***/**** Image C+ Sound A- Extras A
story by Larry Clemmons, Ralph Wright, Ken Anderson, Vance Gerry, inspired by the Rudyard Kipling "Mowgli" stories
directed by Wolfgang Reitherman
by Bill Chambers SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. The Jungle Book receives only two passing mentions in Neal Gabler's mammoth biography of Walt Disney, even though it has the distinction of being the last animated film Disney lived to produce and ended his career in a commercial triumph to bookend the early success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Gabler's brevity on the subject suggests that The Jungle Book was of little consequence to Disney, but there are clues to the contrary between the lines, such as when Gabler writes tantalizingly about Walt's opinion that early drafts of the script were too "sober." Indeed, he was personally invested in the project to the point of choosing it over his relationship with long-time story man Bill Peet, who'd brought Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli stories to Disney's attention in the first place. Peet's adaptation was, as Walt saw it, beset by its fidelity to Kipling, and he solidified his vision for lighter-hearted fare by hiring radio icon Phil Harris, whose husky, hearty voice would become synonymous with Disney animation in those posthumous years. The energy and levity Harris brought to the minor character of Baloo the Bear led to a reconceiving of the narrative so that it pivoted, in Gabler's words, on the Falstaff/Prince Hal dynamic between Baloo and child hero Mowgli.