Animation &Animation Artifacts &Disney &Models 08 Oct 2007 07:46 am

Jungle Book Stats

- With the release of The Jungle Book dvd, I thought I’d post something for it.

To me this film represents the first in the big decline of Disney Animation. The reliance on star voices started here, and the result was not good. They got good voices, but they relied on the voices for the animated character, and too few characters had original animated styling to overcome the actors that did them.

The singers killed it. By that I mean, the character of Baloo became more Phil Harris and less Baloo the bear. Louie Prima‘s King Louie was more Louis Prima than anything you’d find in the African setting. George Sanders was more of an actor than a personality, and he offered Shere Khan a character that Milt Kahl was able to build on. Sterling Holloway as Kaa was also more an actor than a personality, and he played what was asked of him. Ollie Johston was able to develop on it.

(click any image you’d like to enlarge.)

Animated features try to continue in the same vein. Voices like Robin Williams or David Spade or Eva Gabor are not going to make the animated character better. It’d be more interesting to have unknown voices that are well cast. Peter Pan, Snow White, Bambi and Cinderella. Lady & The Tramp, Alice, Pinocchio are all brilliantly cast features.

The Jungle Book, to me, gets incredibly dull. I’ve sat through projections of it at least a dozen times, and each and every time was exhausting. Lots of set pieces, but I don’t think it really adds up to a whole. Except for the Shere Khan scenes, there’s virtually no conflict and even less tension. Sorry to say anything bad, but it’s hard for me not to.

The material I have here came from stats that were prepared to make Thomas & Johnston’s The Illusion of Life. The little attachments became the captions for that book where the images were printed small.

These images are pretty light, so I had to soup them up a bit so that you can read the lines.

24 Responses to “Jungle Book Stats”

  1. on 08 Oct 2007 at 10:39 am 1.Mark Mayerson said …

    The Jungle Book really is a film made by old men. Compare it to John Ford’s Donovan’s Reef. Both films have slight stories with forgone conclusions. Both films dwell more on character and incident than they do on narrative. It’s almost as if the film makers no longer had the energy for the rigors of telling a story and just wanted to concentrate on the fun parts.

    Both films have critics and defenders who offer the same arguments. The critics find the films slack and self-indulgent. The defenders point to the entertainment value and say it trumps any faults in the story. I think it’s possible to love both films while acknowledging their considerable weaknesses.

  2. on 08 Oct 2007 at 10:54 am 2.Michael said …

    I bow to all those who enjoy this film. The animation is happy, and the drawing is top notch, as would be expected. My problems all have to do with direction, writing, and voice casting. Those that were running the animation studio at this point didn’t seem to have much challenging them. They did what they liked doing, and I wish I could enjoy it as much as those who do. Unfortunately, I looked for something greater.

  3. on 08 Oct 2007 at 2:05 pm 3.Palmer said …

    Just a couple of corrections. The Jungle Book takes place in India, not Africa. And three of the images you posted are of Sir Hiss from Robin Hood (who admittedly looks a lot like Kaa the Python).

    That said, I fully agree with you on the problem of voice talent carrying the animation, and on the film’s story woes. I love the animation on Baloo, Bagheera, and especially Shere Khan, but that can only do so much to compensate for a story that doesn’t live up to its source material.

  4. on 08 Oct 2007 at 2:20 pm 4.Michael said …

    Right you are about Sir Hiss in the 2nd and 3rd set of images. Actually there were a number of other images from Robin Hood that crossed in with these pictures, and I had to cut them out. However, the drawings are pretty nice so I’ll leave them. Personally, I dislike Robin Hood even more than I do The Jungle Book. Phil Harris has that sort of effect on me.

  5. on 08 Oct 2007 at 3:38 pm 5.Dave Levy said …

    For years, all I saw of Jungle Book were bits of it shown on Disney retrospective shows on TV. Seen in miniature form, sections like “Bare Necessities”, “I Wanna Be Like You,”and moments of Shere Khan stalking through the jungle made me really excited to see the complete film. It was very dissapointing when I finally did. I think it’s one of Disney’s most episodic and disjointed pictures. All the elements add up to a very dull whole. Usually Alice in Wonderland gets criticised for the same reason, but at least that picture had a brisk pace and fever dream imagery to power it through.

  6. on 08 Oct 2007 at 9:05 pm 6.Thad Komorowski said …

    Gee, I always thought the choice for Phil Harris as Baloo was inspired. Maybe I should pick up the DVD soon. It was my favorite as a kid, but it probably isn’t now.

  7. on 08 Oct 2007 at 9:19 pm 7.robcat2075 said …

    For me, Robin Hood and Aristocats are the nadir of Disney features. My theory is that after the commercial success of Jungle Book they did a post mortem and extracted exactly the wrong conclusions about what was good about it to guide them on their next efforts without Walt around.

    I think the lameness of those features is also indicative of the extremely undemanding nature of audience tastes in “family” films back then.

  8. on 08 Oct 2007 at 10:41 pm 8.Pete Emslie said …

    Well, I will boldly state that I love “The Jungle Book” and everything about it! I do understand your criticism of the celebrity voice talents, Mike, but I’ve got a somewhat different take on that too. And you can read about it over on my blog! :)

    By the way, I also like “The Aristocats” and “Robin Hood”, though I’ll certainly acknowledge their many shortcomings in terms of story and layout. Frankly, the immediate years following Walt’s death still produced a lot of happy entertainment for me as a kid of that time. I liked what Woolie and the veteran animators were trying to do, despite the loss of Walt’s inspired guidance.

  9. on 09 Oct 2007 at 2:39 am 9.Mike Toole said …

    I think lumping Robin Williams in with performers like Phil Harris, Eva Gabor, and David Spade is a little unfair. It is true that Williams can’t ‘disappear’ into his characters the way that truly great voiceover artists can, but I think he made creditable attempts with Ferngully and Aladdin. Most actors in his position just act like themselves and collect the paycheck; just look at the Shrek movies.

    Personally, I think Disney’s most bizarre and egregious case of stunt-casting was in Robin Hood. Forget Phil Harris, what was the deal with twangy country music star Roger Miller as the rooster?

  10. on 09 Oct 2007 at 6:08 am 10.Lionel said …

    A little presumptuously, I’d like to offer a different, foreign perspective in this. As a French kid living in Paris in the late 70s-early 80s (still live there, but not a kid any longer), I discovered those movies dubbed in French. They were all dubbed by the same , rather small group of actors, who specialized in dubbing, but were not well-known personalities. Older, and better Disney movies were redubbed in the 70s, by many of the same voices, and I did not care that Jiminy Cricket, sir Hiss or king Hubert had the same voice actor, as long as he was a gifted one.

    Then, as an adult, I saw those movies in English, but the perspective here again is different. If people like Prima, Sanders (Shere Khan) or Ustinov (Prince John) are world famous, the likes of Phil Harris, Eva Gabor, Bob Newhart or, more recently, David Spade, are not. Through my interest in old Hollywood, I know, for example, who Phil Harris was (radio with Alice Faye, night-club entertainer, etc…), and the same goes for Eva Gabor, etc…So, their voices do bother me for being over-used, and because I know they’re a creative cheat, but not because of familiarity with the performers (though, again, I understand who they were).

    Ultimately, how bad are those movies (“Jungle Book” and post-JB)? Maybe the nadir of Disney animation (though “Oliver and Company” is a solid n°1), yes. Poorly (or not) written, yes. But I enjoy them. Of course, if you compare them to “Pinocchio”, “Fantasia”, “Bambi” or the later “Sleeping Beauty”, you can’t help but being appalled, and saddened, because they were made by much of the same people . But I see them as B movies, not every animated feature can be a masterpiece. And, aside from their entertainment value, they allow us to understand why better movies are better, which is also interesting.

  11. on 09 Oct 2007 at 7:56 am 11.Bill said …

    I totally agree with Michael’s assessment. I really think the decline began with “Sword in the Stone” and continued almost completely unabated through “The Black Cauldron” (although “Robin Hood” and “The Aristocats” rank right down there with “Cauldron”).

    I suppose the age at which you first saw these films may have some bearing on your opinion of them. But my personal collection of Disney animated fatures on DVD ends with “Sword in the Stone” and picks up again with “Great Mouse Detetctive.”

  12. on 09 Oct 2007 at 2:05 pm 12.Floyd Norman said …

    As one of the uncredited storymen on “The Jungle Book,” please keep in mind we were only making the movie Walt wanted. He was very specific in what he wanted to see.

    My wonderful colleague, the late, Vance Gerry never felt the movie was all that good, and we were continually amazed that so many people simply loved this movie.

    In any case, it was an opportunity for this kid to work with an animation legend, and I’ll always treasure the time I spent with the Grand Old Man.

  13. on 09 Oct 2007 at 3:13 pm 13.Kevin W. Martinez said …

    I watched the Jungle Book on VHS a few weeks ago in anticipation of the Platinum Release, and while everyones comments about it feeling episodic and artistically lacking are dead on, there is at least some semblance of story and craftmanship behind it (and for my money, Chicken Little’s story was so much more disjointed than even The Jungle Book’s).

    Actually, I’m glad the 1963-1985 films turned out the way they did, warts and all (pun intended). If the Disney studio continued on an even keel from 101 Dalmatians on, I don’t think we’d be having such interesting discussions like this now.

    And I found Floyd’s comments to be personally touching, in addition to insightful.

  14. on 09 Oct 2007 at 3:58 pm 14.Tom Minton said …

    Does the pencil test or story reel for the full-length “I Wanna Be Like You” song still exist?

  15. on 09 Oct 2007 at 8:49 pm 15.Brian Meyer said …

    Nobody has raised issue with the grand “performance” of Neil Gabler, the ersatz authority on Disney. When you have a line up of legends such as Floyd Norman, Richard and Robert Sherman, Andreas Deja, Will Finn, et al., the inclusion of Neil Gabler, and his superficial knowledge of Disney animation and history, seems like a poor choice. I realize the Disney Company views his tome as the “official” Disney biography, but he comes off too much like a car sales man, all polish and no credibility.

  16. on 10 Oct 2007 at 2:36 am 16.Kris said …

    I always found The Jungle Book pretty disappointing (it didn’t help that I’d read the Kipling book as a kid before seeing it). The Disney adaptation removed all of the exciting, scary scenes that were my favorites in the book. The result is a fragmented film that doesn’t have any truly suspenseful moments.

    The one big bright spot is the music, though. I have similar feelings about Robin Hood, The Aristocats, Oliver and Company… all of them kind of lame by the standards of other Disney fare, but the music is above average in the fun department and it’s memorable.

    As an aside, I’ve always loved Alice in Wonderland. The queen scared the hell out of me.

  17. on 10 Oct 2007 at 5:35 am 17.Kellie Strøm said …

    I don’t think I’d agree with pointing at Baloo and King Louie as the weak points in the film, nor with the problem in this case being star voices – though I’m no fan of star voices. The weakest characters in The Jungle Book seem to me to be Bagheera, the elephants, the throwaway wolves, and the vultures, who though they’re funny I find increasingly thin with successive enforced viewings.

    Maybe the real problem is that the Jungle Book characters are mostly defined by joke personality traits, and the ones that aren’t funny, aren’t much of anything at all. If this is the case, I’d point to Peter Pan as the point where this problem first began to suggest itself.

  18. on 10 Oct 2007 at 8:18 am 18.Michael said …

    Boy, do I disagree with you Kellie. I’m not much of a fan of Peter Pan, as a whole, but there’s genius character animation in that movie. Peter Pan is a very well defined character. The same is true of Wendy, Michael, Hook and Smee. Without depending on the character of the actors voicing it, the animators did a brilliant job of defining those personalities.

    What Jungle Book and Peter Pan might have in common is the lesser defined characters like the pirates, indians or lost boys in Pan or the elephants, wolves or girl at the end of Jungle Book. What was left of the 9 Old Men even tried to fall back on famous personalities by making the vultures a parody of what they thought the Beatles were.

  19. on 12 Oct 2007 at 10:16 am 19.Kellie Strøm said …

    Oh, I wouldn’t disagree with you on the animation of Hook, Smee and Wendy. They are very vivid characters. Wendy is at times alarmingly close to a six year old English girl I know in real life. But there is something about the film which is like an English Christmas panto, something very broad and crude about how the characters function within the story, even the better ones. Even that which is enjoyable about the brilliant scenes with Smee and Hook still seems more like funny stage business than strong story to me. And when we get to the rest of the pirates, the indians and mermaids, each group is just a one joke crowd.

  20. on 12 Oct 2007 at 10:41 am 20.Michael said …

    I’ve always accepted that many of the characters in Peter Pan’s Neverland act as though they’re “Acting”. Hook is always played in the broadest possible way and is always played by the same actor as the Father. (In Disney’s “Pan”, Hans Conreid plays both.)
    I agree that Indians, Lost Boys, Mermaids et al are played as “one joke crowds” and, as such, are frivolous set pieces without any character depth.
    Wendy, however, has always been my favorite in this film. She borders the point between a girl and a grown woman, teetering one way then the other.
    This is the point of the story, growing up, and I’ve felt this from my very first viewing. Her song about Mothers is sung, as though she were the mother of these boys, and in fact for the moment she is. There is NOTHING comparable to this moment in The Jungle Book, nor do they even try.

  21. on 12 Oct 2007 at 11:20 am 21.John Tebbel said …

    To the specialists, with Disney’s other features burning in our memories, Jungle Book was part of the slow decline from the heights, but to quote from the First Revised Edition of Maltin’s The Disney Films, it was “. . . a sensational box-office hit, earing $13 million in it’s domestic release alone, ranking sixth of Disney’s films on Variety’s list of all time box-office champs.” One of my favorite bits of trivia is that the first re-release of Jungle Book outdrew the first Star Wars film in the German market that year. Not at all to address the artistic problems so well outlined above, having just finished Barrier’s Disney bio I’m conscious of how obsessed with the marketplace and financial success Walt Disney was. More so than I, alas.

  22. on 12 Oct 2007 at 4:19 pm 22.Jenny said …

    Fascinating discussion and analysis from you9as always, Michael).

    I have to confess I haven’t even ordered the DVd, thogh I guesss I must have it and certainly want to see the extras. I’m one of those who loved, just was gaga for, the film on its theatrical release. It meant way more to me than the sum of its parts justifies, frankly. Somehow I can both totally agree with your and the other more tough assessments of the movie and also respond to its positive points. It’s a strange thing.

  23. on 13 Oct 2007 at 2:30 pm 23.Marc said …

    I think that anyone’s like/dislike of Jungle Book is all a matter of taste. It’s one of my all time favorite Disney films for the animation and the music. It’s definitely no Pinocchio but certainly isn’t the bottom of the Disney barrel.I believe every film that’s come out since the Lion King would have to jockey for that position! It’s really easy for people to bag on the 15 year period that the 9 old men dominated the features after Walt died,but no one seems to mind all the ilk we’ve had to endure for the past 15 years!

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