April 25, 2015


(ABC, October 5, 1996-January 10, 1998)

Walt Disney Television Animation

Pamela Adlon – Baloo
Elizabeth Daily (season 1) & Dee Badley Baker (season 2) – Bagheera
Jason Marsden – Louie (season 1), Shere Khan
Cree Summer – Louie (season 2)
Jim Cummings – Kaa, Jed, Fred
Rob Paulsen (season 1) & Stephen Furst (Season 2) – Hathi
Michael McKean – Cecil
David Lander – Arthur

Author Rudyard Kipling published several stories in magazines between 1893 and 1894 taking place in his native country of India. The stories were fables using anthropomorphic animals, but the most well-known of them included the boy Mowgli who was raised by wolves in the Indian jungle. The stories were collected into book form and published as The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book in 1894 and 1895, respectively.

Kipling's The Jungle Book.

In 1963, Bill Peet convinced Walt Disney that an adaptation of The Jungle Book would be worth pursuing as Disney’s next animated feature as they could do interesting animal characters. Approved, Peet began to pen the treatment for the movie which would focus on the stories featuring Mowgli. However, after his last film The Sword in the Stone received poor reactions, Disney decided to become actively involved in the making of The Jungle Book; the last film he would do so before his death in 1966.

Art from The Jungle Book by Kipling's father.

Peet’s treatment adhered closely to the dramatic dark and sinister tone of the book, highlighting the struggles between human and man. Peet did deviate slightly. At the urging of the film’s writers, the narrative was going to be more straightforward than Kipling’s, which was more episodic. Also, Peet eliminated the concept of Mowgli commuting back and forth to the human village, saving his return for the ending. He accomplished that by creating a new character: a girl for Mowgli to fall in love with as a more plausible reason for him to leave the jungle and rejoin the world of man. Another new character was the monkey king Louie who would enslave Mowgli in order for him to teach Louie how to make fire.

The characters of Disney's The Jungle Book.

Disney was unhappy with Peet’s treatment, insisting it was too dark for a family feature. Following a long argument over changes, Peet left the studio in 1964 and was replaced by Larry Clemmons, who discarded most of Peet’s work. The resulting story was simplified and straightforward when compared to Kipling’s disjointed narrative. Peet’s personalities for the characters were retained and also infused with the personalities of the actors portraying them. Ken Anderson served as the lead character designer, using rough artistic edges for the characters in contrast to the usual Disney rounded animals. The animal movements were based on stock footage and two Disney productions: A Tiger Walks and the “Jungle Cat” episode of True-Life Adventures. Director Wolfgang Reitherman also reused some animation from his previous Disney productions. 

The resulting story saw man-cub Mowgli (Bruce Reitherman) found in a basket in the jungle by serious panther Bagheera (Sebastian Cabot), who took him to a wolf mother to raise him with her cubs. When the sinister Shere Khan (George Sanders, whom Khan was modeled after), a sophisticated man-hating Bengal tiger, returned to the jungle all thought it best Mowlgi returned to the human world—except Mowgli, and the free-spirited bear named Baloo (Phil Harris). After confrontations with King Louie (Louis Prima, whose performances inspired the monkeys’ dance sequence and led to his casting by Disney), Kaa (Sterling Holloway) the python, and Khan himself, Bagheera and Baloo take Mowgli to the Man-Village where Mowgli is hesitant to go until he sees a beautiful girl (Darleen Carr).

Louie and Baloo on TaleSpin.

The film received positive reviews upon its release in 1967 and made $205.8 million at the box office against its $4 million budget. It was highly regarded for years to come in both its animation and story. Disneyland Records released an unofficial sequel in 1968 called More Jungle Book written by Larry Simmons, with Prima and Harris reprising their roles. From 1990-91, Disney recycled some of the characters from the film and placed them in a new setting for the Disney Afternoon series TaleSpin. The series followed Baloo (Ed Gilbert) as a cargo pilot in a 1930’s-esque fictional city called Cape Suzette. Shere Khan (Tony Jay) was the ruthless head of Khan Industries, and Louie (Jim Cummings) was the fun-loving owner of a remote island nightclub and motel called Louie’s Place.

Promotional art for season 1 of Jungle Cubs.

In 1996, Mark S. Bernthal brought the characters back to their jungle setting in Disney’s Jungle Cubs. A later example of the babyfication fad, the series saw the characters of the film (minus Mowgli) as young kids who hung out and played together, while also learning lessons about life and friendship. Their primary hangout was their fort, the Cub House, which would later serve as King Louie’s palace in the film. Several episodes took inspiration from the Kipling stories not used in the film, with the cubs sometimes replacing Mowgli in the plot.

The series’ theme was a hip-hop version of “The Bare Necessities” from the film, which was written by Terry Gilkyson and performed by Lou Rawls. The intro’s animation, while using the same character models, was rendered with a bit more theatrical-level flair: the characters all having shading and lighting effects rendered on their bodies. Stephen James Taylor composed the rest of the series’ music.

Cecil and Arthur.

In order to keep some continuity with the film, the cubs all exhibited traits reminiscent of their adult personalities. Baloo (Pamela Adlon) was a free-spirit who loved to play tricks on his friends, particularly Bagheera (minus his accent from the film and voiced by Elizabeth Daily & Dee Bradley Baker) in order to get him to loosen up from his normal uptight and serious attitude. Louie (Jason Marsden & Cree Summer) was Baloo’s best friend (a departure from the film) and was very energetic, although preferring to spend his time in trees eating bananas. Kaa (Cummings) desired nothing more than to be able to master his hypnotic powers, but the results were always spotty at best. Hathi (Rob Paulsen & Stephen Furst) was an elephant who always attempted to infuse military discipline into his friends, but always collapsed under pressure. The film’s villain Shere Khan (also lacking his accent by Marsden) retained his proud arrogance, but sometimes suffered from confidence problems. Cecil and Arthur (Michael McKean and David Lander, reminiscent of their roles as Lenny and Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley), were a pair of vultures created specifically for the show that were always waiting for the cubs to die so they could eat them.  However, their ineptitude made them non-threats to the cubs.

The characters' new looks.

The series underwent some changes for its second season. The characters were all portrayed as a bit older, several gaining new voice actors or performances in the process as well as slightly modified character models. Adlon, while still portraying Baloo, slowed down her speaking to further emphasize his laid-back nature while also deepening her voice. Blaoo was also rendered slightly taller and darker. Summer replaced Marsden as Louie, who lost his tall hair and gained a lighter stomach patch. Baker replaced Daily as Bagheera, whose coat became a lighter shade of black while he was shown as even more serious and obsessive about cleanliness. Furst replaced Paulsen as Hathi, who grew taller, gained a lighter skin tone, and began spending more time with his future wife Winifred (Kath Soucie). Kaa became longer and his spots magenta-colored. Khan received the fewest physical changes, his fur only becoming lighter and his body sleeker, but personality-wise he grew more distant and intolerant of his fellow cubs; preferring to spend his time hunting than dealing with them. To showcase these physical changes, the intro was altered using the series’ standard animation rather than the enhanced style from the original.

One of the Jungle Cubs books.

The show was broadcast on ABC for its two seasons beginning on October 5, 1996, alternating between one and two segments per episode. Reruns aired on The Disney Channel, Toon Disney, Disney Junior and Disney Cinemagic in the years following. The rebroadcasts differed slightly from the original run in that several episodes featured segments that weren’t original paired together. Several season two episodes were also rerun with season 1’s opening titles. In 1996 and 1997, the series was released on two VHS tapes with three episodes each in the United States, while internationally four additional episodes were released between three VHS collections from 1997-98. In 2003, to coincide with the release of The Jungle Book 2, the first international collection was transferred to DVD in both the US and internationally. Little Golden Books produced books based on the show for Disney’s Wonderful World of Reading series.

Season 1:
“A Night in the Wasteland” (10/5/96) – Khan proves his courage by journeying to Pinnacle Rock, where Mahra and her cubs have set up shop.

“How the Panther Lost His Roar / The Humans Must Be Crazy” (10/12/96) – Bagheera loses his voice. / Bagheera uses an old watch to make him a better hunter.

“Hathi Meets His Match / Buffaloed” (10/19/96) – A fire drives young elephant Winifred to meet Hathi. / Cecil and Arthur trick Khan into fighting a water buffalo.

“Mondo Mungo / Bare Necessities” (10/26/96) – Kaa befriends a mongoose. / Lazy Baloo becomes the cubs’ only hope as they end up trapped at the start of the monsoon season.

“Who Wants to be A Baboon?” (11/2/96) – Tired of the jokes, Louie leaves his friends to become Mahra’s assistant.

“Red Dogs” (11/9/96) – Kaa goes after Baloo when Louie makes him think his hypnosis led Baloo to sleepwalk as the Red Dogs return to the jungle.

“The Great Kaadini” (11/16/96) – Kaa accidentally hypnotizes Cecil and Arthur, turning them into competent hunters.

“Hulla Baloo / Shere Bliss” (11/23/96) – Louie becomes jealous of Baloo’s new friend. / A bump on the head makes Khan more fun.

“Treasure of the Middle Jungle” (11/30/96) – Most of the cubs embark on a treasure hunt that leads them to the giant cobra Whitehood.

“Feather Brains / Benny & Clyde” (12/7/96) – Arthur tries to make friends with Khan after Cecil kicks him out over a female vulture. / Louie babysits his cousins.

“Splendor in the Mud” (12/14/96) – Winifred’s uncle forbids the cubs from seeing her again, but the cubs come to his rescue when he needs a specific cure for an illness.

“Trouble on the Waterfront / Fool Me Once…” (12/21/96) – A drought pits the cubs against each other. / Bagheera fakes his death to get even with Baloo and Louie.

“The Coming of the Wolves” (12/28/96) – The cubs have to help two wolves escape their pack led by the evil alpha wolf Cain.

Season 2:
“The Ape Who Would Be King” (10/11/97) – Louie is destined to be king of the jungle, but not of Khan can help it.

“Trunks for the Memories / Kasaba Ball” (10/18/97) – The herd is breaking over a food shortage, meaning Hathi may lose his best friend. / The cubs split into teams for a game of Kasaba Ball.

“Hathi’s Makeover / Curse of the Magnificent Melon” (10/25/97) – Hathi no longer wants to be an elephant. / Frogs follow Baloo around, reminding him of stealing Hathi’s prized melon.

“The Five Bananas / Birthday Snake” (11/1/97) – The cubs form a band for a talent show, but split over competing egos. / The cubs try to make up for forgetting Kaa’s birthday by playing hypnotized.

“Old Green Teeth / The Elephant Who Couldn’t Say No” (11/8/97) – When the band is invited to play for his idol, Louie loses his confidence. / A game leads Hathi to taking care of a basket full of crazy woodpeckers.

“Hair Ball / A Tail of Two Tails” (11/15/97) – Coughing up a hairball in front of everyone causes Bagheera to run away in embarrassment. / Khan and Kaa take advantage of Louie after they get hurt rescuing him.

“Waiting for Baloo / Tree for Two” (11/22/97) – Baloo has to make a banana delivery. / A storm forces Bagheera and Louie to live together.

“Nice Tiger / Sleepless in the Jungle” (1/10/98) – Khan tries to convince the others he’s not nice. / A water shortage gives Baloo sleepless nights.