Boy-cub Mowgli is befriended by Baloo, a lazy bear, in this classic Disney animated feature, (very) loosely based on Rudyard Kipling’s stories.
Mowgli is raised by a wolf as her own. A few years later it is learned that a ferocious man-eating tiger has returned to the jungle and Mowgli’s animal friends realise he must be escorted to the human village where he and his kind can be protected.
But playful Mowgli likes the jungle too much and breaks free of his guardians, which leads to comic and suspenseful complications.
The character voices are superb and very effective while some jazzy tunes (including The Bare Necessities) ensure easy-going fun all round.
King Louie the orangutan (Louis Prima) is perhaps the most memorable of the conniving anthropomorphised animals out to trick Mowgli.
During his performance of I Wan’na Be like You (The Monkey Song), Louie dances, sings and scats with such joyous abandon, even Mowgli’s beatnik bear custodian Baloo can’t help but dance along (though he wears a grass skirt and coconut mask as a rudimentary disguise).
Louie’s backing band include one of his bopping monkey minions slapping out a beat on a hollowed-out tree trunk and an aged ape happily strolling along playing air-trumpet.
This was the last cartoon feature supervised by Walt Disney himself. The Disney organisation released a live-action follow-up in 1994.
J. Pat O’Malley