What Walt Taught Me: The Jungle Book

What Walt Taught Me: The Jungle Book August 18, 2015

3227936006_a34f4d0832_oWalt died making this film and fortunately the movie was almost worthy of the man. This is a jolly film, but also about growing up and endings. Disney would not make an animated film this good until Little Mermaid.

Forget the book, Kipling put too much of his white man’s burden in the dark stories for Walt, and so this is a movie having almost nothing to do with the troubled source material. Thanks, Walt.

The Sherman Brothers and company produced the most singable  score in an animated film… I defy you to get the tunes out of your head even without my mentioning I Wanna Be Like You, Trust in Me, and Bare Necessities. All elephants move to the March in my mind thanks to the brothers Sherman. If the remaining brother reads this: you are the score of my childhood. Thank you.

What did Walt teach me?

Responsibility cannot be escaped. Who wouldn’t rather frolic than work? Who wants to live in a village when there is a Disney style jungle in which to cruise? It isn’t just the danger, a man has to do what men do. Even if we are related to the apes, we are not apes. We have the ability to not just make fire, but to harness it and use it for good. We can flee that power or choose to remain ignorant, but that is already a choice animals do not have. When we choose not to know, to escape our humanity and live as a beast, it is dangerous for us and the beasts. A man in the jungle will end as less than a beast for he will, at the very least, be guilty of slacking and no beast has ever failed his duty. More probable is the bestial men Plato feared in his Republic:  an ugly example of atavism

Everybody has to go to their place. Mowgli would rather live in the jungle, but his deep desire is unnatural. After Eden, men must go to cities. There is a foolish form of Christianity that longs for a return to Eden, but we are barred forever from the nursery. Sin forced us to grow up and so we were pushed into cities too soon, yet cities are where we were bound even if there had been no sin. We are communal creatures. Isolation breeds particular forms of inhumanity and we are heading for the New Jerusalem, not a hippy commune in a rural Eden.

The film was released after Walt was dead and the City of Men mourned his loss.

You better keep and plan on replacing Walt Disney.
He had to go to the City.

Walt went to the Place all men must go. He went home and I hope he found  a jolly reception there. There no man is judged by his wealth or his works: it is grace or damnable ruin. Here is hoping Walt finds grace in the eyes of the Lord and is there for all eternity telling tales. I have hope and hope rarely disappoints that I will be able to hear him voice Mickey at the party that will never end.

Looking back on these films reminded me that the cartoon makers mattered as much as the politicians, the generals, and the plutocrats. Walt Disney was not a saint, not a deep intellectual, but he was a genius. He was the key guy who could change mediocrity into excellence and envision more than was. First, Walt was, then there was light in the theaters of my childhood.



This is the last post in a summer series. I will be periodically posting on the animated films made after Walt’s death in a series called What Disney Taught Me.

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