Monday, May 2, 2016
Movie Monday: The Jungle Book
The split-screen trailer above demonstrates the differences between Disney's two Jungle Book releases. Both draw on Rudyard Kipling's India-based short stories about a boy named Mowgli who is raised in the jungle by benevolent animals.
The first Jungle Book, released in 1967, was the last cartoon movie supervised personally by Walt Disney. It features full-length musical numbers and anthropomorphized animals acting like humans.
The newer Jungle Book's animal characters still speak English, but they look real and behave more like animals. In fact, however, they are no less artificial than the animals hand-drawn on the thousands of cels that made up the original film.
What the current release represents is a giant leap in CGI (computer-generated imagery.) The movie's only real elements are the actor who plays "man-cub" Mowgli and the animals' speech voiced by great actors. Everything else, from the scenery to the action sequences, was created by hundreds of digital artists working in downtown Los Angeles. The result is even more impressive than that of the 2009 megahit, Avatar.
Jungle Book 2016
This movie is great. It feels real, it moves well, it has plenty of suspense and action and its satisfying conclusion involves coordinated action involving animals acting like animals and Mowgli using his "man tricks." The original stories have been tweaked a bit to appeal to changing cultural mores -- mostly natural preservation -- and that works too.
I saw the movie in a regular theater and found it very satisfying. Others recommend seeing it in 3-D, and it might be even more compelling in the imax format.
Kids will love it. Grownups will too. Just go.
I have talked before about Disney's marketing skills, and of course the Jungle Book release has been coordinated with theme park attractions and licenses for retail products.
But the company's more remarkable strategy may be an older one, the careful maintenance of the content it produces. More on that tomorrow.