Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday animation: The Jungle Book 2


This film came right in the midst of the release of the "Disney cheapquels."  These sequels are generally despised and ridiculed, and considering the quality of most of them, I can't say I blame anyone who also feels this way.

As for me, I enjoy most of the sequels in their own way.  I don't compare any of them to the original because they certainly don't stack up, but as standalone family films, they're all right.  In fact, I actually think The Jungle Book 2 is one of the better sequels, though I guess that isn't saying much.  :b

When The Jungle Book 2 first came out, there was one thing I really liked: Shanti, previously known only as Girl in the first movie, was now a full-fledged character!  I liked Shanti so much that I even made a fansite and fanlisting for her.  Ha, I was such a nerd!  Now that I'm older, I realize that she isn't really that great of a character, but she has a special place in my heart anyway.

This film went to theaters, but I was living in Okinawa at the time, so I am not sure if it was in theaters there.  This was one of the few sequels to go to theaters, actually, which probably explains why it is one of the better sequels (i.e. Disney spent a little more effort and money on it).  Is it really theater-quality?  Eh...I would say just barely.  I think they definitely could've done better!

Overview: The Jungle Book 2 was released in theaters by Disney in 2003 and is the sequel to The Jungle Book released in 1967.  It received mostly negative reviews but was still something of a success considering that it made almost seven times its budget worldwide.

Art: On first glance, it actually looks pretty decent, but when you look at it closer, you realize that it is cheaply made.  There are definitely some beautiful backgrounds, but the characters are so flat and poorly colored that they don't mix well together at all.  The characters end up looking really out of place in such lovely environments.  The animation itself is actually pretty good.  Very fluid, nice expressions, good movement.  There were definitely a lot of corners cut to make up for that fluidity and nice animation, though.  That would be fine for a cartoon, but this is a movie, and a theatrical one at that.  Objects and characters look as if they were coloring book pages that were hastily colored in and then given some generic shading (or none at all sometimes).  The designs are certainly nice, but then again, they were just taken from the first movie, so I don't think I can really count that.  I love Shanti's and Ranjan's mother's designs; they are beautiful.  The other characters actually look great, too.  They've been updated from their 1967 counterparts, but overall, I think they look pretty similar.  There are lots of colors, and it is very vibrant, especially when compared to the original.  That doesn't make up for much, but I do enjoy seeing lots of colors in animation.

This actually looks pretty good.
But then you add the characters, and they don't seem to fit.

Again, characters don't look as good as the background.

Little effort into the shading and lighting of Shanti's character here.  Very basic.
I like the sunlight shining through the trees.
Really painful contrast between the quality of Shanti and the quality of the background here.  X(  I almost wouldn't believe this was a still from the movie if I didn't already know it was.  I would think it was an illustration from a book.
Sound: I remember loving the song "Jungle Rhythm" and listening to it over and over on a plane trip from Okinawa to Tokyo (or some sort of trip like that.  I didn't have an iPod at the time and just listened to the kids station that the plane provided, and this song kept playing).  It's definitely catchy and is still my favorite from the movie.  The music in general is good for the most part.  There's a remix of "I Wan'na Be Like You" by Smash Mouth, and then "The Bear Necessities" is sung a couple times, I think.  Nothing particularly special to me, especially since it's kind of cheating to use so much music from the original, but they've done something new with it for the most part.  Sound quality is great, clear and crisp.  Voice talent is actually pretty impressive.  No actors from the original film reprise their roles which is understandable considering the age of the original film.  This movie came out not long after Kingdom Hearts, so I remember being happy to hear Haley Joel Osment as the voice of Mowgli (before his voice dropped).  He even has a decent singing voice!  He sounds nothing like the original voice and actually ends up changing Mowgli's personality quite a bit, but I like the choice overall.  I love Mae Whitman as Shanti (who was also Katara in Avatar: The Last Airbender and is currently the official voice of Tinker Bell).  Easy on the ears!  John Goodman does a fine job as Baloo, and Jim Cummings is great as Kaa.  My favorite (along with Osment) is probably Tony Jay as Shere Khan.  Tony Jay also played Monsieur D'Arque in Beauty and the Beast and Claude Frollo in the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the narrator in Treasure Planet, to name only his major Disney roles.  He was also Dr. Lipschitz in The Rugrats, which made me laugh.  :b He's incredibly talented and has a perfect villain voice.  Well, he did, anyway.  I'm pretty sure he's dead now.  :(  All of the acting was great, though.  I think Mae Whitman might've been the weakest in terms of acting, but I still thought she was pretty good.

Story: Mowgli has been living in the man village that Shanti lured him into in the original film but returns to jungle after missing his friends and old life.  It's not a very compelling story.  Not much to gain from it at the end.  It's just entertaining and cute at best.  Many of the characters return from the original film, but they do not seem to have the same personalities.  They joke more and seem a little zanier, more "modern" if that makes sense.  Not to say that they aren't fun.  Shanti has been given a full-fledged personality, though I find her to be a little forced at times.  Also, she seems to be nothing like the "Girl" in the original movie, who seemed coy and feminine.  Shanti is much more dominant.  Ranjan is more annoying that he is cute.  Shere Khan seems a little updated as well, though he is probably the most similar to his 1967 counterpart.  One thing that really annoyed me is that Shanti and Baloo were able to speakw with each other.  o.O  I can understand Mowgli being able to speak with the jungle animals since he grew up with them, but not Shanti (and, I'm assuming, the others in the man village).  That was actually a pretty significant plot hole that I did not like.  I could tolerate the other weaknesses, but not that one.

Ranjan imitating Shanti's "alluring" moves which lured Mowgli to follow her.  The "Girl" from the original movie, however, seems to not be anything like Shanti.
Shanti even tries to play off her coy behavior in the original film as being a joke.  Hmm, I feel like that's a cop-out.  What's wrong with keeping her original personality?  Disney is sometimes too focused on creating "strong" female characters, I think.


Yup.  These guys made it in, too.
Personal appeal: I do think that it is one of the better sequels, but it still isn't anything great.  I enjoyed it when it first came out, but I think I really only liked it for Shanti.  There was nothing else about the film (besides the song "Jungle Rhythm") that pulled me in.  I could certainly watch it again, but probably not by myself, maybe with kids.  Maybe if it happened to be on T.V., I would give it a watch, but only in the background.  It's not interesting enough for me to give it my full attention ever again.  I do like it overall, though.  I wish the animation was better, but for what it is, it's decent entertainment.

Bagheera puts up with way too much crap.
If you compare this film to the original, it is undoubtedly lackluster.  The animation looks cheap, the original characters seem out-of-character and are actually kind of annoying, and the story has little charm.  By itself, though, if you're just looking for a nice Sunday film to watch, maybe even in the background while you're doing something else, it's got its own spark, albeit a small one.  If nothing else, I think very young children will like it.  Overall, I give it two peridots.  It's not terrible, but it's not good either.  Just...okay.

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