Why Disney’s 1967 The Jungle Book continues to inspire

Three super fans of this classic animation discuss what makes it so special.

As told to

Matt Packer

@mjpwriter

In our recent feature on the making of Disney’s original adaptation of ‘The Jungle Book’, veteran animator Floyd Norman told us how the film came together after a shaky, false start to cement its position as a standout entry in the studio’s illustrious canon. Here, three other film industry professionals explain why the film has had a lasting influence on them.

Tomm Moore, co-director of The Secret of Kells and director of Song of the Sea

“The Jungle Book exemplifies classic Disney character animation, with the famed ‘Nine Old Men’ at the peak of their powers. The xeroxed, scratchy, unashamedly hand-drawn style was a step down in some people’s eyes from the glorious hand-inked cels of Sleeping Beauty and Disney’s other Golden Age classics. But for me, seeing the animators’ pure, rough-drawn lines onscreen was a delight. These were drawings – yet they lived and breathed. As a child, I delighted at the characterful songs, the bubbling tempo of the piece and the feel-good celebration of taking it easy, espoused in Baloo’s ‘The Bare Necessities’.

“Memories of the pure entertainment that happens when music meets animation in The Jungle Book partly inspired Song of the Sea. As an animation student, Milt Kahl’s work on Shere Kahn seemed like some kind of voodoo that boggled my young mind: how could any human hand manage the convincing weight in how he moved – plus the menace and humour in his acting – while keeping track of all those stripes? To be honest, even after 16 years of working professionally in hand-drawn animation, it still boggles my mind!”

Tim Allen, animator on Frankenweenie, Corpse Bride and Fantastic Mr Fox

“I was seven years old when The Jungle Book was re-released, and it’s still my most vivid childhood memory of the cinema. That was just the beginning of what became a Jungle Book-themed bedroom full of cuddly toys, books, drawings and – as it later turned out – a very early dose of inspiration. The Jungle Book was the first animated film that completely captured my imagination, and I couldn’t get enough of it. It was one of the key influences that led me to study animation at university, and I do remember my lecturer admitting that it was beyond him how Milt Kahl created such unbelievably realistic weight in Shere Kahn.

“I’ve been a professional animator for 16 years, but I still feel I have much to learn from looking at such beautiful work. To this day, I can think of few films that rival the sheer warmth, artistry and memories that The Jungle Book encapsulates so completely.”

Justin Johnson, families programmer at the BFI

“Disney’s The Jungle Book is almost 50 years old and it more than stands the test of time. While Kipling enthusiasts might have felt that it moved too far from his literary vision, it’s classic Disney through and through. Memorable characters, great Sherman Brothers songs and plenty of heart; as the last film that Walt Disney oversaw directly, his magic touch can still be felt throughout. If the new live-action version has managed to embrace Kipling’s story a little closer, but kept the heart and soul of its animated predecessor, it has every chance of being a huge success.”

Published 15 Apr 2016

Tags: 2D Animation Computer Animation Disney Jon Favreau

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