“In the jungle, the mighty jungle….” things happen.
So. Jungle Book. Lemme tell you about a story about Sarah’s and my relationship with this movie.
About three years ago, Sarah and I were hanging out and for some reason we were talking about Disney movies. Weird. I know. And somehow, it turned to Jungle Book. And we both realized that, although we both grew up on quite a bit of Disney, this movie included, neither of us could remember what the hell it was about.
So we ran over to my parents house, grabbed the VHS they keep around for when family with little kids come over, and watched it.
Fast forward to this past weekend when we watched this movie for the blog, and we still couldn’t have told you what it was about. And I’m sure in a year, I won’t be able to tell you again. Why? Because, just like Sword in the Stone, this movie has a beginning, an end, and everything in between really doesn’t have anything to do with either.
The beginning is about a young human boy who is abandoned in the forest. He grows up with the animals and, at a tender young age, meets Jane. Wait. That’s not right. I’m thinking Tarzan.
The child, Mowgli, grows up with the animals and, at a tender young age, is voted out of the jungle because Shere Khan, a human hating tiger, is in that neck of the woods and is likely to eat the young lad. So to keep him safe, they decide he needs to go live in a human village. Either that, or the moral is that the expediency of tossing out an outsider to protect your own is just. Anyway, so the panther that originally found him, Bagheera, takes him off.
First, the two encounter a sneaky snake, Kaa, voiced by Sterling Holloway (Pooh) who tries to eat him. Because bony little human boys are delicious. What I took away from this is that the jungle was dangerous regardless of Shere Khan. But Khan is like, super badass, so I guess the comparison is moot.
Regardless, they sneak by him, and Bagheera and Mowgli get in a fight because Mowgli thinks he’s invincible and will take out a tiger. I guess he’s hitting puberty?
So Mowgli takes off only to meet a bear. But it’s a friendly bear. In fact, it’s a pretty awesome bear. It’s Baloo. I have a particular fondness for this bear, although not because of this movie, but because of the spinoff using the Jungle Book characters that appeared in 1990: Tale Spin. I can’t much remember what that was about either, but I know I did watch a lot of it as a child.
Baloo teaches him to be a bear with a really memorable song, but then some damn dirty apes kidnap Mowgli and there’s another good song. They want him to teach them to make fire. But he doesn’t know and Baloo comes to steal him back anyway. Baloo is convinced that Mowgli needs to go back to the man village, so there’s some direction back towards the plot, but then Mowgli runs off again only to get a Kaa redux. Thanks to Shere Khan interrupting Mowgli escapes only to run off into the forbidden lands (I suspect hyenas lurk there) and meet some buzzards.
This is another bit that, although the plot doesn’t stick with me, always did. The buzzards sit around taking about what they want to do. Of course the other buzzards are all, “I dunno. Wot you wanna do?” So whenever someone pulls that with me, I always respond “Ah, now don’t start that again.”
Most people don’t know what I’m talking about.
Mowgli wanders by and is feeling rather sad so they sing him a barbershop quartet song which is interrupted by Shere Khan who, surprise! wants to eat Mowgli. Baloo and Bagheera show up and there’s a rather unexciting battle with lots of hair pulling. Until lightning strikes some brush. Simba and Scar fight while everything’s on fire…. uh… Wrong movie again.
They all fight until Mowgli ties a burning branch to the tiger’s tail which apparently scares him off.
After the duel, they drop by a town and he sees a girl. Apparently he gets twitterpated because he completely forgets everything about the jungle and runs off after the girl (another Bechdel Test failure).
Oddly enough, there’s some precedent for this. The most famous is Victor of Aveyron. A child grew up in a forest in France and entered the town. He was adopted but never had a very good time of it. Language, for the most part, proved beyond his grasp and he never fit in.
But the movie doesn’t show any of that. Instead, it cuts off with him skirt chasing. And that’s why it’s a kids movie.