The Jungle Book: 1967 vs 2016

So, I finally went to see The Jungle Book. I'm not sold on the idea behind these live-action re-makes (although I did like Cinderella) but this one exceeded my expectations. In fact, it was the best film I've seen at the cinema in a very long time. Having recently compared Anastasia (1997) to its live-action incarnation (here) I thought I might start a bit of a series!

The original Jungle Book is one of Disney's best-loved animated classics and the last one to be personally supervised by Walt Disney himself. Very loosely based on Rudyard Kipling's novel, it tells the story of an orphaned boy raised by wolves in the jungles of India, who discovers that he's being hunted by Shere Khan the tiger and so is compelled to return to the 'man-village.' Featuring a loveable cast of animal heroes and villains, including Bagheera the panther, Kaa the snake, King Louie the orang-utan and (most people's favourite) Baloo the bear, it's a simple, lively story with memorable songs by the Sherman brothers and a proper swinging sixties vibe.

Other than being animated (and technically the new film is animated too, for the most part) one of the main differences between the two films is that the 2016 version is not a musical. Since the songs are probably the best part about the cartoon this could have been a disaster, but I think Disney reached a good compromise. Having full blown musical numbers wouldn't have suited the darker tone of the re-make, but some of the score was retained, including the two most famous songs, which have snuck their way in.

I love the relaxed, up-beat feel of the original film, but the re-make also had great atmosphere. And it was scary. It genuinely made me jump a few times and I kind of wish I'd seen it in 3D.  I was impressed with all the voice acting, especially Idris Elba's Shere Khan (although it's hard to live up to the gravitas of the original) and of course, Bill Murray's Baloo. I've discovered my love for Bill Murray pretty late in his career, but he's fast becoming my favourite actor. Despite the range of fantastic voice talent here (also including Sir Ben Kingsley, Lupita Nyongo, and Christopher Walken) I was most impressed by newcomer Neel Sethi, the kid playing Mowgli. His acting was great, he wasn't annoying and he actually had great comic timing. No mean feat considering he's acting in a green-screen studio opposite animal co-stars that aren't actually there. A lot hung on his performance and luckily he carried it off.

It's crazy how far animation has come. The animals, in addition to the jungle itself, all looked so realistic you'd be forgiven for thinking they were real at least part of the time - especially the wolves. But no, it's all animated and all gorgeous to look at.

So, any other differences from the original? I missed the extra songs (although they wouldn't have felt right had they been added) the stuff with the elephants was different, as was the ending. (I liked how they set up the new ending though.) Kaa's now a female python, voiced by Scarlett Johanssen and King Louie isn't an Orangutan but a 'Gigantopithecus' - some giant extinct species of ape that was thought to have lived throughout Asia back in the day. Turns out Orang-utans don't live in India. Who knew? Oh, there's also a death (I told you it was darker).

(Missing songs from the re-make! Trust in Me was sort of in it...)

I loved both versions of The Jungle Book - both are proper family films that will appeal to parents as well as children and the two films are different enough to warrant the existence of a re-make.  I'd say the original was more fun and up-beat, while the 2016 film has more drama and adventure - also, Bill Murray. However, possibly my favourite thing about the re-make is that it finishes with the closing of the physical book used in the opening sequence of the original film . You might have noticed that the book doesn't close at the end of the '67 version, so the fact they've dug it out and used it to close off this new chapter feels like a fitting ending. I still think Disney should slow down with the live-action re-makes. but I'll give them a pass for Jungle Book. It really is worth watching.

(Above Trailer by Oh My Disney)


  1. Oh I love the idea of a series of comparing live-action films and their counterparts! I just recently watched the new The Jungle Book and really enjoyed it. Everything just came together so well. I'd really call it a jungle fairy-tale story; there was such a charming, though dark atmosphere. :)

    1. You're right, it was very fairytale-ish - I loved the whole atmosphere :D And thanks, might do King and I next!


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