'The Jungle Book' - Nine Film Adaptations

1 Conversation

The Jungle Book is a two volume collection of short stories originally published as The Jungle Book in 1894 and The Second Jungle Book in 1895 and written by Rudyard Kipling. Some of these stories were at least in part inspired by stories Kipling had heard while in India. Many of these stories, though not all, feature a boy named Mowgli who grows up feral in jungle, raised by wolves. This story is so influential that in 1912 Edgar Rice Burroughs copied the concept, made it even more right-wing, and created the character of Tarzan. Controversial figure Robert Baden-Powell, former vice-President of the Boys' Brigade, created his own splinter-group the Scouts using The Jungle Book as a guide1. Over a century after its initial publication The Jungle Book's influence is still felt, with Neil Gaiman was inspired to write The Graveyard Book (2008).

Born in Bombay (now Mumbai) in India in 1865 and raised in India, England and later living briefly in the United States, Rudyard Kipling is regarded as one of the world's most talented writers. He won the 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature and is the author of what has been voted Britain's favourite poem, If (1895).

Yet Kipling was writing at the height of the British Empire and was an extreme believer in what he called the 'White Man's Burden'. He believed that white men were superior to all others and that it was therefore their duty to 'civilise' the rest of the world by colonising it. It didn't matter if the empire doing the conquering and colonising was, say, Britain or America, as long as lands not thus controlled were brought into 'civilisation'. He felt it was therefore Britain's moral duty to control Africa and India, and that similarly the United States had to bring islands such as Puerto Rico and Guam into its empire. He felt that to avoid mistakes being made by inexperienced British rulers arriving from the mother country with insufficient knowledge of the subcontinent, India should only be governed by white Englishmen born and raised in India. By a remarkable coincidence this was exactly the category to which he belonged.

His view of the native people of such areas in his poems such as 'Gunga Din' (1890) show that while he can see individuals as often being worthy of admiration and respect, at best they remain almost as children, ultimately in need of the patronising paternalistic hand of the white man, whether they want it or not. To quote a passage from The Second Jungle Book, he believed 'what was good for the Englishman must be twice as good for the Asiatic'. Of course while many such views were of the time in which he lived, though not necessarily held by everyone, it should be a comfort to know that for the vast majority of reasonable people living from the 1960s onwards would not remake his mistake of dividing people into two ethic groups, those of 'white' and 'other'. Certainly no major film company such as Walt Disney Pictures would perpetuate the presentation that all non-whites are the same, or would they...?

Rumble in the Jungle

There are two competing theories of what an actor's role is. One belief is that all actors should be blank slates, able to play any role regardless of their own age/gender/ethnicity and other characteristics, while the other, incompatible belief is that only people with the exact characteristics as the role being played should play that role. As actors are expected to draw on their own experiences to be able to realistically portray the drama required for the story, many believe that people with matching characteristics are often more convincing in roles than people who have nothing in common with the role they are playing. While theoretically voice artists for animation are more likely to be perceived as blank slates able to inhabit any role, they can still attract criticism for their portrayals if they are to avoid being seen as stereotyping or worse.

Present day India is the country with the second-largest population in the world, behind only China. India also has had a thriving film industry, nicknamed 'Bollywood', for well over a century. There is therefore no conceivable reason why predominantly Indian actors could not be cast in Jungle Book adaptations, at very least the actor playing the role of Mowgli.

Yet a Hollywood film industry that has finally accepted that Native Americans should not be called 'Indians' in Westerns remains convinced that it is perfectly acceptable for anyone from other nationality, particularly Hawaiian, to be cast to play an Indian boy, namely Mowgli. It is almost as if everyone who is 'foreign' is obviously equal to being from India, and that attitudes have not changed since Kipling's day at all.

Law of the Jungle

Another issue is that of the animals seen in the jungle of India. Kipling's original stories set in India featured only animals found in India. Yet this certainly cannot be said of the film adaptations. There are two issues with animals seen in these films. Firstly there is a perception that as India is abroad, any foreign animals can be added to the film at will regardless of whether or not they are found in India at all. The most blatant example is Disney's creation of King Louie the orangutan. Secondly the most important animals, particularly the wolf pack and Baloo the bear, are usually shown as being North American species and not Indian species. While when live-action film adaptations are being made in the United States it is easier to locate and film the nearest animal of that type, and so the inclusion of North American wolves is understandable, this reason does not apply in animated versions of the film when deliberate choices to model the animals of American and not Indian species are made. Is this because American filmmakers subconsciously believe that North American animals are superior to their Indian equivalent? To what extent has British imperialism been replaced with Hollywood cultural imperialism?

By The Book

Of the seven stories in The Jungle Book and eight in The Second Jungle Book only half (three and five stories respectively) feature Mowgli. Only one non-Mowgli story, 'Toomai of the Elephants', has inspired a film adaptation. The stories in The Jungle Book are listed below, with the Mowgli stories are shown in Bold and those not set in the Jungle or India in Italics.

In The Rukh (1893)
The Jungle Book (1894)The Second Jungle Book (1895)
  • Mowgli's Brothers
  • Kaa's Hunting
  • 'Tiger! Tiger!'2
  • The White Seal
  • 'Rikki-Tikki-Tavi''
  • Toomai of the Elephants
  • Her Majesty's Servants
  • How Fear Came
  • The Miracle of Purun Bhagat
  • Letting in the Jungle
  • The Undertakers
  • The King's Ankus3
  • Quiquern
  • Red Dog
  • The Spring Running

The first story Kipling wrote featuring Mowgli, 'In the Rukh', did not appear in either anthology.

Kipling's Characters

The characters in the original stories are:

CharacterDescription
Humans
MowgliThe young, feral jungle boy or 'mancub' who was lost in the jungle following a tiger attack.
MessuaFemale villager who adopts Mowgli believing him to be her long-lost son Nathoo
BuldeoIncompetent village hunter who believes Mowgli is an evil sorcerer
Animals
RakshaMowgli's mother wolf who adopts him.
Grey BrotherMowgli's adopted wolf brother
AkelaHead of the Seeonee wolfpack.
BagheeraA panther named after Baghīrā, the Hindi for panther, who calls Mowgli his little brother and adopted him into the wolfpack.
BalooA Sloth Bear who teaches wolves the law, his name is from the Hindi Bhālū for bear.
Kaaan old and wise Indian Rock Python who can hypnotise with his 'hunger dance'.
Shere KhanA Bengal Tiger with an injured foot who wishes to kill Mowgli.
TabaquiA Golden Jackal driven mad with rabies and Shere Khan's henchman. His name means 'dish-licking dog'.
HathiAn Asian Elephant, patient and called the True Master of the Jungle. His name is Hindii for 'Elephant'.
ChilA kite.
IkkiAn Asiatic Brush-tailed Porcupine.
Bandar-LogA tribe of unruly and anarchic grey langur monkeys, from the Hindi for 'monkey folk'.

Jungle Boogey

Popular film character King Louie does not appear in Kipling's novels but was created for Disney's first animated film adaptation of The Jungle Book. In the 1960s Walt Disney had originally hoped that Louis Armstrong would play the role, yet when it was realised that having a black man playing an ape might be interpreted as racial stereotyping, wisely Louis Prima (1910-1978) was cast instead. Twenty-one years after Prima's death his fifth wife, Gia Prima, sued Disney for lack of royalties in 1999 following the home media release of The Jungle Book and the use of the character in television series TaleSpin. Despite spending her career recording albums such as Let's Fly with 'Mary Poppins' (1965) full of Disney covers, she claimed that Jim Cummings was impersonating her husband's voice without her permission. Disney settled out of court and agreed not to use impersonations of Louis Prima's voice, which is why King Louie does not appear in Jungle Book 2 and has been radically transformed for Disney's third live action adaptation.

What a Piece of Work is Man

The Jungle Book's key theme is that of the distinction between man and animal as expressed in the character of Mowgli, the feral mancub raised by the animals of the jungle. Though the story is not a Victorian Gothic body horror story it was written at the same time as many of the key horror stories that examine that very theme were. These include HG Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) in which animals are turned into men and Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), where a doctor is transformed into a man free of conscience or feelings of responsibility and empathy who thus behaves as an animal. Yet just like man the jungle too has laws and times of co-operation.

The Films

Mentioned is whether the films pass the Bechdel Test. This can be summarised as whether the film involves two or more female characters who have a conversation together that does not focus on men in general or a specific man-cub.

Elephant Boy (1937)

DirectorsRobert J Flaherty & Zoltan Korba
StudioLondon Films
Plot

Little Toomai enjoys elephants and his best friend is his father's elephant Kala Nag, meaning Black Snake. He longs to be an elephant-hunting mahout (elephant driver). Meanwhile Petersen is appointed by the British Commissioner to capture a large number of wild elephants urgently needed to be tamed and put to work, yet no elephants can be found in their natural habitat. He stakes his reputation on undertaking a massive elephant hunt in the northern jungles of India in areas believed to be unsuitable for elephants. Little Toomai and his father are among the mahouts hired to find the wild elephants.

The hunt appears to be beset with disaster, with Little Toomai mocked by the adults Petersen hired who tell him he will only be a true hunter if he sees the mythical elephant dance. Afterwards Little Toomai's father Toomai is killed by a tiger and Kala Nag is given to a different mahout, Rham Lahl, to use on the expedition. After Rham Lahl attacks Kala Nag with a chain the elephant runs amok, causing Lahl to order that the elephant be put down. Orphan Toomai rescues his only friend and escapes in the night. Will Kala Nag be put to death, and will Petersen's career end in disaster if he cannot find any elephants?

Length78 minutes
Dramatis Personæ
  • Little Toomai, boy who longs to be a hunter (Sabu)
  • Petersen, elephant hunter (Walter Hudd)
  • Big Toomai, Little Toomai's mahout father (WE Holloway)
  • Machua Appa, mahout (Allan Jeayes)
  • Rham Lahl, cruel mahout (Bruce Gordon)
  • Commissioner (Wilfrid Hyde-White)
FilmedMysore, Denham Studios
Story Based On'Toomai of the Elephants'
BechdelFail

This black and white film captures life during the British Raj in India and, containing stunning location footage of elephants being used on a hunt. It was made by London Films, a company founded by the Korda brothers, who were Jewish Hungarian immigrants. The scenes in which Toomai and his elephant wake and get ready for the day in perfectly synchronised movements have lost none of their charms, though the film's imperial background and use of actors in make-up to play many of the Indian characters has dated. Oscar-nominated Robert Flaherty, who is known for combining documentary footage within a fictional narrative began filming wildlife footage in Mysore in 1935 but after 18 months had no story to show for it, leading Zoltan Korda to take over the story side and shoot dialogue in Denham Studios. The finished film winning the Best Director Award at the Venice Film Festival. Indian child star Sabu, then 13, was discovered when the film was being made working as a stable boy mahout for the Maharajah of Mysore and this film transformed him into an international superstar.

The story has been slightly tweaked from Kipling's original, in which Toomai's father had not been killed and nor did Kala Nag run amok. The elephant footage is particularly stunning, though it assumes that the audience wants wild elephants to be captured, tamed and put to work.

The film has gained some notoriety as one of the extras in one scene was Udham Singh, who had survived the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in which British troops in India killed over 300 people protesting against the political arrest of Satyapal and Saifuddin Kitchlew. This act had been sanctioned by Lieutenant Governor of Punjab Sir Michael O'Dwyer, who Singh assassinated in 1940.

Jungle Book (1942)

DirectorsZoltan Korba
StudioAlexander Korda Films
Plot

Buldeo, an old storyteller, tells a passing English traveller a story about how, when he was young, he dreamed of building and ruling a great city in the jungle but during the early stages a man is killed by a tiger and his baby son is believed to have been killed also. Years later he encounters a boy raised in the jungle by wolves named Mowgli who was caught when he explored the village they had built in the meantime. Though Buldeo wants Mowgli to be put to death his mother Messua adopts Mowgli and, much to his anger, his own daughter Mahala befriends Mowgli.

Mowgli shows Mahala a ruined city where the treasure room contains vast quantities of gold and a jewel-encrusted ankus. A white cobra tells them the treasure is cursed and brings death, and they leave with Mahala taking only a single coin as a souvenir. Buldeo discovers the coin and conspires with the village's barber and pundit to make Mowgli show them where the treasure is while Mowgli rescues the village by killing Shere Khan. Yet Buldeo tells the villagers Mowgli is a witch and that he and Messua need to be burned, promising to free Messua only if Mowgli shows him and his friends where the treasure is.

Will Mowgli prefer the clear laws of the jungle to the duplicitous greed of mankind? Is the treasure cursed to kill all who encounter it?

Length102 minutes
Dramatis Personæ
  • Mowgli, feral boy raised in the jungle (Sabu)
  • Buldeo, greedy and self-important village leader (Joseph Calleia)
  • The Barber, Buldeo's conspirator (John Qualen)
  • The Pundit, Buldeo's conspirator (Frabj)
  • Messua, Mowgli's mother (Rosemary DeCamp)
  • Mahala, Buldeo's daughter and Mowgli's love interest (Patricia O'Rourke)
  • Durgaived, Messua's faithful servant (Ralph Byrd)
  • English Girl (Faith Brook)
FilmedSherwood Forest, Lake Sherwood, California
Stories Based On
  • Mowgli's Brothers
  • 'Tiger! Tiger!'
  • How Fear Came
  • The King's Ankus
  • In The Rukh
BechdelFail

This film was made by the team behind Elephant Boy however on the outbreak of war Britain's established filmmakers were sent to the United States and tasked with making films there that would help persuade Americans to join the war against Germany. This is why this film, made in America, was not a London Films Production but made by Alexander Korda Films, but having exactly the same logo of Big Ben4.

The war did mean they were unable to film in India and instead filmed in Sherwood Forest and Lake Sherwood in California, so named after its prominent role in the 1922 and 1938 Robin Hood films among many others, especially the Tarzan series. Despite this, it was incredibly successful on release and was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Visual Effects and Best Art Direction for the third brother, Vincent Korda.

Curiously the only animals able to talk in this film are snakes, both of whom are quite friendly. The film also features spotted hyænas and black bears, which are not native to India either.

The Jungle Book (1967)

DirectorWolfgang Reitherman
StudioWalt Disney Productions
PlotMowgli, an abandoned baby boy, is found in a basket in the jungle by Bagheera, a panther. Wolves in the jungle raise him, but when he is older Shere Khan the tiger, who hates all humans, threatens his life. Mowgli wishes to stay in the jungle, instantly developing a close attachment with Baloo the carefree bear. Yet Bagheera feels only by living in a village surrounded by people will he be safe from Shere Khan.
Length78 minutes
Dramatis Personæ
  • Mowgli, an orphaned 'man cub' boy (Bruce Reitherman)
  • Baloo, a bear (Phil Harris)
  • Bagheera, a panther (Sebastian Cabot)
  • King Louie, an orang-utan (Louis Prima)
  • Shere Khan, a Bengal Tiger (George Sanders)
  • Kaa, a python (Sterling Holloway)
  • Colonel Hathi, an elephant (J Pat O'Malley)
  • Akela, a wolf (John Abbott)
Songs:All by the Sherman Brothers, except 'The Bare Necessities' by Terry Gilkyson.
  • 'Trust in Me'
  • 'Colonel Hathi's March'
  • 'The Bare Necessities'
  • 'I Wanna Be Like You'
  • 'That's What Friends Are For'
  • 'My Own Home'
FilmedBurbank, California
Stories Based On
  • Mowgli's Brothers
  • Kaa's Hunting
  • 'Tiger! Tiger!'
  • The Spring Running
BechdelFail

Disney's adaptation was originally being developed by Bill Peet based closely on the darker aspects of Kipling's tales until Walt Disney disliked the way the story was going. Disney felt it was too scary for younger audiences, and Peet refused to make any changes and resigned. When pursuing adapting The Jungle Book in a new direction, Walt Disney gave a copy of Kipling’s books to replacement screenwriter Larry Clemmons with the words, 'the first thing I want you to do is not to read this!' Terry Gilkyson had been hired to score the songs for this film, but all his songs except 'The Bare Necessities' were replaced by songs by the Sherman brothers. One song, 'Trust in Me', had originally been written as 'Land of Sand' for Mary Poppins (1964).

Walt Disney insisted that Phil Harris voiced Baloo and turned the book's minor bear character into the film's star. George Sanders' growling and menacing Shere Khan has set the standard for all other actors playing the role to follow, although it initially proved difficult to find the right actor to play Mowgli, before the director's son was chosen having recently voiced Christopher Robin for short film Winnie-the-Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966). Not every actor sought was cast in the film; Disney had hoped that the four vultures would be played by the four Beatles, but John Lennon in particular was strongly opposed, reportedly replying with the words:

There's no way The Beatles are gonna sing for Mickey f-ing Mouse. You can tell Walt Disney to f-off. Tell him to get Elvis off his fat arse...

The vultures do retain vaguely Liverpudlian accents and one has a Beatles mop-top haircut, though the song is more barbershop than Beatlesesque in sound. The Beatles would feature in an animated film in the following year's Yellow Submarine. The vultures do not appear in the book, with another major difference being the portrayal of Kaa as a minor villain rather than one of Mowgli's wisest friends.

Walt Disney died in December 1966 and never got to see the finished film. The day before he died Verna Felton passed away; she voiced Winifred in this film and had previously been in several Disney films including Mrs Jumbo in Dumbo, the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella and the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland.

The Jungle Book (1994)

DirectorStephen Sommers
StudiosWalt Disney Pictures

Baloo Productions
Jungle Book Films
Plot

At the age of five Mowgli is the best friend of Kitty, the daughter of the local British garrison's commander, who is also five and gives Mowgli a bracelet. Shortly afterwards in the jungle Mowgli's father is killed and Mowgli believed dead, when in fact he has been raised by animals. Twenty years later Mowgli discovers an ancient city filled with treasure which is home to various monkeys headed by an orangutan as well as a gigantic python which attacks him, though Mowgli escapes with a golden dagger he found. Soon afterwards Mowgli and Kitty are reunited, but Mowgli is attacked by Captain Boone, who considers him a savage. The ambitious Boone longs to marry Kitty but when he spots the golden dagger decides to let Mowgli lead him to its source.

Mowgli is taught English by Kitty and Dr Plumford while Boone proposes to Kitty, whose heart lies with Mowgli. When Kitty turns him down Boone kidnaps Kitty, forcing Mowgli to take him to the treasure.

Length107 minutes
Dramatis Personæ
  • Mowgli, 25-year-old man raised by animals (Jason Scott Lee, Child: Sean Naegeli)
  • Captain William Boone, ambitious and greedy soldier (Cary Elwes)
  • Katherine 'Kitty' Brydon, Mowgli's childhood friend and love interest (Lena Headey, Child: Joanna Wolff)
  • Colonel Geoffrey Brydon, Commander of local British garrison (Sam Neill)
  • Dr Julius Plumford, garrison's doctor who teaches Mowgli (John Cleese)
  • Lieutenant John Wilkins, Boone's lieutenant (Jason Flemyng)
  • Sergeant Harley, sadistic bully (Ron Donachie)
  • Buldeo, local confident of Boone (Stefan Kalpha)
  • Tabaqui, bandit and friend of Buldeo (Anirudh Agarwal)
  • Nathoo, Mowgl's father killed by Shere Khan (Faran Tahir)
FilmedBombay and Jodhpur, India; Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee; Fripp Island, South Carolina
Stories Based On
  • Mowgli's Brothers
  • The King's Ankus
BechdelFail

In this adaptation that was also marketed as Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book none of the animals can talk and is to date the adaptation most influenced by Kipling's Second Jungle Book, particularly 'The King's Ankus', though it still follows Disney's lead by having King Louie and a villainous Kaa. The other human characters are unique to this adaptation.

The film's origins began in India when producer Raju Patel planned to make an adaptation of The Jungle Book to coincide with the centennial anniversary of its first publication. When Disney heard of these plans they offered to finance the production, doubling the budget overnight but taking control. Director Stephen Sommers cast a predominantly British cast with the exception of Sam Neil and Jason Scott Lee as a blatantly not-Indian Mowgli who is played by an actor of mixed Hawaiian and Chinese descent. The character of Tabaqui is a jackal in the stories but has been transformed into a human for this film, and Shere Khan is no longer the villain but instead a powerful force that represents and enforces the law of nature.

The film did at least do some filming in India, including Bombay and Jodhpur, though most took place at Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee, particularly scenes featuring waterfalls, some of which were filmed at Lost Creek Falls, as well as Fripp Island in South Carolina. The scenes featuring King Louie the orangutan were filmed in the United States as it is illegal to transport an orangutan into India as they are not native to that country. Other animals not native to the country that appear include lemurs and capuchins, while like other adaptations of the story even when animals that do exist in India such as wolves do appear, they are replaced by their North American equivalents rather than Indian wolves. Inexplicably the British army appear to be transporting paraffin in barrels labelled with the American word 'Kerosene' through the jungle for no apparent reason other than to let wagons explode in spectacular fireballs that viewers normally associate with car crashes rather than horse-and-cart crashes. The character of Kaa was both a computer-generated and animatronic snake, although he is only ever referred to as 'great snake' rather than Kaa. King Louie is known by that name as he is seen wearing a crown and later Mowgli sees a crown in a painting of King Louis XIV, while names such as Baloo and Bagheera come from Hindi words for bear and panther. The vast majority of animals were actually trained animals who even had their names in the credits, with some scenes using actors in costume, while blue screen was used to digitally composite animals into scenes in which they did not actually appear.

This Jungle Book adaptation successfully broke even. Producer Raju Patel would make a second Jungle Book live action film three years later, titled Rudyard Kipling's The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli & Baloo (1997).

Rudyard Kipling's The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli & Baloo (1997)

DirectorDuncan McLachlan
StudioMDP Worldwide

TriStar Pictures
Plot

In 1890 Mowgli lives in the jungle next to a railway line. One day he decides to stand on the line and growl at an approaching train, and subsequently is caught and taken onto the train by an American hunter named Harrison who has been sent to India to capture animals for the circus, but believes Mowgli will be a far better circus attraction.

Mowgli escapes, aided by a monkey named Timo who is the pet of Chuchandra, a pickpocket passenger on the train. Yet when Mowgli and Timo return to Mowgli's wolfpack they are exiled as monkeys are hated as they do not keep the jungle law. Only Baloo the bear stays with Mowgli as they wander into the jungle and discover a lost city inhabited by monkeys, where Baloo is grabbed by the Bandur-log5 and Timo captured too. Meanwhile Harrison has contacted the local rich plantation-owner Buldeo for his help in capturing Mowgli. Buldeo realises that Mowgli is the rightful heir to his fortune, and it is hinted that Buldeo may have arranged for Mowgli's parents to be killed by the tiger Shere Khan years earlier so that he could inherit the wealth. He agrees to help Harrison but secretly orders snake-charming hunter Karait to use his bloodhound snake Kaa to not merely find but also kill Mowgli. As they enter the jungle they find Chuchandra, who misses his monkey.

Mowgli and Timo find themselves in the missing city which is ruled by King Murphy, a former soldier and now self-styled king of the monkeys. He wants Mowgli to be his heir and prince of the monkeys. Can Mowgli rescue Baloo and Timo? Will he be reunited with his wolfpack or murdered by a monkey's uncle?

Length100 minutes
Dramatis Personæ
  • Mowgli, an orphaned 'man cub' boy and heir to a fortune (Jamie Williams)
  • Harrison, circus hunter (Billy Campbell)
  • Buldeo, Mowgli's evil uncle (Gulshan Grover)
  • Chuchundra, comic relief (David Paul Francis)
  • Karait, hunter and snake-charmer (Dyrk Ashton)
  • King Murphy, former soldier-turned lord of the apes (Roddy McDowall)
  • Emily Reece, Colonel Reece, Molly Ward, train passengers (Cornelia Hayes O'Herlihy, BJ Hogg, Amy Robbins)
FilmedKandy Mountain6, Sri Lanka
BechdelFail

Despite the ludicrously long name this film is not based on Kipling's Second Jungle Book; Shere Khan was killed off in the first Jungle Book for a start and nevertheless appears in this film. The plot is a bit of a mess with Mowgli outcast by the wolves and Bagheera one moment only for them to run to his side the next. Talking of the wolves, their numbers fluctuate with one seen arriving in a location only for five to suddenly appear there. It is also apparent that Baloo is an American black bear not an Asian Sloth bear as in the stories. Similarly two chimpanzees appear despite not being native to India. The Planet of the Apes star Roddy McDowall appears in a role in which he rules over some apes, but frustratingly isn't actually given anything to really do other than blow raspberries and make monkey noises. It is also apparent that Harrison carries a Lee-Enfield rifle in 1890. Created in 1895 and still used in service by various nations in 2020, it is one of the most successful rifles ever designed and due to its robust reliability was Britain's standard service weapon during both World Wars, but despite even the Lee-Enfield's famed versatility it cannot be carried before its invention.

American actor Jamie Williams from Florida impressively does his own stunts including climbing, jumping and being with the animals. Two of the characters, Chuchundra and Karait, are named after animals that appear in non-Mowgli Jungle Book story 'Rikki-Tikki Tavi'7. Though the film was not made in India per se it was made entirely on location in Sri Lanka, which though not politically part of India is geographically at least in the Indian Ocean.

The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story (1998)

DirectorNick Marck
StudioWalt Disney Pictures
Plot

After being separated from his family during a tiger attack, a young boy named Mowgli is raised by wolves in the jungle of India along with bear Baloo, elephant Hathi and panther Bagheera. Yet Shere Khan the tiger seeks to kill Mowgli and feeds the prejudices of those who believe that Mowgli doesn't belong in the jungle as part of his plan to get him away from the pack where he will be vulnerable.

Length74 minutes
Dramatis Personæ
  • Mowgli, an orphaned 'man cub' boy (Brandon Baker)
  • Baloo, a bear (Brian Doyle-Murray)
  • Bagheera, a panther (Eartha Kitt)
  • Akela, Mowgli's wolf father (Clancy Brown)
  • Raksha, Mowgli's wolf mother (Peri Gilpin)
  • Shere Khan, a Bengal Tiger (Sherman Howard)
  • Hathi, an elephant (Marty Ingels)
  • Tabaqui, a hyæna (Stephen Tobolowsky)
  • Chil, a vulture (Kathy Najimy)
  • Little Raksha, Mowgli's wolf sister (Ashley Peldon)
  • Tarzan, Chimp (Wallace Shawn)
FilmedNew Delhi, India; Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden
Stories Based On
  • Mowgli's Brothers
  • Kaa's Hunting
  • 'Tiger! Tiger!'
BechdelFail

This made-for-television film featured real animals with voice-over dubbing used to give the impression of dialogue. Unusually Bagheera is portrayed as female, played by Catwoman Eartha Kitt. Brian Doyle-Murray voices Baloo, his younger brother Bill Murray would voice him in Disney's 2016 adaptation. The film doesn't feature Kaa or interloper King Louie but does have Shere Khan's henchman Tabaqui. Overall a modest but not overtaxing adaptation.

There are more female characters with the addition of Chil, Raksha and Little Raksha. Mowgli is here played by a Hawaiian actor of English, German and Filipino descent.

The Jungle Book 2 (2003)

DirectorSteve Trenbirth
StudioDisneyToon Studios
PlotMowgli has found an adoptive family in the man village and a close friend in Shanti, but hearing the call of the wild, longs for the freedom of the jungle. Meanwhile Shere Khan the tiger has returned, seeking vengeance on Mowgli. Shanti stops Mowgli showing his village's children the jungle, saying it is not safe, leading to Mowgli's being grounded. Can Baloo adapt to life without Mowgli? Will Mowgli be able to return to the jungle?
Length69 minutes
Dramatis Personæ
  • Mowgli, an orphaned 'man cub' boy (Haley Joel Osment)
  • Baloo, a bear (John Goodman)
  • Shanti, Mowgli's best friend in the village (Mae Whitman)
  • Bagheera, a panther (Bob Joles)
  • Shere Khan, a Bengal Tiger (Tony Jay)
  • Lucky, a vulture (Phil Collins)
  • 'Ranjan's father' [sic], Mowgli's adopted father (John Rhys-Davies)
  • Kaa, a python (Jim Cummings)
  • Colonel Hathi, an elephant (Jim Cummings)
  • Ranjan, Mowgli's adoptive brother (Connor Funk)
  • Hathi Jnr, young elephant (Bobby Edner)
MusicComposed by Lorraine Feather and Joel McNeely unless stated:
  • 'I Wan'na Be Like You' by Richard M Sherman and Robert B Sherman
  • 'Jungle Rhythm'
  • 'Bare Necessities' by Terry Gilkyson
  • 'Colonel Hathi's March' by Richard M Sherman and Robert B Sherman
  • 'W-I-L-D'
  • 'Right Where I Belong'
FilmedDisney Animation Studios: Australia (Sydney), Paris
BechdelFail

At the start of The Jungle Book 2 Mowgli gives his adopted family and friends a shadow puppet show all about his life in the jungle. His autobiography completely ignores the many years he spent being raised with the wolves and instead Mowgli only seems to remember the couple of days he spent with Baloo. Inexplicably Baloo's fur has all turned blue and animals seen in India now include African hippopotami and American ocelots. King Louie does not appear in Jungle Book 2 following the terms of Disney's agreement with Louis Prima's widow.

The Jungle Book 2 was the third most successful animated film of the year, behind only Pixar's Finding Nemo and Walt Disney Feature Animation's Brother Bear.

The Jungle Book (2016)

DirectorJon Favreau
StudioWalt Disney Pictures & Fairview Entertainment
PlotMowgli, an abandoned baby boy found by Bagheera is raised by Raksha, a wolf. They are part of Akela's wolf pack who tells Mowgli he must act as a wolf, not a man. During the dry season a truce between all animals whether hunters and hunted is declared at the waterhole. Shere Khan the tiger, who hates all humans, threatens Mowgli's life as soon as the drought ends. Mowgli decides to leave the jungle to keep his wolf family safe and follows Bagheera on a long journey to a man village. On their way they encounter Kaa, who hypnotises him, and he is rescued by Baloo the carefree bear. He later encounters elephants and King Louie. Will Mowgli be safe from Shere Khan? Has he saved the wolves afterall? Will Mowgli learn the secret of the 'red flower' known as fire?
Length102 minutes
Dramatis Personæ
  • Mowgli, an orphaned 'man cub' boy (Neel Sethi)
  • Bagheera, a panther (Sir Ben Kingsley)
  • Baloo, a bear (Bill Murray)
  • Shere Khan, a Bengal Tiger (Idris Elba)
  • Raksha, Mowgli's wolf mother (Lupita Nyong'o)
  • Akela, Mowgli's wolf father (Giancarlo Esposito)
  • Kaa, a python (Scarlett Johansson)
  • King Louie, a Gigantopithecus (Christopher Walken)
  • Ikki, a porcupine (Garry Shandling)
Songs:All by the Sherman Brothers, except 'The Bare Necessities' by Terry Gilkyson.
  • 'Trust in Me'
  • 'The Bare Necessities'
  • 'I Wanna Be Like You'
FilmedLA Center Studios, Los Angeles
Stories Based On
  • Mowgli's Brothers
  • Kaa's Hunting
  • 'Tiger! Tiger!'
  • How Fear Came
BechdelFail

This, the third of Disney's live-action adaptations of The Jungle Book was an attempt to combine the magic of the animated original with more realistic animals, created using motion capture. Whether or not the film actually succeeds in this is debatable, containing as it does a Gigantopithecus, an otherwise extinct ape, as well as oversized animals that are at least a third bigger than in real life. Actor Neel Sethi learnt parkour free-running in order to run through the jungle.

As orangutans are not native to India Richard M Sherman wrote new lyrics for 'I Wanna Be Like You' to reference King Louie now being a Gigantopithecus. While a greater proportion of the cast aren't white, only Neel Sethi and Sir Ben Kingsley are of Indian descent (though born in New York and Yorkshire respectively). Kaa has become female for this film.

In the film it takes several days for Mowgli to journey from his home to the village, and then virtually no time for him to make the return journey. One of King Louie's treasures is Aladdin's lamp, while the Jungle Book book seen in the closing credits is the book seen in the original Jungle Book's opening credits. Shere Khan's portrayal was also inspired in part by Scar from The Lion King.

The film was a huge financial success, making $967 million dollars at the Box Office on a production budget of $175 million, and becoming the fifth most-successful film of the year, behind only Captain America: Civil War, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Finding Dory and Zootropolis (also known as Zootopia). It was briefly the most-successful remake of all time before being overtaken by Beauty and the Beast.

Andy Serkis' Performance Capture studio The Imaginarium had begun an adaptation of The Jungle Book in 2012, only to be forced to postpone their release due to this live action remake, finally renaming it Mowgli and releasing it two years later.

Mowgli (2018)

DirectorAndy Serkis
StudioThe Imaginarium

Warner Bros. Pictures
Plot

While Shere Khan breaks the jungle law by sadistically slaying humans for sport, Kaa prophecies that the sole survivor, baby Mowgli, will one day decide the future of the jungle. He is taken by panther Bagheera to be raised by wolves, with Akela the wolfpack leader defying Shere Khan, who hunts Mowgli, by saying that as part of the pack he has the pack's protection. Mowgli is trained to survive by Baloo and Bagheera, who deliberately makes Mowgli fail the trail to become a full member of the pack in order to make Mowgli go to the Man Village to be safe.

After the monkey people capture Mowgli in order to help Shere Khan kill him, he is rescued by Kaa, but when he saves Akela's life with fire he is forced to leave the jungle. Running wildly brandishing a flaming branch in all directions into the village, he is at first caged and then adopted by hunter Lockwood and kindly Messua. The villagers are being driven to hunt in the jungle by Shere Khan, who is killing their sacred cattle for sport.

With village and jungle on a collision course and Mowgli in the middle, how can Mowgli defeat the tiger and save the jungle from the hunter who adopted him?

Length100 minutes
Dramatis Personæ
  • Mowgli, an orphaned 'man cub' boy (Rohan Chand)
  • Bagheera, a panther (Christian Bale)
  • Baloo, a bear (Andy Serkis)
  • Shere Khan, a crippled Bengal Tiger (Benedict Cumberbatch)
  • Kaa, a python able to see the future (Cate Blanchett)
  • Akela, wolfpack leader (Peter Mullan)
  • Nisha, Mowgli's wolf mother (Naomie Harris)
  • Vihaan, Mowgli's wolf father (Eddie Marsan)
  • Gray Brother, Mowgli's wolf brother (Jack Reynor)
  • Bhoot, Mowgli's weak albino wolf brother (Louis Ashbourne Serkis)
  • John Lockwood, drunken colonial hunter (Matthew Rhys)
  • Messua, village woman who adopts Mowgli (Freida Pinto)
  • Tabaqui, Shere Khan's hyæna henchman (Tom Hollander)
FilmedDurban, South Africa; Leavesden Studios, Hertfordshire
BechdelFail

Also known as Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, this film's release was delayed for two years because of competition from Disney's adaptation, which was made much quicker. Unlike Disney's version that was filmed entirely in a studio, a full village set in South Africa was built for the film. This film is far darker than Disney's version. Uncertain what to make of the film following Disney's success and suspecting it would flop, Warner Bros. eventually their film rights to Netflix.

Two new characters were created for this film, Bhoot the weak, albino wolf and hunter John Lockwood, named after Kipling's father John Lockwood Kipling. The character of Shere Khan is shown to have a limp, reflecting how in the novels he has a lame leg. Curiously Raksha has been renamed Nisha and once again Shere Khan's henchman Tabaqui the jackal has become a hyæna, which makes the tiger/hyæna combination resemble the lion/ hyæna alliance from The Lion King. The cast is predominantly British, though multiracial. Kaa has become female though Cate Blanchett seems to play her in exactly the same way that she had played Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings films, in which Andy Serkis played Gollum Sméagol. Mowgli does, at least, get to yell Khan! in the same way as Kirk does in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982).

Indian-American Chand was ten at the time he played Mowgli and went on to appear in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017).

1This inspired Edgar Rice Burroughs to try and create his own youth organisation, 'The Tribe of Tarzan', in 1916.2Title inspired by William Blake's poem 'The Tyger' and opening line, 'Tyger tyger, burning bright' (1794).3Do not forget the K. An ankus is an elephant goad.4Alexander Korda was successful at propaganda disguised as entertainment film That Hamilton Woman (1941) with a backdrop about Britain fighting the evil tyrant Napoleon a thinly-disguised message about fighting Hitler, that Alexander Korda became the first filmmaker to be knighted, becoming Sir Alexander Korda in 1942.5Which is particularly painful.6Famed for the Royal Palace Complex including the famed Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic said to hold the tooth of the Buddha, which is a World Heritage Site.7Chuchundra is a muskrat and Karait a common krait snake.

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