Jungle Book characters revamped

Jungle Book characters revamped


An analysis of the three Jungle Book characters which Disney transplanted into their television series, TaleSpin...and how they differ from their earlier incarnations.



Jungle Book Characters Revamped
 
 by JerseyCaptain

Anyone who has had the chance to see episodes of the Disney television series TaleSpin ( and ), and the earlier Disney movie The Jungle Book ( and ), probably will note substantial differences between how the recurring characters (Baloo, Shere Khan, and Louie/King Louie) are portrayed.

Of course, TaleSpin takes these characters, and original ones created just for the series, and places them in an island setting revolving around air transport and shipping businesses, air piracy, and big business.  A very different setting from Disney's earlier The Jungle Book movie - which was based upon the early "Mowgli" stories of the original The Jungle Book () by British author Rudyard Kipling ().  The setting there was more traditional and relatively realistic for the characters in question (a steamy jungle in remote India during the 1800s).

What I'd like to do is give you a look at how these three iconic characters, from the original Disney movie, changed when they were reimagined for the TaleSpin television series (keeping in mind that they and the other original characters of the movie The Jungle Book had also changed from the way they were originally imagined and written by Rudyard Kipling, their creator).




Baloo: The primary character in the TaleSpin television series, Baloo (a sloth bear...a species found in India) was a supporting cast member in The Jungle Book.  In that original movie, he was designed as a shiftless beatnik ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatnik), one whom the other characters (except the human child Mowgli) see as a nuisance.  The beatnik character is definitely a reflection of the time period in which the movie was made (1967 - though by then beatniks were fading out, having been more a social trend of the late 50's and early 60's).

In TaleSpin, he is reimagined as a pilot working for a shipping transport company.  He takes on a sort of Indiana Jones-ish character (though the general shiftlessness remains).  Another trait is also preserved in the TaleSpin series...Baloo's soft spot for kids - and especially orphans.  His sidekick, Kit Cloudkicker the bear cub, is an orphan just like Mowgli, the human child raised by wolves in The Jungle Book.  In both instances, Baloo takes a strong altruistic and protective liking to them.

Baloo's voice actor in the movie was Phil Harris, who has done other work for Disney over the years.  By the time the TaleSpin series began production in the early 90's, however, he was too old to voice the character (as Disney did offer the role to him first).  Subsequently, voice actor Ed Gilbert was given the role.  He apparently listened to old tapes of Harris (and watched movies and television episodes he was a voice actor in) and practiced Harris' voice until he got the sound just right.  And it is an impressive bit of duplication!

(I like both character portrayals, though they are rather dissimilar from each other.)

Louie: A supporting cast member in both the movie and the television series, Louie is quite different in one versus the other.  In the movie, he is King  Louie, an orangutan who rules over a troupe of monkeys in the ruins of an ancient city buried in the jungle.  King Louie was designed to talk like a "scat" singer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scat_singing), and was something of a treacherous, sneaky, cunning manipulator.  He tried to deceive Mowgli into telling him the human secret of fire, in exchange for allowing him to continue living in the jungle with he and his monkey subjects.  Bagheera, the black panther who was looking after Mowgli, saw through the trick and, with Baloo's help, rescued Mowgli from King Louie and the monkeys before he fell completely into Louie's trap.

In the TaleSpin series, Louie loses his kingship (or, rather, never had it), and instead becomes a Hawaiian shirt-wearing nightclub owner, and a friend of Baloo.  The voice actor who portrayed him in the series, Jim Cummings (who also played Steele in the Balto movie), did a fair job of imitating the voice of the character as originally portrayed by Italian-American scat singer Louis Prima (known for such hits as "Just a Gigolo" and "Buona Sera", which are both often heard in Hollywood movies with Italian-American and/or Mafia storylines).

(Personally, I thought that Louie as a nightclub owner was a farce of what he was in the movie, in which he was an amazing character.  In the series, however, he certainly lost his edge.)

Shere Khan: A villain in both the movie and the series, Shere Khan the tiger is another character whose portrayals are very dissimilar from one to the other.  In the movie, he is a delightfully-sinister antagonist...one with a deadly cunning and remarkable unflappability which is shattered only by the presence of fire (which he fears greatly).  He's so powerfully evil and important that, even when he does not appear on-screen in the movie, the characters spend a heck of a lot of time talking about him, and the terrible, ominous danger he represents (and how if he finds Mowgli he will surely kill him).  His portrayal is similar (though much darker in his case) to two other Disney villains - Scar, from The Lion King (though, unlike Shere Khan, Scar is a bit of a sneaky, plotting coward), and Jafar the Grand Vizier from Aladdin (who, like Scar, is something of a sneaky, plotting villain - though much less of a coward).  The voice work and delivery are similar in each case.  Shere Khan remains as one of Disney's greatest animated villains ever...and certainly one of the most evil.

In the TaleSpin series, Shere Khan is reimagined as a cold, unflappable corporate executive, a businessman who is not above using sneaky, even nasty means to achieve whatever he wants.  The deadly cunning and sinister, unflappable cool are gone in this portrayal, and replaced with a detached coldness and moderate ruthlessness.  His voice actor in the series, Tony Jay, did a fair job of imitating the wonderful original voice portrayal of the character by British voice actor George Sanders (who died only a few years after The Jungle Book was made).  Though I liked the voice work of Sanders much better than that of Tony Jay...it was creepier...more blas
é British aristocrat (no offense intended towards any British readers of this article) than Jay's snooty, detached business executive.

(For the reasons noted in the above paragraph, I was hugely disappointed by the Shere Khan character when I saw him portrayed in the TaleSpin series.  He was a sad, pathetic shadow of what he was in The Jungle Book.)



It is interesting that the other characters seen in The Jungle Book were never utilized in the TaleSpin series, including Bagheera the black panther, Kaa the python, Colonel Hathi the elephant (as well as Winifred his frustrated wife, and Junior his eager, friendly son), Akela and Rama the wolves, and the vultures.  One has to wonder why.  Even if they would not be recurring characters, it would have been interesting to see them portrayed even once or twice (in fact, I don't recall whether or not they ever were.  It's been since its original airing in the U.S., in the early 90's, since I have seen the series, and the information online about it does not show any indication that those characters were ever used in the series).

Of course, the opinions expressed here are mine...they do not reflect those of every fan or critic of the series (and the movie).  In fact, I did enjoy the TaleSpin series when I saw it during its original run.  But it certainly took the Jungle Book characters used for it in very different directions.







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October 05, 2010
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While I love the show I admit I prefer the original Jungle Book enterpretations of said characters. While giving Shere Khan and Louie more affable and likeable aspects to flesh them out was a plus they seem to have a lost a bit of their zanier edge (Shere Khan especially while more evil in the film, was a rather comical and whimsical character to balance his genuinely menacing presence, in Talespin he is about the only villain that isn't). Though granted it's a plus over the sequel which utilizes the sinister humorless Talespin version but completely void of his redeeming qualities. Not much to say about Louie though without his more neutral alligned role he seems like basically another slightly wackier version of Baloo, a fun character though a bit pointless.

Baloo was handled a bit better and got some neat extra development (eg. interaction with females, holding genuine duties and responsibilities) he did on occasion have a meaner more self centered tone than the Jungle Book version, the anthro shift seemed to make him more materialistic I guess and he got dollars in his eyes too many times.

It is a shame they didn't use any other Jungle Book characters (par maybe the Kaa reference in My Fair Baloo) then again the film itself neglected so many potentially entertaining characters from the original novel (eg. Tabaqui the Jackal, Shere Khan's personal toadie).

Now if we can get some de anthroed Talespin characters into the next Jungle Book rehash...

Guest
Guest
July 10, 2009
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Thanks for the compliment! Er, but what I did mention in the article was that Shere Khan most definitely is different in the series than he was in the movie. His voice is vaguely similar, and he's still a villain, but in my opinion he "lost his teeth" in the series. He was much more sinister and awesome in The Jungle Book.

July 09, 2009
Usa Is not currently on the site
Well thought out article :]

I like your comparisons with the characters from both the movie and series. In a lot of the characters re-portrayed in Tale Spin, most of them didn't go too far away from their original character's personality, which is why in my opinion the series was so great (specially with Shere Kahn).


Guest
Guest
June 27, 2009
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I watched it, and as you said JC, loved it. Now I can say, I totally agree with your article. Louie and Shere Khan were much more in movie than in TailSpin. I didn't even check for my native language. I understand English enough well, it is long time since I last time used subtitles. It also helps me improve my English(at least I hope it does). And I agree, it just wouldn't translate well. Actors did very good job in it. I think they couldn't do better, those British actors totally belong in movie.

June 27, 2009
Philippines Male Is not currently on the site
Nice article Jersey. It's a nice detailed explanation of the differences between the characters from both universes. This would be a nice article to direct those who have that question in their mind. I've come across quite a few already. Good work.

Guest
Guest
June 14, 2009
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Hey Seth! Yeah, if you loved TailSpin, you're gonna LOOOOVE The Jungle Book! If you are good with English, you should rent or purchase the English version...listening to the characters who have British voice actors do their thing is really a very cool part of it. Some of the characters are VERY British (especially Shere Khan), and the "air" they have just wouldn't translate well into another language I'd bet. (Well, India was a colonial holding of the British Empire in the 1800s...so...) But if it is easier and better for you to rent the copy in your native language, then by all means do so!

Guest
Guest
June 13, 2009
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Great article JC. Got to see the Jungle Book. I only watched TaleSpin.

June 12, 2009
Webmaster France Male Is not currently on the site
AS leader
Buggy javascript text editors, I don't like them too much but there's not much choice...
Anyway, try to use the "source code" or "HTML" button and make the changes in there...Just don't save if you break anything.

Guest
Guest
June 12, 2009
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I don't know what's going on with the site NOW, but now a strange spacing has appeared in the Shere Khan section of my article that, when I try to undo it by backspacing or highlighting and deleting, deletes the text before it. :/:

What the HECK?

Guest
Guest
June 11, 2009
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Edited and posted! Lookin' good now! :cool:

Guest
Guest
June 11, 2009
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Thanks, Kohaku! :cool:

June 11, 2009
Switzerland Female Is not currently on the site
Anastasia Admin
Nice artical! Lots of details!

June 11, 2009
Webmaster France Male Is not currently on the site
AS leader
You can still edit it if you wish to...

Guest
Guest
June 11, 2009
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(I also seem to have made some annoying compositional errors in this. Meh - it was late or, rather, exceedingly EARLY, when I finished this, and I never did an editorial once-over before I posted it for approval. :red: LOL oh well. That doesn't change the comprehensibility of the article. It's just my nitpickiness that is at work here...)

Guest
Guest
June 11, 2009
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Thanks! lol

I mean, I still like TailSpin (though I probably don't as much now as I did while I was in college). But to me, The Jungle Book will always be more accurate and also more interesting and dramatic to me (and funnier).

June 11, 2009
Usa Female Is not currently on the site
Small but Determined
Fantastic article, Jersey! ^^ You did an excellent job plotting the differences between the characters from both The Jungle Book and TaleSpin.
I give this a two thumbs up!




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