New Jungle Book takes animation to the next level

Though occasionally overdone, the Jungle Book’s animation left me impressed.


photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

by Torie Richardson, editor-in-chief

I’m sitting in the Lee’s Summit AMC theater, and I cannot overemphasize how strongly the man to my right smells like beer. Still, in his altered state of consciousness, he can tell by the opening camera work that “The Jungle Book” is “gonna be really good.” I had to agree. For a semi-animated film, it was hard to tell the difference between reality and something made on the computer. After all, adorable and strong Mowgli (Neel Sethi) interacts so well with animals who don’t exist that I didn’t even start to wonder how this film was made until a good amount of time had passed. Sethi doesn’t miss a beat anywhere in the film. His expressions of pride, sadness, joy and pain are spot on, and integrate smoothly into the words and actions of the other characters, which are, to an overwhelming majority, animals.

The camera-work was pretty impressive, but if the goal was for it to look so realistic I didn’t notice, the Jungle Book fell short. I occasionally became a bit frustrated with how “showy” it felt, especially in fight scenes that unnecessarily zoomed into animal faces instead of showing the action. Despite this, I found the animation and camera-work well-done. The difference between the real Sethi and animals made on the computer was hard to tell, and I still wonder how Disney managed to transform a cartoon into a live-action movie.

One piece of advice: don’t go see the new “Jungle Book” with any pre-conceived notion of how it is supposed to look compared to the original version. This movie seems very loosely based off the older cartoon. The plot is much different, the characters aren’t quite the same, and even the songs, some of which are derived from the original, are mildly altered.

Firstly, the character Kaa, a small, sneaky snake in the original movie, has transformed into a terrifyingly large anaconda that introduces “the red flower,” an important concept throughout the movie. Even more importantly, Bagheera’s role in the movie is altered as well, and though I don’t want to give any spoilers, you may be surprised at how this will affect the plot.

Of course, Disney intelligently kept “Bare Necessities,” the one song everyone in the theater was probably expecting, and mixed it in casually by having Mowgli and Baloo sing it happily while cruising down a river. However, other songs weren’t so naturally integrated, such as when Mowgli gets captured by what my friend described on the way home from the movie as “an oversized Orangutan?” This creature weirdly sings “I Wanna Be Like You,” then continues with his terrifying spiel on why Mowgli should help him conquer the animal world.

Though there are points in “The Jungle Book” that I can only describe as strange, there are many more that I would describe as impressive and forward-thinking. Disney was smart to change some plot points in order to ensure they didn’t just remake the same movie. The nature of the film is already unique, so it deserved a unique twist anyway.

So hey, go see Disney’s newest Jungle Book. The drunk guy sitting next to me thought it was out of this world, and I thought it was pretty great too.