped vultures. Walt wanted to have the members of the band to both voice the characters and sing their song, “That’s What Friends Are For“. John Lennon reportedly reacting badly to the idea, resulting in the whole thing being dropped.
Director Wolfgang “Woolie” Reitherman reused some of his animation of the dogs from One Hundred And One Dalmatians for the wolf cubs. The animation was again done by xerography, with Ken Anderson’s character design using rough, hairy edges to the characters in contrast to the more rounded animals seen in earlier productions such as Dumbo. Anderson also modeled Shere Khan on his voice actor, George Sanders.
This was the first animated Walt Disney Studios to be released after Disney himself died in December 1966. However, most of The Jungle Book was completed before the time of his death. It also was Disney voice actress Verna Felton’s last film before she passed away.
The soundtrack LP for The Jungle Book was awarded the first Gold Record for an animated movie soundtrack (Gold Records were given for selling over 500,000 copies).
The Jungle Book
- Walt Disney Studios
- Distributed by: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution
- Cartoon Characters: Baloo the Bear, Bagheera the Panther, Mowgli the Man Cub, Shere Khan the Tiger, Kaa the Snake, King Louie of the Apes, Col. Hathi the Elephant, Buzzie, Hathi’s Wife, Young Elephant, Vulture, Dizzy, Wolf, Rama, The Girl, Flunkey, Slob Elephant, Monkey, Ziggy.
- Voice Actors: Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, Bruce Reitherman, George Sanders, Sterling Holloway, Louis Prima, J. Pat O’Malley; Full Voice Cast ...
- Directed By Wolfgang Reitherman.
- Produced By Walt Disney, Don Duckwall.
- Animated By Hal King, Eric Larson, Walt Stanchfield, Eric Cleworth, Fred Hellmich, John Ewing, Dick Lucas, Milt Kahl, Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas, John Lounsbery.
- Written By Larry Clemmons, Ralph Wright, Ken Anderson, Vance Gerry, Rudyard Kipling.
- Awards: Academy Award Nominee, Best Original Song, “The Bare Necessities” (Music and Lyrics: Terry Gilkyson), 1967.
- Music: George Bruns, Richard M. Sherman, Terry Gilkyson, Walter Sheets, Evelyn Kennedy; more Musicians ...
- Editor: Tom Acosta, Norman Carlisle.
- Originally Released on October 18, 1967.
- Originally Released Theatrically.
- Running Time: 78 minutes.