What Your Favorite Jungle Book Characters Look Like Now

Photo: AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo.
You all the know the story: Panther finds crying baby boy in the jungle, hands him over to be raised by wolves, until rumors of a dangerous predator's return mean he is no longer safe and must be escorted back to the human village. Along the way, they encounter a bumbling (but oh-so-charming) bear, some pretty fly monkeys, and a pack of vultures who look suspiciously mop-topped. In the end (spoilers here for those who didn't have a Disney childhood), the boy defeats the predator and figures out that, while he loves his jungle friends, he doesn't really belong in the wild.

Based on Rudyard Kipling's collection of stories, Disney's The Jungle Book has captured the minds of "man cubs" (and lady cubs) since it first hit theaters in 1967. (The movie is extra special, as the last one Walt Disney himself worked on before his death in 1966.)

On April 15, you'll be able to revisit the old gang — Baloo, Mowgli, Bagheera, Shere Khan, Kaa and King Louie, along with some newish faces (more on those later) — in Jon Favreau's gorgeous-looking adaptation.

As any superfan knows, reboots come at a price. On one hand, you get to experience an old favorite anew. On the other, it could all go seriously awry.

But with a voice cast that includes Scarlett Johansson (Kaa), Bill Murray (Baloo), Christopher Walken (King Louie), Idris Elba (Shere Khan), Lupita Nyong'o (Raksha), and Giancarlo Esposito (Akela), the new film looks promising, to say the least.

In anticipation of the big release, we thought we'd check in on our jungle pals and see how they differ from their sleeker, animated versions.
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Mowgli, The Jungle Book (1967)
This "man cub" is our protagonist. Discovered lying in the wreckage of a boat in the middle of the jungle, Mowgli is raised by a pack of wolves who adopt him as their own. When news that Shere Khan — a dangerous, man-eating tiger — has returned to the jungle, it is decided that Mowgli must return to the "Man Village" to be with his own kind.

P.S.: You've been pronouncing Mowgli wrong this whole time. According to ScreenCrush,"The first syllable of Mowgli's name rhymes with 'cow' rather than 'show.'"
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Photo: Courtesy of Disney.
Mowgli, The Jungle Book (2016)
Newcomer Neel Sethi — who appears to be the only human actor on screen — plays Mowgli. The 12-year-old beat out thousands of other candidates in a global audition process. This is his first movie role.

"My mom and dad are both dentists, and I was thinking of being a dentist when I grow up," Sethi told the New York Daily News. "But you know how everybody thinks, 'Oh yeah, being an actor would be cool?' So when my dance teacher told my parents about (the casting call), I auditioned and they liked me."

(Don't worry, parents — while Neel says he loves acting, he still wants to be a dentist.)
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Kaa, The Jungle Book (1967)
We hate to be the ones to point this out, but Kaa is kind of useless. When he's not trying (and failing) to hypnotize Mowgli, Bagheera, and Baloo in order to eat them, he serves as a bumbling accomplice to Shere Khan. (He fails at both tasks.)

And if you're ohhhh bother-ed trying to puzzle why he sounds so familiar: Sterling Holloway also originated the voice of Winnie the Pooh.
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Photo: Courtesy of Disney.
Kaa, The Jungle Book (2016)
Somehow, we get the feeling that Scarlett Johansson's Kaa won't be the silly serpent we're used to. That dress spells sssssultry.





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Bagheera, The Jungle Book (1967)
Mowgli's adoptive panther parent, Bagheera, acts as the voice of reason amid a cacophony of jungle mischief.

Bagheera is wise. Bagheera is stoic. Bagheera is...quietly hilarious.
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Photo: Courtesy of Disney.
Bagheera, The Jungle Book (2016)
Ben Kingsley has described his interpretation of Bagheera as "military." Just look at the fierce stance.
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The Wolves, The Jungle Book (1967)
Let's talk about the wolves. While the pack that takes Mowgli in as a son is prominent in Rudyard Kipling's original tale, we basically only catch a glimpse of the creatures in this film.
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Photo: Courtesy of Disney
Raksha, The Jungle Book (2016)
Lupita Nyong'o voices Raksha, the mother wolf who adopts Mowgli. Since nobody puts Lupita in a corner, you can probably expect to see way more wolf action in this film.
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Photo: Courtesy of Disney
Akela, The Jungle Book (2016)
Same goes for Akela, the head of the pack voiced by Giancarlo Esposito. But while Raksha seems eager to care for and protect Mowgli, alpha male Akela is more cautious.
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Shere Khan, The Jungle Book (1967)
The original animated iteration of Shere Khan is kind of like a cross between the Earl of Grantham and an evil dandy version of Jeremy Irons. Equal parts vain and dangerous, he's out for some man flesh.
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Shere Khan,The Jungle Book (2016)
Idris Elba's Shere Khan voice is closer to Luther than Downton Abbey. So, more scary. But also more vulnerable. As this clip shows, Shere Khan wants Mowgli dead not because the tiger's a little peckish, but because he fears the powerful man Mowgli will become. In this new version of the tale, Shere Khan's distaste for mankind appears somewhat justified by the man-made scar on his forehead.


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Photo: Courtesy of Disney.
Shere Khan,The Jungle Book (2016)
And just because we can't resist a little Idris Elba eye candy, here he is posing sexily with a Bengal tiger.
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King Louie, The Jungle Book (1967)
This movie, while iconic, is a product of its time. Hence, King Louie.

While Kipling's book did feature some unruly monkeys, their jazzy orangutan leader is a total Disney invention. Louis Armstrong was originally considered for the role, until it was decided that having a Black man voice an ape might be considered racist. Louis Prima was cast instead, but the character was still criticized for perpetuating racist stereotypes.

(It's worth noting that while Disney created King Louie, the character was totally consistent with the imperialist message that Kipling embedded into the original stories.)
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Photo: Courtesy of Disney.
King Louie, The Jungle Book (2016)
King Louie is back, voiced this time by Christopher Walken. It's 2016, so let's hope this version of the character reflects that.

One thing's for sure: This King Louie won't look like the one you remember. He isn't an orangutan — they aren't actually native to India — but rather, a giant ape. Walken has described him as being "12 feet tall," but "as charming as he is intimidating when he wants to be.”
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Baloo, The Jungle Book (1967)
You say Jungle Book, we say "Bare Necessities." Mowgli may be the main character, but the Phil Harris-voiced Baloo is the heart of this story.

Fun fact: Kipling's version of the character is VERY different. Far from being a chill, slightly stoned bear, book Baloo is an aggressive teacher who spends half the story beating up Mowgli.
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Baloo, The Jungle Book (2016)
Bill Murray's Baloo comes off like, well, classic Bill Murray, which means he is pretty much guaranteed to be delightful.

As for the Mowgli-Baloo chemistry, we'll leave you with this visual, from the Daily News' interview with young newcomer Sethi:

"There are perks to celebrity life, like flying in a private jet with Favreau to Murray's home in Martha's Vineyard. The director grilled up brisket while Sethi played football in the backyard with the guy from Ghostbusters. 'It was a blast,' says Sethi. 'Bill Murray is so funny, he's so much like Baloo in real life.'"
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