WALT PERGOY, Visual Development Paintings for The Jungle Book, 1964
The Jungle Book, (original 2D animated version) released in 1967, is one of the greatest Disney animated films of all time, and my favorite in many ways.
The animation, character designs, story, music and songs really make it shine. And of course, the heart in that the film is undeniable.
That said, the BG style, while suitable for the story and well executed is not particularly exciting or interesting to me. And it doesn’t reflect the graphic quality Milt Kahl got into the character designs.
If you compare this BG style to that of 101 Dalmatians, released 6 years earlier (1961), which is so harmonious with the Xerox lines and graphic shapes of the characters, The Jungle Book’s visual style falls a bit flat.
The story goes that Walt Disney didn’t approve of the graphic BG style of 101 Dalmatians, or that of The Sword In The Stone. And around that time, Walt Peregoy (who styled both former films) ceased to work at Disney. Peregoy’s influence was mostly buried on the 1967 film.
Disney preferred a BG style that was more realistic and thought the audience could better connect with the characters and story with that realism.
I can see his argument, but I don’t agree. When I watch 101 Dalmatians, I can’t imagine a different BG style; it so perfectly supports the story, and does not take away from the emotion. And the tone of The Jungle Book is not so different…
When I look at these Peregoy concepts for Jungle Book, I can’t help but wonder what the film would be like with a more exciting and interesting BG style. I love the film as is, but I do wonder.
Feast your eyes on these paintings and imagine…
(Top character line art is by Milt Kahl)