(If you’re looking for the 2016 Live Action version, click here)

I remember reading a post from a well renown author talking about how difficult it was to get back into the habit of writing after even a short break. Well, Thanksgiving is over, the family has (mostly) gone home, and I’m in that writing rut. What better way to pull myself out than writing about Disney?

When we bought The Jungle Book during its brief tenure outside the infamous Disney Vault (side note: Disney Vault 28 at Downtown Disney is some crappy clothing shop, not a way to shortcut Disney’s nefarious marketing scheme), we weren’t sure what our kids’ reaction would be. Although my daughter had loved some of the previous old animation releases (most notably Cinderella and Lady and the Tramp), my son had yet to become particularly attached to any of them. His wheelhouse consisted of Curious George and Clifford’s Puppy Days.

For better or worse, though, he loved The Jungle Book. Not enough to call for it over and over like that abomination StampyLongHead, but certainly enough to make an impression.

So what sort of impression is it leaving?

What I Think It Teaches My Kids

Lesson 1: Be careful with animals — well, the bad ones, at least

This first lesson is a bit of a mixed bag. Unlike several of the other popular Disney movies where animals act as willing servants to the characters’ every whim, there is a variety of animal types. Some are amazingly helpful, others just want to eat your face off. It shows a little bit of the folly of trusting every animal, especially those tricky monkeys.

Still, the fact that a bear and a leopard have Mowgli’s back might not be the best lesson. My son thinks bears are more friendly than tigers. As long as he keeps away from both, though, I think we’re good.

Lesson 2: Stick with your own kind

Considering ‘your own kind’ here means ‘humans,’ this doesn’t have to be a bad lesson. I’ve read a bit of the book, and Rudyard Kipling didn’t seem to have much of a high opinion of Indians’ abilities (‘animals shouldn’t kill Indian babies or eventually the white folk will show up and civilize the jungle’), so I wouldn’t be surprised if the author intended a racist subtext to this segregation. Fortunately, unlike Peter Pan’s treatment of Native Americans, that doesn’t come through in the movie.

As long as the only lesson they get is that wolves and other jungle animals will eventually turn on you if you wear out your welcome (or forget to keep their food bowl full), I’m okay with that. If they start to apply it to different cultures or races, we’ve made it one leap to far.

I want to make a bit of a side note here on the treatment of the monkeys in Jungle Book. I’ve read arguments that Disney was using them to portray African Americans in a negative light. This time, I’m not buying it. The linked Cracked article points to the “jive-talking, gibberish-spouting monkeys” as evidence of racism, but, with the exception of King Louie, I don’t see anything particularly noteworthy about the monkeys’ way of speaking (video below of Mowgli’s capture for reference). As for King Louie himself, considering they got a then-popular Italian American jazz singer Louis Prima to play the part (who grew up in Nawlins idolizing black jazz musicians), I’m comfortable saying that reading racism into this catchy song is like finding images of Mary in your toast: it reflects more on the viewer than the creator.

I’m not saying Disney was above racism, or that Rudyard “White Man’s Burden” Kipling wasn’t racist. I just don’t believe that’s what we’re seeing here.

Lesson 3: Fire is cool

Unlike some other recent movies (such as Big Hero 6 and Walking with Dinosaurs), fire is shown as something totally awesome. I know it’s supposed to be an analogy for human ingenuity, but that’s not the lesson my kids are getting.

Good thing we have an electric stove, or we’d be in trouble. As an extra precaution, we’ve disabled our gas fireplace.

Lesson 4: Injuries magically disappear overnight

Sleep not even necessary.

I don’t remember noticing the scene as a kid, but both Baloo and Bagheera have black eyes one minute then are perfectly fine the next. Clearly time moves faster in The Jungle Book than even in The Dark Knight Rises.

What My Kids Actually Learned From The Movie

Finley (son, 4 yrs old): “Is Shere Kahn evil? What does ‘evil’ mean? Can we see Shere Khan at Disneyland?” Then he laughs hysterically when Mowgli ties a burning branch around the tiger’s tail. Maybe I need to turn off the gas to the whole house, just to be safe . . .

Kella (daughter, 3 yrs old): She only likes the movie for the swingin’ songs. I have yet to see any lessons being absorbed.