The Jungle Book
Meetable Characters: Baloo, King Louie
Shows: Fantasmic! (Kaa, King Louie and his monkeys), Frontierland/New Orleans Square (1992)
When movies like Bambi and One Hundred and One Dalmatians are given the high hat by Disneyland, I don’t lose much sleep. But when it’s one of my personal favourites and an absolute classic by any measure, I spend many a night tossing, turning and imagineering ways to include my pals from The Jungle Book into the Happiest-Place-on-Earth mix. Sure, the King Louie/Kaa sequence in Fantasmic! - with its neon monkeys screeching and dancing to the beat of Conga Drums is as hauntingly whimsical as it gets but a one minute highlight does not a true and fair representation make. Also, if I may and parenthetically speaking, how awesome is Fantasmic!? It is the best live show I’ve ever seen and it’s preformed a couple hundred times a year! And, to that end, the aforementioned King Louie/Kaa sequence is the best part – narrowly edging out the bombast of the Jolly Roger and the hell, fire and brimstone of Maleficent’s dragon.
Back to The Jungle Book… why not a dark ride? As I’ve said before, Fantasyland seems content to only allow Euro-themed movies past its castle gates but I’ve been a long standing proponent for bringing the more tropical stories into its kingdom as well. Most would be inclined to throw the Lion Kings and Tarzans into Adventureland (and we’ll talk more about that later) but I’m of the belief that most, if not all, allusions to Disney’s animated features belong in Fantasyland. And, with its colourful characters, lush locale and jazzy soundtrack, Mowgli’s Jungle Book Boogie (as I’d call it) could make for the best of all the dark rides. Who wouldn’t want to board Colonel Haiti’s elephant march and float downriver with Baloo, narrowly escape King Louie’s crumbling ruins and set fire to Shere Kahn’s tail all whilst jivin’ to the swingingest music that’s ever been? It won’t happen but it should!
However, if I must play within the unspoken rule of keeping all things Third World in Adventureland, then I shall. With Adventureland being the most cramped of all the lands, there’s not a whole lot of room to add something new. However, we can repurpose/reimagineer! This brings us to Aladdin’s Oasis; perhaps the most pointless and confounding piece of real estate in all of Disneyland. What it's for, I don’t know. But I do know that riverside property was once home to a Polynesian themed dinner theater called the Tahitian Terrace (1962-1992) and, especially considering Adventureland’s dearth of an actual sit-down, classy type restaurant, I believe it could rise to entertainment/culinary prominence once again! Why not raze Aladdin’s Middle Eastern palatial motif and raise some ancient Indian ruins and call it Louie’s Lounge! Just think: you can have an outdoor, dining experience right on the banks of the world-famous Jungle Cruise. Not only that, the venue would feature a family friendly lounge act reminiscent of those that Louis Prima (King Louie) and Phil Harris (Baloo) once hosted. I’m no #FOODIE so I’m not going to delve too much into the menu but my own predilections would hope it stayed as anachronistic as possible and eschewed the Indian fare. Sure, I may be an ugly American for thinking so but could you imagine Disney’s take on Indian? Blech!
Now, for a more simplistic, less over-the-top Jungle Book addition - this will be a lot like my idea for Bambi where we just stuck a butterfly on the tail of one of the white tailed deer hanging out on the Rivers of America – it’s enough to be able to say “look, there’s Bambi!” (how exciting…). In the Indian part of the Jungle Cruise, they could just add a little boy in a red diaper up in a tree with a panther or on the back of an elephant in the bathing pool – “look, there’s Mowgli! (once again, the excitement is palpable…). Seriously though, is there a more deserving movie that’s been given less in Disneyland than The Jungle Book?
Fun Facts and Anecdotes!
During Disneyland’s Disney Afternoon Live exhibit/experience, Talespin’s version of Baloo would meet his fans in the aptly titled Baloo’s Dressing Room (1991). It was located where the entrance to Mickey’s Toontown now stands and was literally just a door in the wall that would lead you into his backstage dressing room – complete with a picture of his “co-star,” Rebecca, next to his mirror (hubba hubba!).
As a kid, I had a Disneyland Autograph Book where I would collect… autographs. Well, imagine my disappointment when I spotted a rarely seen King Louie and he pantomimed to me that he couldn’t sign my book because his costumed arms were too long and the actor’s hands couldn’t reach.