Rudyard Kipling, who had been born in Bombay and was happier in the Punjab and India than he ever was in England, actually wrote most of The Jungle Book stories in Vermont. He, his wife Carrie and their new baby daughter Josephine were wintering there on a farm, in a tiny cottage “with snow up to the windowsills,” he wrote.
“After blocking out the main idea in my head, the pen took charge, and I watched it begin to write stories about Mowgli and animals, which later grew into the two Jungle Books.”
The stories were like 19th century Aesop’s fables: Talking animals taught moral lessons and rules to live by. Some said they were also disguised parables about man’s uneasy relationship with animals, and the strangeness of politics and society of Victorian era Imperialism.
Mowgli, the man cub raised by wolves in the jungle, is featured in only three of the stories, but he and his friends were appealing enough for the books to become popular children’s classics. Like any successful modern day children’s author, Kipling soon found himself answering children’s letters about his characters.
General Robert Baden Powell was so taken by the stories that he approached Kipling for permission to borrow their universe for his growing Scouting movement. (Example: A cub scout pack leader would be called the Akela, which was the name of the leader of the wolf pack that protected Mowgli.)
In 1964, less than 30 years after Kipling’s death the Walt Disney studios set to work re-purposing the adventures of Mowgli and friends for an American audience.
Walt Disney handed the book to a new writer on the project, Larry Clemmons and told him, “The first thing I want you to do is not to read it,” Clemmons remembers.
Longtime Disney animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston
These parts 2 and 3 videos continue a fascinating story of how Disney, with master animators Ken Anderson, Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, director “Woolie” Reitherman and others tried to reshape the Kipling classic for the Beatles era.