Today! Because we’re a cracker jack brigade/On a pachyderm parade –
The Jungle Book (1967)
Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman
Starring Phil Harris, Louis Prima, Sterling Holloway, Sebastian Cabot, George Sanders, Bruce Reitherman, Clint Howard, J. Pat O’Malley
Based on Rudyard Kipling’s tales of crazy nonsense, The Jungle Book isn’t something I grew up with. I knew the characters from other Disney films and shows – so popular was this original film that the lack of logical sequels did not hold them back from reusing everybody, most notably Phil Harris’ Baloo straight playing Little John in Robin Hood and Baloo with the same name as a war pilot or something in Disney’s TaleSpin from the early ’90s.
But in recent years this one really grew on me. I hadn’t seen it in a long time – the story always struck me as bullshit, kid raised by animals, plot not really mattering to anybody – when they adapted it for the stage and it ran in Chicago at the Goodman Theatre. Sure, that had the benefit of local great Larry Yando playing Shere Khan, but it also got me more interested in revisiting the cartoon. And I finally got it – the songs! The songs are the key to the whole thing! Sure, Mowgli and Baloo are cute in their friendship, and Bagheera and Kaa and the elephants – that’s all fine, but man, Louis Prima’s King Louie is dynamite! “I Wanna Be Like You” and “The Bare Necessities” are rightfully classics now, but that sorely overlooks “Colonel Hathi’s March” and the wonder that it is.
Jungle Book also comes at more-or-less the end of the miracle run of Disney animation – it being the last film Uncle Walt had any real involvement in before his death. As a kid I always enjoyed the films around it more – The Sword in the Stone and Robin Hood – to the point of barely ever watching this. And while (list spoiler alert) I still prefer those movies, my estimation of The Jungle Book vastly managed to increase, here as an adult. Who’da thought!
But this movie did fine all those years without me. Adjusted for inflation, The Jungle Book is the 33rd highest grossing movie in history, clocking it at something like $670 million in domestic receipts. It’s so popular that it dragged that live-action remake from 2016 to the obscene gross of $966 million worldwide! Why did so many people go check that thing out otherwise? Are Mowgli and company such beloved figures that they can open any remake or iteration? I’d guess not, as the 1994 live actioner and the random 2003 sequel that I do not remember existing both grossed in the mid-$40s. Did they not have the songs? The songs are the vital element!
And we’ve also reached one year until the conclusion of this list! That’s right, your math does not deceive you, the #1 film will be revealed on September 2nd, 2020! Thanks for hanging in all this time, and finally getting the official confirmation on what this was all building up to – my next birthday. This is all about me, folks!