‘The Jungle Book’ Lives Again

By Julia Siegel, Contributing Writer

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Theatrical poster for "The Jungle Book." Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Theatrical poster for “The Jungle Book.”
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Disney is on track to have its second mega-hit of the year with the live-action adaptation of the 1967 classic animated feature, “The Jungle Book.” This latest trend for Walt Disney Studios is clearly paying off, as they now have their fifth successful live-action remake in a row. With the same charm as the original, “The Jungle Book” will make audiences of all ages feel like a kid again.

Upon first hearing about the revival of another beloved Disney classic, I was a little weary about how the studio could successfully portray talking animals without cartoon animation. After the first few seconds of seeing the animals on-screen, I was blown away by how realistic everything looked.

It’s not an easy task to create realistic animals purely out of CGI. According to IMDB, it took animators five hours per frame to make Baloo the bear (voiced by Bill Murray) look perfect. Disney’s animators nailed every animal with perfection. Each animal’s movement, fur/hair and body structure emulated their real counterparts. You can see each hair and muscle move on Bagheera the panther (voiced by Ben Kingsley) and Shere Khan the tiger (voiced by Idris Elba) as they stalk through the jungle and fight each other. The precision of each animal’s movement is spectacular, and it’s hard to remember that these on-screen animals are not real, even when they are talking.

The end credits revealed that “The Jungle Book” was filmed on a sound stage in downtown Los Angeles — not in the middle of a jungle as it appeared to be. The entire film, except for Mowgli (Neel Sethi), is CGI — the jungle and trees aren’t real.

An interesting part of the film is the representation of Mowgli’s language abilities. Mowgli can only understand what some of the animals are saying in their native languages. When Mowgli can understand the animals, he hears them in English, just like the audience. If Mowgli can’t understand an animal’s language, both he and the audience hear the animal noises that each species actually makes. The monkeys make primate sounds to show that Mowgli can’t understand them, which was both a cool and deliberate way of showing the audience Mowgli’s inability to understand monkey language.

As a throwback to the original, “The Jungle Book” uses three songs from the 1967 version in new ways. The most recognizable song is “The Bare Necessities,” which is sung in the film by Sethi and Murray. The famous song was changed a bit for the new version by having both Baloo and Mowgli sing together with a change of scenery.

In addition, “I Wan’na Be Like You” makes two appearances, both sung by Christopher Walken as King Louie. The major song change was “Trust In Me (The Python’s Song),” as it is spoken instead of sung by Scarlett Johansson, who plays Kaa the snake, during the film, then sung during the credits. The inclusion of these songs gives a strong feeling of nostalgia while putting a huge smile on your face.

With a fantastic voice cast and spectacular CGI, “The Jungle Book” is a must-see family adventure. The visuals are as stunning as they are beautiful, making it hard to believe that it is just a movie.

Again, Disney has proven that the magic of their stories doesn’t depend on animation or live-action, but rather on the impact of spoken words. If Disney can keep their winning formula up, there won’t be any fantastical films that they can’t remake in live-action.

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