I can’t lie, I’m massively biased towards this movie because it was the first movie I saw in the cinema. Back in the mid-late ’80s they used to show old Disney movies in cinemas, I’m guessing because the home video market was still in it’s infancy. My Dad took me to our local cinema, I think the Plaza in Port Talbot, which is still there but has been a depressing derelict husk for about 20 years now.
This sentimental attachment means that for years this was right near the top of my Disney list. In recent years it’s slipped down a bit, mainly because the recent run of form Disney have hit upon, but it’s still probably in my top ten because it’s fantastic.
The film is a loose adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s book, which I’ve never read, and follows a young boy named Mowgli (Bruce Reitherman) who is found alone in the jungle and taken by the panther Bagheera (Sebastian Cabot), who leaves him with the wolves who raise him. However, word arrives that the tiger Shere Khan (George Sanders) is returning to the jungle, and due to his hatred of mankind this puts Mowgli in danger. Bagheera volunteers to take a reluctant Mowgli back to the Man Village.
Along the way they encounter various residents of the jungle, including the bear Baloo (Phil Harris) who offers to look after Mowgli and teach him how to survive in the jungle. Baloo is one of my all time favourite Disney characters, this extremely loveable, laid back dude who gets one of the best songs ever, “The Bare Necessities”.
The scene near the end of the movie where Baloo is lying on the floor after a fight with Shere Khan and Mowgli pleads with him to wake up. The scene is genuinely moving, even rewatching it now, and you imagine has left a lot of kids on the edge of their seats, pleading along with Mowgli.
In fact one of the things that never stops amazing me is how much I enjoy this film every time I go back to it, and how much of it I still remember vividly. This is thanks partly due to this being massive fun and loaded with a great soundtrack and some memorable characters. Alongside Baloo you get characters like the vultures modelled after the Beatles, Sanders’ fabulous delivery as Shere Khan and King Louie, voiced by Louis Prima, who sings the jazzy, upbeat “I Wan’na Be Like You”.
Watching this movie provides the same warm feeling as Christmas songs or eating rhubarb and custard sweets, it’s comforting and familiar. It reminds me of childhood, and makes me feel good. And just like the songs and the sweets, I still enjoy it. Revisiting Mowgli, Baloo and Bagheera is like visiting old friends.
It might have been bumped down a few places, but whenever I watch this movie I’m reminded of how good it is, how much I love it and all those memories come back to me. And for the next few days I have the songs stuck in my head.
Disney Score: 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.