In 2016, Jon Favreau used the latest in CGI and motion capture technology to create a “live action” version of the Disney classic without ever having to travel to India. The entire film was done digitally, and that wasn’t the only change that existed between the two versions. A number of aspects of the narrative were changed, as well as key characters. Both films are considered classics by Disney fans, but here are the 10 biggest changes the 2016 remake made from the original cartoon.
10 MOWGLI AND HIS PACK
Bagheera finds Mowgli in a woven basket on a riverbank in the animated version. The baby won’t stop crying, and Bagheera is a compassionate panther, and so he entrusts the mancub to the care of Rama. Rama is the leader of a wolf pack who vows to protect the boy from Shere Khan, the tiger who hates man and will surely kill him.
In the 2016 film, a number of these incidents happen differently. Bagheera finds Mowgli shortly after his father has been killed, not by a river bank. Rama doesn’t appear in the film at all, and whereas in the animated version Mowgli wanders off into the jungle unaware of the dangers of Shere Khan, he specifically leaves his wolf pack to go into hiding from him.
9 SHERE KHAN
In the 1967 Jungle Book, the tiger Shere Khan acted as a sort of omnipresent menace. Initially uninterested in Mowgli, he only became aware of the mancub as the film progressed and he was told about him by Kaa, the elephants, and various other inhabitants of the jungle. It was then that he directed his attention to hunting Mowgli down.
In the live-action version, Shere Khan knows Mowgli from a young age. This means that he doesn’t need to interact with certain jungle creatures like Kaa, and spends more of his time interacting with Mowgli’s wolf pack. He has a much larger role in the lives of the jungle inhabitants (a sort of “king of the jungle”), and is responsible for the death of Mowgli’s wolf mother, Akela.
Bagheera seemed to be a bit of a nag in the original animated film, often being overly cautious and avuncular with the mancub Mowgli. They frequently had disagreements, which caused them to separate for periods of time, and allowed for other aspects of the story to unfold as they traveled solo.
In the 2016 version, Bagheera is a fierce hunter like Shere Khan, and almost eats Mowgli himself before bringing him to the wolf pack. He also doesn’t abandon Mowgli because of petty arguments; they are separated because of attacks by Shere Khan. Unlike in the animated feature, Bagheera battles Shere Khan twice in two epic cat-fights.
7 THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MOWGLI AND SHERE KHAN
In the animated Jungle Book, Mowgli spends much of his time paling around the jungle with Bagheera and Baloo, paying little heed to the infamous Shere Khan and his man-hating ways. Sheer Khan is a hunter of men, presumably because they drive him out of their villages with fire (which he also hates). Mowgli meets Shere Khan at the film’s climax, defeating him with what he loathes.
In the film, Mowgli meets Shere Khan in the beginning, when the animals meet for a truce at a lake over water shortages in the jungle. Shere Khan killed Mowgli’s father, and had no idea that he’d left his son alive.
In the animated feature, Kaa is an Indian python, and proves a miserable predator that entangles himself more often than he does his prey (in this case, Mowgli). He’s voiced by longtime Disney voice actor Sterling Holloway, who plays up the comedic effect of Kaa’s bumbling hypnotist to the hilt.
This is a sharp contrast to the film, where Kaa is voiced by Scarlet Johansson, and is an intimidating and ruthless anaconda. Disney felt that there were too many male parts in the 1967 version, and decided to make Kaa a female to balance out the gender ratio in the cast. There isn’t anything remotely funny about being trapped in the Kaa of the 2016 remake’s coils!
5 KING LOUIE
King Louie and his musical number was a stand out sequence in the 1967 version, due in no small part to the fact that the big loud orangutan was voiced by the irrepressible Louis Prima. Orangutans weren’t native to India at the time, but it hardly mattered in the context of dancing along to his toe-tapping tunes.
4 MOWGLI'S ESCAPE FROM KING LOUIE
Mowgli is absconded to King Louie’s palace by talking monkeys while riding on Baloo’s stomach in the 1967 film. Bagheera and Baloo have to work together to rescue him, with Baloo dressing up as a female monkey to infiltrate Louie’s party while Bagheera escorts Mowgli out in secret. Unfortunately, their plans go awry when King Louie discovers Baloo’s identity beneath his disguise.
In the remake, Baloo does nothing so elaborate, simply strolling into the temple and creating a distraction by being his usual loud-mouthed self. Bagheera tries to sneak in and find Mowgli, but their actions are broadcasted by an observant macaque. Thus ensues a wild animal brawl unlike in the animated feature when it featured more comedy.
3 THE BUZZARDS
At one point in time, there seemed to be a few unspoken rules about Disney animated films. There were several musical numbers throughout, with each character receiving their own song. The villains always lost, and the heroes always won. And finally (and most curiously), a grouping of comical characters who seemed to act as a “Greek chorus” to the hero or heroine’s trials and tribulations was always included.
Like Puglsey, Neeko, and Flit in Pocahontas, the three fairies in Sleeping Beauty, or the three gargoyles in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Jungle Book had it’s four wise-cracking comedians; the four Beatles-inspired vultures, who were sadly missing from the 2016 remake.
2 SHERE KHAN'S DEATH
Disney wasn’t known for prolonged death sequences in its animated features, and if a character died (such as Bambi’s mother), it was done off-screen. Even villains such as Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, Scar in The Lion King, or the Evil Queen in Snow White who all suffered fairly gruesome deaths didn’t fill young viewers with horrific images.
Shere Khan didn’t even die in the original animated film, but in the 2016 remake, he dies from plunging from a dead tree branch into a wall of flames. It's a very visceral event that is both terrifying and cathartic, given how close he was to ending Mowgli’s life. It’s more in keeping with Rudyard Kipling’s novel, where he dies by getting crushed by an oxen stampede.
1 MOWGLI'S FATE
Though Mowgli has known nothing of humankind in the animated Jungle Book, he has very little curiosity about it. He enjoys living his life with his wolf pack, annoying Bagheera, and playing hooky with Baloo. It’s only when he sees a young girl collecting water by the river and hears her siren song that he becomes enchanted with humans. He leaves Bagheera and Baloo to their lives in the jungle, intent on giving this living-among-humans thing a try.
In the film version, Mowgli defeats Shere Khan and decides to remain in the jungle. There isn’t any village he encounters with a young girl collecting water, implying that Mowgli might grow up to become more like Tarzan with his animal companions.