Chuck Jones’s Version of <em>The Jungle Book</em> Chuck Jones’s Version of <em>The Jungle Book</em>

Chuck Jones’s Version of The Jungle Book

Did you know Chuck Jones made an adaptation of The Jungle Book? Sadly, I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t. It’s even available on DVD.

This clip below offers a taste. Like most of Jones’s work from the 1970s, it’s dripping with cloying preciousness. And yet, it’s difficult to dislike it. Even Jones at his Jonesiest is a cut above the rest of the animation that came out of Hollywood during that decade.

(Thanks, Jupey Krusho)

  • Grant Beaudette

    I’d agree for most of those Kipling and Cricket shorts Jones did in the 70’s. Even sub-par Chuck Jones is better than many others’ work of the time.

    But I think Mowgli’s brothers is the worst of the lot and it’s the only one of those films I can’t stand to watch for some reason.

    Probably because of green Wile E. Coyote.

  • I thought the adaptation of “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” was wicked cool. Whenever Rikki the mongoose moves, he’s animated as a small brown blur that elongates to ridiculous lengths. It’s a terrific way to use the “stretch” part of squash-and-stretch to communicate something about the character visually.

    Also, Jones’ adaptation of “Mowgli’s Brothers” got me to read Kipling pretty young, and subsequently ruined Disney’s Jungle Book for me as a boy because I kept going, “THAT never happened in the BOOK!”

  • zoe

    In some ways I prefer this to the Disney version – what Jones’ version has going for it is that it’s very true to the book (one of my favorite books). I find the Disney interpretation of the story way more cloying/precious than Jones’. The Disney movie took the soul right out of the book.

  • Daniel J. Drazen

    I remember this as being part of a three-pack of Jones adaptations of Kipling (including Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and The White Seal, the latter being precociously environmentalist for its time). The modeling of Tabaqui the jackal on Wile E. Coyote set my teeth on edge, but overall it wasn’t as divorced from Kipling as the original Disney “Jungle Book.”

  • Tim Hodge

    This was part of a series of TV specials that Chuck did in the 70’s. They were all three Rudyard Kipling titles: “Mowgli’s Brothers”, “The White Seal” and “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” (the mongoose). I think Roddy McDowell did a voice in Tavi.

    I remember seeing these as a kid, and being dumbfounded to see Mowgli’s full frontal nudity for a few frames. (hee! hee!) It was when he was an infant, so he had less to show than Bart Simpson did.

    The White Seal was the least entertaining of the three, and the only one I have a cel from.

  • Eh… as my son would say, blah blah blah. Didn’t Jones say, that if you close your eyes and can still tell what’s happening then it’s not a cartoon but animated radio? Still, love Roddy McDowell’s narration.

  • Oh God, I remember watching this as a kid! I’ll have to find this now…

    Thanks for the nostalgia trip, Amid.

  • I believe that I have seen this before, a long time ago….Thanks for the post!
    I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that I knew that Chuck Jones had done this though. When I saw this I didn’t know who was who.

  • Russell H

    I was 9 when Disney’s JUNGLE BOOK came out, and as a great fan of Kipling’s stories, I was incredibly disappointed when I saw it. As for Jones’s adaptations, putting aside the artsiness and somewhat effete character styling, I must give Jones credit for not really softening or otherwise copping out on the genuine death and danger present in the original stories, as well as remaining true to the original characters’ personalities. I”d like to think that if he’d had a bigger budget and more time (and was free from TV censorship), he could have created something truly worthy of Kipling’s work.

  • Jack

    The strongest thing Jones did under his own 1970’s studio banner was “Rikki Tikki Tavi”; his other specials are woefully uneven.

  • The characters act like they know a camera is on them. Very disturbing.

  • I knew about this, but I’d never seen any of it. Wow, it’s so much deeper than the Disney version, which may not be hard to do, but it makes me want to read the book, something I’ve never thought of until now.

  • Kate

    Oh my god! I never saw this entirely, but this was advertised with ‘The White Seal’ and ‘Rikki Tikki Tavi’ on the VHS of ‘Babar the Movie’. Memories!

  • Peter

    Yeah, I loved all three of Jones’ Jungle Book specials when I was a kid (and just to be clear, all three stories are indeed from Kipling’s Jungle Book, not just Mowgli’s Brothers) and bought them when they hit DVD a few years ago now.

  • Gerard de Souza

    The first time I saw Jones in person, he recounted how he had called Kipling’s daughter to find out how “Mowgli” was pronounced. “I hate Disney!”, he said that she had said.

    He also adamantly expressed his belief in staying as close as possible to the literary sources when it comes to adaptations.

    I’ve only heard of this version and it looks like a fascinating narrative.

    But gosh yes, could he have not designed the jackal to look different than his Coyote? Apart from the re-use, its design seems out of place.

  • Jason

    I remember this. And I remember wondering why Jones made Shere Khan a white tiger. I didn’t really like the character designs (Disney beat Jones in that regard), but it was nice to see an animated version that stayed more true to the story.

    Man, Jones was really attached to the Coyote, wasn’t he? He kept cloning the beast for various non-WB animated projects. The green coyote/jackal character was only one of many. Remember the wolf he created for the Raggedy Ann specials?

  • Bonzodog

    I remember being slightly shocked when I saw it on TV as a kid in the 1970s — as I recall there’s a brief shot of naked Mowgli, penis and all, as he runs through the jungle.

  • They used to play this every christmas when I was a kid (whyChristmas? I have no idea).
    I was particularly obsessed with the mongoose in RTT.

  • cliffclaven

    The book “Chuck Amuck” has some amusing (and maybe true) stuff about doing cheap reference footage for “White Seal.” He fitted his grandsons with flippers and tied their arms so they would swim like seals in the pool. Included are some comparative sketches of skeletal structures and, without comment, a drawing of a wiener dog similarly outfitted. No mention of whether he threw the dog in the pool as well.

  • Michael Grabowski

    Like others have commented, I enjoyed watching these Jungle Book specials on TV, multiple times as I recall. RTT especially made me want to read the actual Jungle Book. Forgot all about them until a few years ago and was surprised to see they were Chuck Jones’ work.

  • Ron

    I remember seeing this on TV as a kid, thinking it was going to be the Disney version and being very confused and disappointed by Mowgli’s Man voice. Now that I know the difference, this is a good version too.

  • KarmaRocketX

    Honestly? In my opinion, this has NOTHING on the Disney adaption.

    Maybe it’s because i’m not one of those people who always demands that everything stay true to the source material, because sometimes it just doesn’t translate perfectly. As long as it’s adapted into somethin that is still good on it’s own, I never have a problem with it, and sometimes it’s a case for improvement.

    (I’m also of the small minority that believes that Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings was superior to even Tolkien’s, as jackson’s vision was paced much better and the shifting of lines to other characters and fixing of the timeline was a huge improvement in many ways.)

    The Disney version of Jungle Book, by the same token may have been re-written, and throughly tampered with, but it also was far more enjoyable than say, Chuck’s version simply for the fact that it was more entertaining as a whole, while Jones’s is more or less an cloyingly animated radio play.

    Honestly, I’ll take the Disney version anyday. And i’m not even that big of a Disney fan.

  • I’d like to know what got him onto that heavy mascara look.

    It can’t be just the quest for cuteness. There have been lots of cute characters that didn’t look like they’ve been made up by Tammy Faye Baker.

  • Yow!

    I’d totally forgotten about this.

    I saw the Jones Jungle Book along with The White Seal in elementary school. My school actually had the films and would play them as a treat instead of having to teach us.

  • i have to agree in one of the readers that the characters kinda know that there’s a camera in front of them..and i didn’t notice that until now..i think it’s his style that started at warner’s and has grown in him consciously and subconsciously. Mowgli reminds me soo much of ralph phillips..if ever i was tasked to guess who did this cartoon without even knowing who did it and without seeing the oh-so-obvious coyote character i think chuck jones would be on my list..he’s even the first one on the list if i ever get to have my suspects

  • i recall having this, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, and a Cricket in Times Square on a tape when I was very very wee

  • This maybe a more faithful adaptation but damn is it ugly. The animals are shockingly bad. I was almost embarrased watching it. If this is a high point of 70’s animation I’ll be giving trhe rest a wide berth.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    These specials (alone with the Cricket ones) had been released on VHS through Family Home Entertainment in the 80’s, and have been out on DVD for quite some time (saw them at Wal-Mart a few times). Strangely, the only one of the Kipling three I had saw a lot was Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, not sure why I didn’t see the others unless they just didn’t feel into my barometer, but I knew the titles existed anyway, and often spotted their tapes at the store, even one occasion of seeing Mowgli’s Brothers on 16mm at a library. Have to get around to seeing the rest soon.

    > Eh… as my son would say, blah blah blah. Didn’t Jones say, that if you close your eyes and can still tell what’s happening then it’s not a cartoon but animated radio? Still, love Roddy McDowell’s narration.

    Yeah, it did seem like a lot of narration to get around doing expositions in this. I hope the rest of it isn’t that much of a gabfest.

    Something about the Wile E. look Jones used for the jackal is a tad much too. It’s as if he couldn’t find another way around not using that design and just stuck with it. I often felt Rikki’s look in the other special had some sort of Wile E.-like look in the face personally, not a whole lot but sort of subliminal.

    > I remember being slightly shocked when I saw it on TV as a kid in the 1970s — as I recall there’s a brief shot of naked Mowgli, penis and all, as he runs through the jungle.

    At least he gets something on sooner or later. Too many adaptations tend to make it seem like he had something on from the get-go and we accept it. It’s nice for Jones to admit this isn’t always the case.

    When I think of another animated adaptation of The Jungle Book that some have often seen and enjoyed in their youth (and mostly in the anime circles), it was the 1989 Japanese-produced TV series that seems to be a cross between the Disney version, while keeping close to the story as well, if not for extra padding to fill up the 52 episodes needed this time around.

  • Mitch Kennedy

    Some of that stuff is really great!

  • Another piece of my deeply hidden childhood unearthed once again. :)

    Jones was a lot more bold and artistic than many old timers were during the 70s, many of whom ended their lives/careers in the Hanna-Barbera monolith.

  • Adam Van Meter

    Even with a short clip, I instantly lke it better than the Disney version.

    But that said, there was a different one I recall seeing, though I can’t remember the title now, which I like much better – the big moment in that involved.. I believe.. a huge pack of wild dogs? something like that.

    And Bagheera was a female in it. Extremely stylized, very smoothly animated.