Most every kid in the Western world grows up with a favorite Disney movie. For a lot of people, it’s one of the many that have some sort of prince, or princess, or hideous monster with a heart of gold.
It’s a surprisingly common theme
Not me. Mine was the Jungle Book.
For childhood me, this movie had everything – tigers, bears, panthers, apes, snakes, wolves, elephants. The childhood version of me was not very good at socializing with human beings.
“Boooooooooo. Get off the screen, kid!” – Childhood me
Now I’m grown up, and I’m still not very good at socializing, so you can imagine how excited I was when I found out that a live-action Jungle Book was coming out in April 2016.
The trailer looks amazing, and all of my favourite animals are back in glorious, glorious live action.
“BOOOOOOOOO!!! GET OFF THE SCREEN!” – Adult me
I haven’t seen the new movie yet, but rest assured it will be amazing.
Watching those animals work their way through synchronized song and dance numbers always made me wonder, though – where is all of this happening?
Take a guess, Einstein
Okay, yes obviously it’s happening in the jungle. But I always wondered where in the world is there a jungle that holds all those different species. To my knowledge, most bear and wolf species are in the north, tigers are in east Asia, apes mostly from Africa, elephants from either south Asia or the African plains, and giant snakes mostly in South America.
Moreover, these vultures speak in Liverpool English
The live action trailer brought this question back to my mind. So, I’ve decided to find out where on Earth all of these species might intersect.
Now, clearly I could just look this up online. Alternatively, I could just read the book. But as the old saying goes: “reading the novel version of a Disney adaptation is for chumps”.
WHATCHU READIN’ FO, SUCKAS?
So, I’m going to determine where the Jungle Book takes place, and I’m going to use the animals from the movie to do it.
Let’s set some ground rules:
- I’m going to use the characters from the 1967 cartoon
- I’m going to look up where they live and mark that place on a map
- I’m going to see where the map places overlap
- I’m not just going to type “where does the Jungle Book happen?” into Google
Got it? Let’s go!
Baloo: Baloo is the affable jungle bum that befriends Mowgli and teaches him the Bare Necessities, a song you won’t be able to get out of your head for weeks now that I’ve reminded you of it.
Baloo is a bear. There are 8 bear species – black, brown, panda, polar, sloth, spectacled, sun, and the new grizzly-polar hybrid that came from climate change that I’m not joking about. Unfortunately, none of them are grey aside from this new hybrid, and that one didn’t exist in 1967, so we can’t really tell what type of bear Baloo is. Bears live throughout North America, South America, Asia, and Europe.
Baloo is also clearly related to Little John, so maybe Nottingham?
Bagheera: Bagheera is referred to as a panther in the Jungle Book. “Panther” is actually a catch-all term for a number of big cats, including cougars (also called mountain lions or pumas) in North America, jaguars in North and South America, and leopards in Africa and Asia. If you can trust the color from that cartoon, and Baloo suggests that you can’t, Bagheera might be a black panther, but even that refers to either the black leopard, from Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, or a black jaguar, from South America.
Akela: Akela is the leader of the wolf pack that takes Mowgli in as a young man cub. It turns out wolves live everywhere except South America, so Akela is even less helpful than Baloo or Bagheera.
Our three friendly mammal carnivores seem to range all over the world, so we’re not off to a great start. What else we got?
Mowgli: Damn. Mowgli is a human, so we can check Antarctica off the list. Next.
Kaa: Kaa is a snake. I’m pretty sure snakes exist everywhere except for Ireland. Judging by his size, though, I’ll assume Kaa is either a boa or a python. He also has googly hypnosis eyes, but I’ll assume that is artistic license taken by Disney. Boas, such as anacondas, are in South America. Pythons exist in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia through to Indonesia and Austrailia. Also Florida, for some reason.
Shere Khan: Now we’re getting somewhere. Shere Khan is the villainous tiger who wants Mowgli dead. Tigers hunt alone, and are powerful enough to bring down bears, crocodiles and water buffalo. They are also awesome, and I love them. Unfortunately, their habitat is shrinking at an awful rate, and only about 3200-5000 of them exist in the wild across 5 extant species. Save the tigers. They mostly exist in southeast Asia now.
Colonel Hathi: Colonel Hathi is the forgetful commander of the elephant march, and as I write that I realize that I should’ve started with him, because elephants only come in two species: African (in sub Saharan Africa) and Asian (in south Asia).
Furthermore, you can tell the difference between species of elephants from their appearance, because African elephants have ears that are shaped like the continent of Africa while Asian elephants have ears that look like nothing interesting.
Left: Ears that look like Africa; Right: Useless tattered shapes
Hathi’s ears are distinctly non-interesting, so he’s an Asian elephant.
So there you have it! The only place where all of these animals overlap is the south Indochina area. Mystery solved!
Oh wait, we forgot a character.
King Louie: King Louie is the scat-singing, arm-jump-roping king of the monkeys, even though he’s quite clearly an ape. Specifically, he appears to be an orangutan. Orangutans are rather geographically isolated apes, and live…on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Hmm.
That’s problematic. You see, every other animal can be found in the general area of India, but not orangutans. In fact, King Louie can only exist on the islands of Borneo or Sumatra, neither of which have any panthers or wolves or giant snakes. What’s going on? Is it possible that Disney lied to us?
Come to think of it, I’m not even sure the Natives and the White man got along all that well.
Maybe I’m wrong about King Louie being an orangutan. I mean, it seems pretty clear that he’s a great ape of some kind, with reddish-orange hair that’s only common to orangs, but maybe he was just given the wrong color, like Baloo up there. Let’s check a trailer for the new movie:
Pretty awesome. One of the first things you notice, though, is that each animal is about 500x too big. Kaa, for instance, goes from mischievous but harmless comic relief to some sort of monster titanoboa.
Suddenly the googly eyes are the least of our concerns
Nowhere is this more striking than King Louie, though. He goes from being a regular-sized ape to this behemoth:
Scarier still, he’s voiced by Christopher Walken
What? For a more “realistic” Jungle Book movie, that ape seems pretty over-the-top. We even get a scene where King Louie steam-rolls through a bunch of limestone pillars. There’s not an ape alive that comes close to that size.
In fact, there’s only one primate species that ever came close to that size: Gigantopithecus. This was a species of ape theorized to be up to 10 ft. tall and weighing in the range of 1200 lbs. I say “was” because it went extinct over 100 000 years ago. Here’s a recreation:
Looks a lot like our Walken-voiced friend up there. So maybe this live action version made King Louie a Gigantopithecus instead of an orangutan. So where did these guys lumber?
Boom. Right in the south China/India region again. Let’s put it together. If Baloo is an Indian brown bear or sloth bear, Bagheera is a black leopard, Akela is an Indian grey wolf, Kaa is a python, Shere Khan is a Bengal tiger, Hathi is an Asian elephant, and King Louie is a Gigantopitchecus, then we can say that all of these animals really do/did exist in the same place.
And where do the animals from Disney’s Jungle Book exist together?
Which would also explain why the villain has a British accent
Let’s do the exhaustive research to verify:
Turns out we also nailed the Gigantopithecus assumption, too. Also, Rudyard Kipling, who wrote the book, lived in India and apparently said this once:
“. . .the Bliss Cottage was seven feet by eight, and from December to April the snow lay level with its window-sill. It chanced that I had written a tale about Indian Forestry work which included a boy who had been brought up by wolves.”
This might not have been the Da Vinci Code-esque mystery I thought it was.
“No kidding. Also, you probably should’ve started with countries that had jungles. Imbecile.”
Even still, there you have it. If ever anyone comments on how fantastical the Jungle Book is because all of those animals wouldn’t exist together, you can point them to this article. And then dismiss them when they point out how humans and Gigantopithecus didn’t really exist at the same time in the same place together.
It still beats the pants off of any princess movie.