Kipling And “The Jungle Book”

Christopher Benfey writes: ‘The new special-effects-driven “The Jungle Book” film from Walt Disney Pictures is a remake, of course, but a remake of what exactly? When the Disney studios first took on Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli stories for the 1967 classic animated production, fidelity to the book—first published in 1894, when Kipling was living with his American wife in the not very jungle-like hills of southern Vermont—was on nobody’s mind. (“We have foxes,” Kipling wrote of his placid surroundings, “and now and then a bear kills a calf or a pig…”) Walt Disney, who died in 1966 during the film’s production, thought an early draft of the screenplay was too dark for family viewing and gave a new writer a copy of Kipling’s book. “The first thing I want you to do,” he reportedly said, “is not to read it.”’

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