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Monday, June 1, 2015

Original Production Cels of Shere Khan and Kaa from "The Jungle Book," 1967


Original hand painted production cels of Shere Khan and Kaa from "The Jungle Book," 1967; Set on a lithographic background; Size - Shere Khan cel: 10 x 12" and Image: 6 x 7 1/2";  Kaa cel: 8 x10" and Image 5 1/2" x 5 1/4", Total Image: 9 1/2 x 15", Frame 27 x 32 1/2"; Framed with a gold and black wood frame, three suede acid free mats, a gold wood fillet, and UV conservation clear glass.


Shere Khan, a Bengal tiger, is the main antagonist in the 1967 Walt Disney film "The Jungle Book;" an adaption of writer Rudyard Kipling's series of stories. Khan was voiced by George Sanders, a veteran actor with a deep bass voice and a heavy British accent. According to Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston from "The Disney Villain":

"The perfect choice for the voice was George Sanders, the complete cynic, who added the element of boredom. With this voice, we could imagine a tiger who would kill without concern or effort. Sanders was asked if he would like a drawing of Shere Khan as a souvenir, to which he responded, "I suppose so." Asked further if he would like Walt to autograph it, he replied, "How utterly absurb. Why would I want his signature? He might want mine, I created the character."


Shere Khan production cel without the background.

The next two paragraphs are excepts from "The Disney Villain," by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston:

"It is not often that true villains as unique as Kaa and Shere Khan confront each other. In "The Jungle Book" the meeting was not a a victim-villain relationship because thy had nearly equal strengths. It was more a game of "keep away." Kaa will not admit that he has Mowgli hypnotized high in the tree as the tiger suspects. In a cold but polite manner Shere Khan tries to intimidate the crafty Kaa by suggesting, 'I thought you might be entertaining someone up there in your coils.'"

"The tiger is almost unbeatable, but he is unable to find out if Mowgli is really up in the tree. Any other character would have been terrified by the treatment Kaa is receiving, yet the snake continues to be evasive. He is a slippery antagonist, withstanding threats and humiliation in order to keep Mowgli for himself. It is an entertaining standoff for these two powerful predators, but it is Mowgli who eventually wins the day."


Close up of the Shere Khan cel without the background.

Milt Kahl, the great veteran Disney animator, was in charge of bringing Shere Khan to life and so of course Kahl set out on a crash course in tigers. Kahl said in an interview:  I learned so much about tigers by studying them that I didn't have to rely on any life action crutch." From Disney animator Andreas Dejas about the animation of Shere Khan, "Great perspective walk, and I love the way the tiger lies down, upper body first, then the rear.  The way he moves those front feet is worth studying alone. Such great anatomy."


Kaa production cel without the background.

Kaa, which means "snake" in Hindi, is a python who is almost always hungry and is known for being persuasive and tricky. He lives mainly in the upper limbs of trees and has the ability to hypnotize other creatures through eye contact. Kaa is often seen pursuing Mowgli, in an attempt to devour the man-cub, and he was animated by both Frank Thomas and by Milt Kahl.

Kaa was the second character who was originally voiced by Sterling Holloway, the first being Winnie-the-Pooh. Holloway's voice is just so wonderful in tone and pitch, and it is hard to imagine any other person doing the character justice. Kaa is very similar to another snake character, Sir Hiss from "Robin Hood". The two share several traits as both use hypnosis, and both suck up to the film's main antagonist (Shere Khan in Kaa's case, and Prince John in Sir Hiss's case). Exceptions are that they are different colors, sizes, and Sir Hiss wears a cape and hat.

Not all cels of the same character are equal in desirability or price. This is the case for this cel of Shere Khan. This piece is from one of the most rmemorable scenes in the film; when Shere Khan extends a single claw in order to intimidate Kaa. The tiger cel has been paired with an equally spectacular cel of Kaa, his eyes and slanted and with a fantastic evil smile. The Kaa cel is not key to the Shere Khan, but works wonderfully to complete the scene. It really does not get better, just a spectacular setup of the evil smiling tiger with his narrowed open yellow eyes looking at Kaa the python. The dialog for this scene is below:

Shere Khan: "Hmm, barely. Well, if you do so happen to see the man-cub, you will inform me first."
[Scratches Kaa's chin]
Shere Khan: "Understand?"
Kaa: [gulps] "I get the point. Cross my heart, hope to die."
Shere Khan: "In good show. And now I must continue my search for the helpless little lad."
[Shere Khan wanders off, Kaa frowns]


Framed original hand painted production cels of Shere Khan and Kaa from "The Jungle Book," 1967.

To view the scene in which this cel was used to create, click on the short video: