Editorial: Does “The Jungle Book” Controversy Continue in 2016?

Bryce Van Derveer, Reporter

The Jungle Book is among the most cherished of the Disney classics. From its charming animated style to its jazzy, addicting sound track, it truly represents what Disney is all about. Unfortunately, in this case, this came back and kicked he cooperation in the teeth. For those who don’t know, Disney was involved in a dispute regarding the potentially racist scene in the original film involving one of the characters, King Louie.

Just to clarify, this isn’t Disney’s only slip-up either. From the Arabian Nights in Aladdin, to the infamously-known film “Song of the South,” the corporation certainly has a racially-fueled background. Despite the fact that this matter has improved immensely in recent years, it may still have of presence in the modern Disney/Pixar films.

Having seen the newly-released rendition of the jungle book twice now, I don’t feel that it has been the cause of much conflict, at the very least, not as much as its predecessor. But one could definitely understand the potential for a racist outlook upon the film. For example, as stated previously, the King Louis seen in the original jungle book was criticized for having a relatively clear racist stereotype toward African Americans.

When Louie sings this song “I want to be like you,” it is often times perceived as being a wrongful showcasing of African American culture as uneducated and uncivilized. This song depicts all of the primates desiring to be like the human protagonist. This is seemingly racist due to the fact it portrays African Americans as inferior, yet desiring to become more like their Caucasian counterparts, which as we know now is not only offensive, but also simply incorrect. At the time, this type of opinion was far less of a matter of contention as it would be in a modern film, simply due to differing levels of social justice.

It was far more acceptable at the time to have such a dismaying opinion of a minority, and portray it in such a large feature like a Disney film. This was one of the main reasons Disney decided to remaster the jungle book film. The company did not wish to leave such a classic with these same problems.

I believe, having seen it, that they remedied the problem rather well. King Louie was played by actor Christopher Walken, which already greatly diffused some of the problems with the original film. With that being said, the King Louie character was not the only one to be improved upon. All of the monkeys were done very intentionally to be realistic. They were still disliked characters, similar to the original, but now the symbolic ties from the monkeys to any culture have been cut.

Between the increase focus on human technology in the scene, and reduced focus on the boundary between man and ape, I can conclude that the racial issues from the original jungle book did not make their appearance in the new one, and despite the history of racism in Disney films, I feel that we can all look forward to putting that behind us