Director - Wolfgang Reitherman
I think I need to work through my Disney back catalogue, I'm rubbish with the early ones.... did they ALL start with books? Luckily... I can easily check this what with it being 2011. Anyway, welcome to the jungle, we've got fun and games and (so it seems) shit loads of Jazz. This is one jazzy jungle.
The story is the classic Rudyard Kipling tale - of a boy raised in the jungle by wolves. He manages to make a dashing pair of red pants somehow and goes off on adventures. But then a bad tiger wants to kill him and really he should go home to his race.... Many misadventures ensue with hilarious consequences.
The film's triumph is in creating some fantastically bizarre and entertaining characters. Colonel Hathi's Elephant parade is just weird (I think Disney liked weird elephants) and creates a great slapstick interlude as well as showcasing the pomposity of the British Empire and folks what were in In-Jah in those days. Kaa is basically there to be a shit villain and be constantly outfoxed and provide comic pain and then there are the vultures, the weird Beatles vultures... a by-product of it being made in the 60's and just a slightly illusion-breaking addition to the film.
However there are two characters which are the heroes of the film. Who carry this film into brilliance and who are Jazz wonders.
Lets start with Phil Harris.... He comes in and is AMAZING as Baloo - so good that he returns as Little John in Robin Hood.... a role which is almost exactly the same as Baloo - almost criminally lifted (or at least mercilessly recycled - there is a lot of recycling in Disney though). Baloo's laid back style and joi de vivre makes him an intoxicating character, a great figure to watch and a man who meets his natural foil with another ridiculous Jazz great. Louis Prima is a force to be reckoned with as King Louis - and whilst the Bare Necessities may be the best lesson to get from the film, King of the Swingers is the anarchic toe tapping number which sticks with you forever. It is a wonderful thing and a constantly classic piece of music.
So when Baloo and Louis join forces it is not only one of the highlights of the film, it is one of the best bits of Disney.... full stop.
The action later on is interesting (the fire in later scenes seems almost like OIL painting over the animation) but the film is at its best during the jazzy dancing bonkers bonanza.
However, events unfold to a necessary ending as Mowgli returns to the man village - and it isn't until we meet the oddly sexually precocious love interest (lets remember, when you look at her wide come to bed eyes.... THEY ARE 10) that we realise that the whole film was a man village.... it is just a big old sausage fest in the jungle.
But it is a jolly wee film.