Jungle Book’s heartwarming friendships and creative narrative

Director Jon Favreau’s beautiful, nostalgic and emotionally captivating adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book once again brought to us a tender and mischievous story of a cute man-cub Mowgli and his animal hood.

One the biggest memories of watching the Jungle Book as a kid was the story of a perfect friendship it brought to life through its playful narrative. Of how the jungle was a perfect metaphor to the world that we live in – a place of plurality, friendships and the elements that preyed on your vulnerability. A place that could leave you immobilized from taking that first step towards new adventures.

the-jungle-bookSo boundless are these characters with wisdom and game that when we watch the movie, we become a part of Mowgli’s adventures and reconcile with the enthusiasm that was once a big part of our childhood. The narrative extolled the importance of a curious spirit and the value of true friendships in a heartwarming and profound way.

“There was a lot of opportunity for emotion and comedy there.” “The dynamic is about somebody who doesn’t belong and wants a home. It’s very universal.” – Favreau

Oeo_kWoven into the Jungle Book story are some electrifying creative lessons.

In the jungle, faced with the predatory elements all around, you become the only custodian of your own ideas of right and wrong. Immobilized with fear you can either fight or run towards a safer place. But in the end, it’s only in the face of adversity that the world sees a great deal about your character.

The jungle and its laws teach you that a system, that is built by a pattern and rules can destroy your creative spirit. Here, in the Jungle Book, Baloo is the antithesis to this black and white existence. He is the creative soul of the forest and teaches Mowgli to be his own best self.

When Mowgli recites his Laws of the Jungle bit, “For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack”, Baloo dismisses it, “That’s not a song, that’s propaganda!”

Baloo then teaches Mowgli the song about the good life:

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In the book, Baloo is allowed at the Pack Council and teaches the wolf cubs about the Law of the Jungle. Besides sharing these maxims that are absolutely essential to Mowgli’s  survival, Baloo also gives him a taste of good things in life.

“Baloo told him that honey and nuts were just as pleasant to eat as raw meat.” (excerpts from the original book)”So Baloo, the Teacher of the Law, taught him the Wood and Water Laws: how to tell a rotten branch from a sound one; how to speak politely to the wild bees when he came upon a hive of them fifty feet above ground; what to say to Mang the Bat when he disturbed him in the branches at midday; and how to warn the water-snakes in the pools before he splashed down among them. None of the Jungle People like being disturbed and all are very ready to fly at an intruder.”

“So Baloo, the Teacher of the Law, taught him the Wood and Water Laws: how to tell a rotten branch from a sound one; how to speak politely to the wild bees when he came upon a hive of them fifty feet above ground; what to say to Mang the Bat when he disturbed him in the branches at midday; and how to warn the water-snakes in the pools before he splashed down among them. None of the Jungle People like being disturbed and all are very ready to fly at an intruder.”

Their friendship is an essential part of the book. The image of Baloo and Mowgli floating down the river stream is so sweet — a kind of special bond of which only the creative, the marginalized, and the wild ones have the privilege of experiencing.

Ken Anderson and background painter Al Dempster were behind the work of the character sketches and the colour selection at Disney.
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Here is the same frame, in the nostalgia-plying anime cartoon series that marked the Sundays of our lives.
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And then the 2016 movie.
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Robert Legato and Andy Jones in collaboration  with the animators at the Moving Picture Company (MPC)  and Weta Digital brought the animals and the Jungle Book story to life. Favreau and his team tapped all the latest innovations in green-screen technologies and motion-capture for this movie.

Before the Favreau’s movie and before the cartoon anime series, we also got a glimpse of the Jungle Book and the various characters illustrated by Christopher Wormellcreate. These illustrations echo the various plots and characters of the story and assert the fact that interpreting a masterpiece in all its sights and sounds and rendering the tale with a pencil and a blank page is a truly beautiful task.

There were other illustrators too, who brought the book to life keeping the artistic integrity of the book and its plot.

We find the movie’s artistic cinematography in the visual direction of Sergey Artyushenko’s beautiful sketches.

Early sketches of characters from Disney’s The Jungle Book. Photo Credit: Disney.

Milt Kahl is an animator for the Disney studio and his drawing of Mowgli and Bagheera are as charming as they are life-like.

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As I researched more about the sketches and illustrations, I came across a gem of a site. Andreas Deja‘s YouTube channel and blog reveal the brief on the Jungle Book’s hand drawn character animation. Andreas spent 30 years at Disney and his blog is nothing short of a hidden gem for those wanting to learn more about the old style of hand drawn animations and collaborations done to get the best out of the color schemes.
“This animation assignment represents a strong creative comeback for animator Ollie Johnston, who recovered from an illness in the early 1960ies. There is no doubt whatsoever who this bear is, after only a few scenes Ollie nails the character.  Spectacular body language and brilliantly timed acting.
Frank Thomas takes over when Mowgli turns away from Baloo: “Leave me alone!”
This encourages the bear even more to cheer up the kid and to make him feel better.
It’s time he learned to fight like a bear and roar like a bear. The beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Frank’s Baloo feels a little heavier than Ollie’s, but the difference is only slight, and audiences would never notice. The acting is so consistently great from one animator to the other that it feels like one mind is behind this sequence.
Milt Kahl gave Frank and Ollie a hand with a few refined drawings that added appeal and helped to solidify the design of both characters.
Long live hand drawn character animation, an art form led by American artists for 100 years. We’ll see where this medium will go from here and where it will be cherished and renewed. “
 SCRIPT CREDITS
Typed by:
Sergei Zubkov, FDC Tummi/FDCmuck Cubbi
cubbi@comp.chem.msu.su, cubbi@org.chem.msu.su, 2:5020/315.17@Fidonet
EXCERPT PROVIDED BY INSIGHT EDITIONS FROM THE ART OF THE JUNGLE BOOK. © 2016 DISNEY.

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