Since the dawn of the 21st century, every Disney and Pixar animated film has been released with an accompanying “Art of” book. For many Disney fans, entire book shelves are now devoted to this library of preserved concept art. And while Disney considers their 2016 version of The Jungle Book to be a live action film, the truth is that very little of what you see on screen truly existed in the camera lens. Every shot, whether a close up of Mowgli or a wide pan of the deepest parts of the jungle had to be created. Therefore, The Art of The Jungle Book feels like it belongs in the collection of anyone who seeks out art books for other Disney and Pixar films.
Author Ellen Wolff is an authority when it comes to animation, being a regular contributor to Animation Magazine. Like the creative team behind The Jungle Book, she approaches this book as one would an animated film. The book is divided into three chapters, including explorations into the story, the creative team, the characters and cast and location building. The first half of the book is mostly artwork with a few pages of text. The artwork is gorgeous and easy to get lost in, but none of the individual artists are credited which is a shame.
The meatiest text portion of the book comes in the final chapters, which are devoted to the technical wizardry behind bringing the film to life. It is full of pictures from production and composite breakdowns to showcase how the effects were achieved. The film feels even more groundbreaking than it already does when you see pictures of the puppets in a blue screen set that helped actor Neel Sethi provide a realistic performance as Mowgli. And discovering that the animals are mostly animated, not motion captured, makes it even more apparent that this is truly an animated film that happens to feature a live action main character.
Disney fans will love discovering some of the Disney inspirations that director Jon Favreau put into the film. Going back all the way to the Alice Comedies short series that predate the founding of The Walt Disney Company, the production team was also heavily inspired by Bambi in addition to the 1967 animated version of The Jungle Book. It’s clear that Favreau is about as big a Disney fan as one can be, and his introduction to this book adds to that statement.
The Art of The Jungle Book is a must-read for anyone who can’t stop thinking about Disney’s updated version of The Jungle Book. This hard cover collectible book is full of gorgeous artwork that you will want to revisit and provides an excellent analysis of how the film was made. But more importantly, it helps tie together nearly 100 years of Disney history into this masterpiece made for Disney fans by one of the biggest Disney fans.