You'll be surprised by the family ties in the film's history

By Diana Pearl
Updated April 14, 2016 06:40 PM
Credit: Disney

Since Rudyard Kipling’s children’s book was first published in 1894, the story of Mowgli and his life in the jungle, The Jungle Book, has captivated millions – and it is sure to ensnare even more with the release of the live-action reboot this weekend. But did you know these 15 facts about the classic story and its many reincarnations?

1. It was used as a motivational book for the Cub Scouts.
Kipling gave the founder of the Scouts permission to use the book as a part of the curriculum. Its presence in the Scouting world has lasted: They use the term Akela, the head wolf in the book, as a name for the pack leaders. And to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first time The Jungle Book was read to Cub Scouts, readings were hosted – with some jungle-friendly guests.

2. The new music may have a ring of familiarity to it.
The 1967 film’s lyricist, Richard M. Sherman, returned to create new songs for the new movie. He composed songs for the original alongside his brother, Robert, who died in 2012.

3. There’s a family connection …
Bill Murray is lending his voice to Baloo in the 2016 adaptation – and it’s a role he should know well. His brother, Brian Doyle-Murray, played Baloo in the 1998 film, The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story.

4. in more ways than one!
It’s also the first-ever film that Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber’s sons Sasha and Kai have ever appeared in – they play two young wolves!

5. And it makes sense – so did the original text.
There are family ties all over The Jungle Book – even in its earliest form! Rudyard Kipling’s father, John Lockwood Kipling, did the illustrations for the original book.

6. In the 2016 film, Kaa the Snake will be a female for the first time.
Director Jon Favreau chose to change the gender of the slithering reptile for the film, saying he wanted to increase the number of female characters in the movie.

7. It’s a Lost in Translation reunion!
Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray, who haven’t been seen onscreen together since the 2003 Oscar winner, are back together in the 2016 Jungle Book.

8. The 2016 movie is Garry Shandling’s last.
Shandling, who died last month, plays Ikki, the porcupine, a character from Kipling’s original text that was left out of the 1967 version. It is his final credit in his decades-long career.

9. India got a release date a week earlier than the United States’.
The move was done out of a sign of respect for the movie (and its source text)’s Indian setting. It was also released the week of India’s New Year, and therefore was a holiday for most of the country.

10. The 1967 version was Walt Disney’s last film.
Sadly, he was never able to see the completed project: Disney died in December 1966, less than a year before the film’s October release.

11. The Beatles almost appeared in the original.
Disney himself had the characters of the vultures created so the Beatles could provide the voices to them. Their manager, Brian Epstein, was onboard, but John Lennon was not, so the collaboration was axed. Still, you can tell that the vultures are Beatle-inspired in the final project.

12. Kipling’s daughter claims Disney got the pronunciation of Mowgli wrong.
Elsie Kipling Bambridge said that it’s actually pronounced like MAU-glee, rather than MOW-glee.

13. The 2016 revival is just one of three animated Disney films Idris Elba appears in this year.
You can also catch his voice in Zootopia and Finding Dory.

14. Favreau decided not to make the 2016 version a musical.
But he couldn’t resist including the classic “The Bare Necessities”, sung by Baloo and Mowgli.

15. There was a Jungle Book sequel released 36 years after the original, in 2003.
In the film, John Goodman voices Baloo and Haley Joel Osment is Mowgli. Originally slated for straight to video release, it briefly hit theaters but, by and large, received negative reviews.