Revisiting The Jungle Book

There's that half naked kid again. I can't seem to get rid of the little runt. Did you know that Mowgli was originally going to be a little Indian kid? Naturally, Milt Kahl would do the final design on the "man cub," and the kid looks awfully cute. Though hardly an Indian youngster, he looks more like a preteen from Orange County with a nice suntan.

Music became a major issue on the film when Walt decided to toss out practically everything Terry Gilkyson had written. However, before the Sherman Brothers and Terry Gilkyson did their thing, some animators even expressed the idea of having authentic Indian music in the film. Directing Animator, Frank Thomas even had my pal, Lou Appet bring in his collection of Ravi Shankar albums. I found the whole thing amusing. I knew Walt Disney wasn't going for that.

Of course, you know about the background changes at the start of the movie, don't you? Color Stylist, Walt Peregoy had already done exceptional work on "101 Dalmatians" and "The Sword in the Stone." Peregoy had come up with some pretty impressive color styling for the new film. However, Walt Disney thought otherwise and replaced the talented, progressive background artist with the more conventional styling of Disney veteran, Al Dempster. Of course, the story gets even better. Can you guess who has those original Walt Peregoy paintings today? You guessed it. Walt's daughter, Diane Disney Miller.

I needed a break after already working on a number of Disney features. I found interesting jobs working with guys like Ward Kimball, Cliff Nordberg and John Sibley on smaller films. Their work had an energy and zest I often found lacking in the more restrain animation in the Disney feature films. Of course, feature work is top notch, but after a time, it can become a little tedious and boring. I decided I would steer clear of "The Jungle Book" this time around.

Such was not to be. One Friday afternoon my boss, Andy Engman called me into his office and told me to start packing. "Why?" I asked. Andy smiled and said, "The Old Maestro wants you upstairs on the story team. You're going to be working on The Jungle Book." And that, boys and girls is how my life suddenly changed and my career given a new direction.


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