I hadn’t thought of this interesting idea, but someone suggested a series of notes on Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book. I think they called it, Seven Things You Didn’t Know About The Jungle Book. Since there are a number of things most people don’t know about Walt Disney’s final film. Let’s get started and learn what some of them they are.
First of all, did you know that all the songs in the film were not written by The Sherman Brothers? Of course, Robert and Richard Sherman contributed the Lion’s share (no pun intended) of music for the film. However, songwriter, Terry Gilkenson was the composer of The Bare Necessities. The song was nearly cut from the movie by Walt Disney himself. However, Walt’s top animators persuaded the Old Maestro to allow the song to remain. I think we’re all glad Walt changed his mind.
Did you know that none of the story artists, with the notable exception of story master, Vance Gerry, received credit on the movie? There were a number of story artists who went uncredited on the motion picture because credits were not liberally doled out in animation’s old days. Much of the zany, wacky stuff you see on screen can be credited to story men, Al Wilson, Dick Lucas, Eric Cleworth and a new kid named, Floyd Norman.
Did you know that the voice for one of the vultures in the film’s final act was television writer-producer, Digby Wolfe? Yes, that’s correct. Before he moved on to become a producer on such hit shows such as Laugh In, Turn On and Cher, the talented Aussie provided a voice for one of the Fab Four. Perhaps you remember the four hungry vultures that confront Mowgli the Man Cub as he wanders through the jungle. After the four sing a rousing barbershop quartet, the party suddenly ends. It appears the cunning Sher Kahn has had enough of the merriment. He attacks and poor Baloo the Bear and he is eventually done in. Or, so we are led to believe. Did you know that popular radio and television entertainer, Scatman Crothers provides voices for the renegade monkeys that kidnap the Man Cub? The famous Scatman often appeared on Los Angeles television shows back in the fifties and his voice can be heard on many animated cartoon shows at other studios as well as Disney.
I’ll bet you probably didn’t know that Walt Disney picked voice actor Sterling Holloway to voice Kaa the Snake because the veteran Disney voice actor was already at the Walt Disney Studio recording tracks for the animated film, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. No need to look elsewhere when Sterling Holloway was already nearby.
Veteran writer, Larry Clemmons thought having animated characters in drag was a sure fire gag. Every time the story team would come up with a wacky idea, Larry would always chime in and say, “What if we put him in drag? That would be hilarious!” Eventually, Larry managed to get his way. When Baloo the Bear has his wacky (I Wanna Be Like You) duet with King Louie the Orangutan, we put Baloo in a coconut bra and a grass skirt. I think we finally managed to please Larry, and perhaps he was right after all. The zany duet between Louie Prima and Phil Harris is a genuine show stopper.
Finally, I’m sure you’ve heard this story. When master story artist, Bill Peet pitched his version of The Jungle Book to Walt Disney, the Old Maestro was not pleased. The storyboards were impressive all right , but the story was dark, dreary and full of mystery. After viewing the storyboards, Walt was all too willing to express his opinion, and his evaluation was terse and unexpected. “This reminds me of Batman!” A reference to the Dark Knight was the last thing we guessed would come from Walt Disney. Was Walt a closeted DC Comics fan, we wondered?
These are a few of the things that went on behind the scenes during the making of The Jungle Book. Like most animated feature films, this motion picture has its fair share of wacky stories and we’ve only scratched the surface.