The Only Disney Live-Action Movie That Improves On The Original

By Christopher Isaac | Published

While 2016’s The Jungle Book was not the first time Disney did a live-action remake of one of their animated movies, it did kick off the trend becoming more prevalent. The vibe has changed over the years though, making this movie stand out even more.

The Jungle Book Stands Out

Some might consider that a bad thing, considering how many Disney remakes are viewed as soulless or inferior to their predecessors. But The Jungle Book stands alone as the one Disney remake that is actually superior to the original.

Disney’s Live-Action Releases

The thing with the later Disney movies that became live-action is they started remaking some of the brand’s most beloved movies.

The Lion King, Aladdin, Mulan, and The Little Mermaid each have tons of fans who would argue why they are Disney’s best-animated movies.

With such devoted fans, the remakes of each of these were basically setting themselves up for an impossible task in trying to be seen as equally good, let alone better. Remakes usually work best when they are of movies that fans enjoyed but still had room for improvement.

The Jungle Book Movie Works So Well

the jungle book

That is why The Jungle Book remake works so well. While Disney fans might enjoy the songs of the original, you probably won’t encounter many people who think it is anywhere near the best Disney movie.

The original was honestly before Disney had reached its peak and its flaws are evident to a modern viewer. For one, the movie is quite short at just 78 minutes.

There is also the fact that it is very light on plot, functioning more like a series of isolated scenes that don’t have much connecting them. Disney’s live-action version turns the story into a more fleshed out film.

Shere Khan’s Presence

the jungle book

To start, Shere Khan’s presence is amplified in the 2016 The Jungle Book. In the original, he is not treated as much of a threat and is ultimately driven off in anticlimactic fashion when he finally does confront Mowgli.

In the remake, Shere Khan is elevated to a menacing antagonist that even the other animals of the jungle cower from. And in the final confrontation, Mowgli and Shere Khan fight amidst a wildfire, with all of the animals Mowgli has met in his journey joining to help him.

It only ends when Shere Khan falls from a tree and plummets into the inferno below. When comparing both versions of the Disney movie, the live-action one undeniably has a more dramatic conclusion.

Keeping The Soundtrack

movie remake the jungle book

2016’s The Jungle Book also strikes a nice blend between including a few songs from the original without remaining an outright musical.

Other Disney movies that have gotten the live-action treatment, such as 2020’s Mulan, were criticized for cutting out all the beloved songs. While the remake of The Little Mermaid added new songs that critics disliked.

The new Jungle Book keeps the crowd-pleasers but keeps the majority of its longer runtime to focus more on the drama of Mowgli’s desperate situation to find safety from Shere Khan hunting him.

Disney’s The Jungle Book Reception

the jungle book

The movie was a major hit with audiences too, bringing in just shy of $1 billion at the box office. Critics praised the reimagining of the story too, especially the added content that took the movie from a light-hearted cartoon to a fleshed out dramatic movie.

2016’s The Jungle Book has a 94% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, making it easy to understand why Disney thought doing more live-action movies would be a solid idea.

Unfortunately, none of the remakes that followed could hit the highs that The Jungle Book did, with this movie improving on the original in almost every way.