The Jungle Book through time

Since it was first filmed in 1937, the Jungle Book has been a rich vein for studios worldwide, although not always as successfully as the 1967 Disney classic.

Ever since Rudyard Kipling’s first stories were published in 1893, The Jungle Book has been a staple of British children’s literature. Yet for those born after 1967, it is Wolfgang Reitherman’s jaunty Disney musical that sticks in the memory. These 14 short fables of anthropomorphized animals and naive orphans in the jungles of the Indian sub-continent have been mined deeply by film studios since the 1930s. Hollywood loves a remake, and Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book — expected in cinemas this April — will be followed in 2017 by Andy Serkis’ Jungle Book: Origins. It is not the first time that two releases have gone head-to-head — the first of Soviet filmmaker Roman Davydov’s Mowgli adventures was released months after Reitherman’s efforts hit screens in the West.

The universal appeal of The Jungle Book’s avaricious apes, maternal wolf-pack and the lurking evil of the tiger Shere Khan means that it has been recycled for generations, but modern producers have to either confront or side-step the darker associations that cling to the books. Kipling was a chronicler and advocate of imperialism, whose interpretation of the roles played by the colonisers and the colonised in the British Empire is highly controversial in the modern world.

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1937

Elephant Boy

Dir: Robert Flaherty
Cast: Sabu Dastagir, William Holloway, Walter Hudd
Based on Toomai of the Elephants, from the first Jungle Book, Elephant Boy was a collaboration between Hungarian director Zoltan Korda and documentary filmmaker Robert Flaherty. It tells the story of a mahout, or elephant rider, who longs to be a hunter. Flaherty cast Sabu Dastagir, the son of a real-life mahout, in the title role.

Mogwli 2

1942

Jungle Book

Dir: Zoltan Korda
Cast: Sabu Dastagir, Joseph Calleia, John Qualen
By the 1940s, Zoltan Korda and his brothers had left wartime Britain and moved their film business to the US. Their 1942 adaptation of Mowgli’s story was part financed by Charlie Chaplin’s studio United Artists, and again starred Sabu Dastagir in the lead.

Akela

1967

The Jungle Book (Disney)

Dir: Wolfgang Reitherman
Cast: Bruce Reitherman, Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, Louis Prima, George Sanders, Sterling Holloway
Widely considered the definitive animated version, this 1967 movie established the tropes for generations of cartoon musicals. With a cast of popular voice actors, comedians and musicians, and the director’s son as Mowgli, the film followed the success of Disney animations such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and 101 Dalmations. Walt Disney saw Kipling’s themes as too dark and the resulting upbeat tale with its unforgettable melodies – released just months after his death – today occupies number 32 in the top-grossing movies of all time.

Shere Khan

1973

Adventures of Mowgli

Dir: Roman Davydov
Cast: Sergei Martinson, Lyusyena Ovchinnikova, Stepan Bubnov, Anatoli Papanov, Lyudmila Kasatkina
Roman Davydov was a Soviet animator and artist whose work remains little known in the West — with the exception of his five-part Mowgli, which was released episodically between 1967 and 1971, and combined into a single piece in 1973. Davydov’s highly stylised, more sinuous characterisations of the cast of animals is a wild departure from Disney’s hyper-coloured caricatures, and the story remains closer to Kipling’s often bloody original. It had a wide release in translation over the following 20 years, and was finally adapted into English in 1996, with Charlton Heston as the narrator.

Mogwli

1989

Jungle Book Shonen Mowgli

Dir: Fumio Kurokawa
Cast: Urara Takano, Banjô Ginga, Hiroya Ishimaru, Yuzuru Fujimoto, Shigezô Sasaoka
A 52-part Japanese reimagining of the Kipling original that blended the 1967 Disney film with the source text. Adding characters and adapting others, the series was rendered in Japan’s intensely colourful anime style. It ran from 1989 to 1990 in Japan, and was released in translation into markets across Europe and Asia.

Bagheera

1994

The Jungle Book

Dir: Stephen Sommers Cast: Jason Scott Lee,
Cary Elwes, Lena Headey, Sam Neill, John Cleese
Disney returned to The Jungle Book in the 1990s with a live-action version starring martial artist Jason Scott Lee as Mowgli. Despite using Kipling’s name in its marketing, it was a fairly major departure from Kipling’s chronicles.

Mogwli 2

1995

Jungle Book

Dir: Toshiyuki Hiruma, Takashi Cast: Tony Ail, Nathan Aswell, Chera Bailey
A US-Japanese cartoon version that went straight to video. Sibling productions of Heidi and Cinderella made up a collectable set.

Akela

1996

Adventures of Mowgli

Cast: Charlton Heston, Don Brown, Ian James Corlett
A re-release of Roman Davydov’s 1973 movie, dubbed into English.

Shere Khan

1997

The second Jungle Book: Mowgli & Baloo

Dir: Duncan McLachlan
Cast: Jamie Williams, Roddy McDowall, Billy Campbell
A critical and commercial flop, this attempt adds an American circus owner and an evil uncle to spice up the plot.

Mogwli

1998

Jungle Book: Mowgli’s story

Dir: Nick Marck
Cast: Marty Ingels, Bhagavan Antle, Brandon Baker
Disney’s live-action feature misses the mark and goes straight to video.

Bagheera

2003

The Jungle Book 2

Dir: Steve Trenbirth
Cast: Haley Joel Osment,John Goodman, Mae Whitman, Phil Collins, Bob Joles
Disney waited a third of a century to make a big-budget animated follow-up to its 1967 classic. The film, which carries over the characters — and arguably some of the plot — from the earlier story, cast Haley Joel Osment, the creepy clairvoyant child from The Sixth Sense, to voice Mowgli, together with Hollywood royalty John Goodman as Baloo. The film was panned by critics, but was a commercial success, taking more than £95 million worldwide on a £14 million budget.

Snake

2016 - The Jungle Book (Disney)

Dir: Jon Favreau
Cast: Neel Sethi, Ben Kingsley, Lupita Nyong’o, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, Bill Murray
Iron Man director Jon Favreau was hired by Disney for a live-action and CGI remake of the 1967 cartoon classic, complete with iconic songs like The Bare Necessities. Relative unknown Neel Sethi has been cast as Mowgli, supported by Idris Elba as the tiger Shere Khan and Scarlett Johansson as snake Kaa. The film is out in the UK from April 15.

2017 - Jungle Book: Origins

Dir: Andy Serkis
Cast: Rohan Chand, Christian Bale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Naomie Harris, Eddie Marsan
Warner Bros’ confusingly titled Jungle Book: Origins is scheduled for release October 2017. Directed by the legendary motion-capture actor Andy Serkis, who also plays the bear, Baloo, it stars the ubiquitous Benedict Cumberbatch as Shere Khan, Batman star Christian Bale as Bagheera and Rohan Chand as Mowgli.

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