Watching The Jungle Book movie last night brought back so many childhood memories. As a child, I had watched the cartoon over and over again. The man-cub Mowgli surviving in the animal kingdom in the forest with the comical Baloo the bear, the ever-serious Bagheera the black panther, the sneaky Kaa the snake, the vengeful Shere Khan the tiger, and all the various hob nob of wildlife that prospered in peace among one another.
Not to mention, the times when my mum used to call me Shere Khan because I was born in the year of the tiger and my name sounded similar to his. Does Sheu Quen really sound like Shere Khan? Almost, I suppose.
Directed by Jon Favreau, The Jungle Book was based on the Disney cartoon of the same name and the book written by Rudyard Kipling. The movie had several A-list superstars who lent their voices as the wildlife support system within the forest community where Mowgli had grown up in.
The man-cub Mowgli flees the jungle after a threat from the tiger Shere Khan. Guided by Bagheera the panther and the bear Baloo, Mowgli embarks on a journey of self-discovery, though he also meets creatures who don’t have his best interests at heart.- IMDB.com.
Mowgli was the man-cub of the forest and the only one played by a real human, newcomer Neel Sethi. Abandoned as a child in a cave after his father was mauled by Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba), Mowgli had been taken in by Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley) who passed him along to a pack of wolves led by the alpha male Akela (voiced by Giancarlo Esposito) and raised as a wolf cub by a mother wolf by the name of Raksha (voiced by Lupita Nyong’o). There, he grew up along his other wolf cub siblings and learned the ways of being a member of the pack.
But his happiness was not meant to be when Shere Khan returned to the area where the animals lived among one another in peace, and his presence had threatened to upset the balance. He sensed that there was one mammal among them that was different and stood out quite awkwardly. As Mowgli learned to discover his real identity with the assistance of Baloo and the guidance of Bagheera, he realised that he wasn’t alone in the forest. Kaa (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), the huge serpent, was intent on turning the man-cub into her meal. King Louie (voiced by Christopher Walken), the giant orangutan living within the ancient ruins in the middle of the forest, was hellbent on recruiting Mowgli for the sake of acquiring the red flower, also known as the fire that man used to wield power over everyone else. Only one animal in the forest was really keen to be his friend, and that was the ever-supportive and comical Baloo the bear who was voiced by Bill Murray.
Movie vs. Cartoon
Seeing as the movie had brought back such fond memories, I knew that the director and producer had done a wonderful job with it. The movie had begun the way it should and ended the way it was meant to end. Many Disney movies had been unlawfully distorted to suit the tastes of the modern cinema-goer and more often than not, most Disney movies end up looking like they were desperately reformatted in hopes of getting more viewership.
There were, of course, the minor differences between the movie and the cartoon, and there were scenes that were neither in one or the other. One difference was the time when Baloo was singing his song, The Bare Necessities. The one in the movie was shorter than the one in the cartoon, complete with the bear’s antics and theatrics.
The other notable difference involved Mowgli. In the movie, Mowgli was braver and able to climb trees and improvise to make his life better, whereas the Mowgli in the cartoon was more naive and unable to do as much as his real-life counterpart could. Also, there may have been a man-village in both the movie and the cartoon but there was certainly no pretty little Indian girl whom attracted Mowgli’s attention and drew him back to her village (this was the ending of the cartoon).
King Louie was still an orangutan in both versions, but in the movie, he was made to look so much bigger than his cartoon counterpart and more devious too. His hoard of monkey slaves weren’t able to talk though, besides howling and hooting among themselves, while the monkey gangs in the cartoon were not just able to talk but sing and dance as well!
And if you have seen the cartoon before, let’s not forget the pachyderm parade led by a large grey elephant by the name of Colonel Hathi. That was one memorable scene that did not make it into the movie. At most, we will still see a parade of elephants but only because they were the giants of the forest.
But the one difference that stood out was the voice of Kaa. In the cartoon, Kaa was voiced by a male actor. But in the movie, Scarlett Johansson was given the role of the snake. The result? A rather sexy, come-hither serpent that sounded like she was “getting it on” in the bedroom!
All these differences didn’t make me hate the movie though. If any, it made me love it even more! But these differences had a reason. The cartoon version had been made for the eyes of children, while the movie was adapted to accommodate movie-goers of all ages. So there was no way that a creepy King Louie or the ferocious Shere Khan and his disfigured face would appear on VCR and cause children to flee in all directions in shock and surprise.