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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Original Production Cel of Mowgli and Kaa from "The Jungle Book," 1967


Original hand painted production cel of Mowgli and Kaa from "The Jungle Book," 1967; Set on a hand prepared background; Size - Mowgli & Kaa: 8 1/4" x 8 1/2", Cel: 10 1/4" x 11 1/2", Image 8" x 11"; Unframed.

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Shere Khan, a Bengal tiger and Kaa a python were the main Villains in the 1967 Walt Disney film "The Jungle Book;" an adaption of writer Rudyard Kipling's series of stories. Wolfgang Reitherman was the animation director for the film and he began working for Walt Disney in 1934, along with future Disney legends Ward Kimball and Milt Kahl. The three worked together on a number of classic Disney shorts, including "The Band Concert," "Music Land," and "Elmer Elephant." Reitherman worked on various Disney feature films produced from 1937 to 1981, including "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (animating the Slave in the Magic Mirror) up to "The Fox and the Hound," where he was the co-producer. Beginning with 1961's "One Hundred and One Dalmatians," "Woolie", as he was called by friends, served as Disney's chief animation director. In addition to "101 Dalmatians," Reitherman directed "The Sword in the Stone" (1963), "The Jungle Book" (1967), "The Aristocats" (1970), "Robin Hood" (1973) and "The Rescuers" (1977).


Original production cel of Mowgli and Kaa without the background.

One of Reitherman's productions, the 1968 short "Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day," won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. In addition, all three of Reitherman's sons — Bruce, Richard, and Robert provided voices for Disney characters, including Mowgli in "The Jungle Book," Christopher Robin in "Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree," and Wart in "The Sword in the Stone."  Not only did Bruce Reitherman provided the voice of Mowgli in "The Jungle Book," but he also acted out certain scenes as live action reference for the animators. The character of Mowgli was animated by quite a few animators, however Milt Kahl set the final design and the majority of Mowgli's scenes were animated by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston.


Photograph of the hand prepared background.

Kaa the python, was animated by Frank Thomas in his entrance appearance of the film which is when Kaa first meets Mowgli and nearly eats Bagheera. Later in the film Kaa was animated by Milt Kahl, whose design for the snake may be more iconic; being that his scene was longer and included his trademark song "Trust In Me" as well as the famous interaction with the villainous tiger, Shere Khan.

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 clothing (cape and hat).


Framed production cel of Mowgli and Kaa.

"Trust In Me" ("The Python's Song") was sung by Sterling Holloway and was written by famed Disney songwriters, Robert and Richard Sherman. In this wonderful cel (just prior to Kaa singing "Trust In Me), Kaa is trying to convince Mowgli that he is his friend, and wants nothing more than to help the boy. Milt Kahl's animation of Kaa is really brilliant, as he has the snake use the end of his tail as an "arm" that drapes over the shoulder of Mowgli. Both characters are eyes and mouth open; and it is very rare to have both the tail and the head of Kaa in a single cel. The dialog for the scene is below:

Mowgli: "You want to help me?"
Kaa: "Ss-certainly. I can see to it that you never have to leave this jungle."
Mowgli: "How could you do that?"
Kaa: "Hmm? Oh, I have my own ss-subtle little ways. But first, you must trust me."

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