Jungle Book II: the story of how a female character is softened

from the “deleted scenes” bonus material of Jungle Book II, with Sharon Morrill, Executive Vice President, and Matt Walker, Senior Vice President of Music.

Matt: What you’re hearing fading out is the song “I’ve Got You Beat,” which was written for the movie Jungle Book II.
Sharon: But this song never made it into the movie, and the reason why is basically the character of Shanti. Shanti started out — three years ago — as a very feisty character who really was Mowgli’s equal, and the song — the “I’ve Got You Beat” song — is really about Shanti saying “I”m gonna show you how great the village is,” and Mowgli saying “I’m gonna show you how great the jungle is,” and that became kind of this rivalry song that became “I’ve Got You Beat.” But we realized that Shanti was really a little too feisty and we wanted to soften her character a little bit. So we made her a little bit more afraid of the jungle: not quite as feisty, doesn’t stand up to Mowgli quite as much. That way when she got into the jungle she was able to confront her fears, confront the jungle, and really grow into a feisty character at the end of the movie.
Matt: So what you’re about to hear is the original demo done two years ago to the story boards we were playing around with. These are temp vocals, temp instruments, mostly electronic. You’re hearing raw, early stuff.

“I’ve Got You Beat” video plays, then a segment from “Braver.”

Matt: What you just heard was part of the song “Braver” which was recorded for the sound track of the movie Jungle Book II. It was originally designed to work in the film.
Sharon: But it didn’t make it into the movie, and there are several reasons why it didn’t get into the movie.
Matt: It’s always difficult — there’s so much time and energy put into developing a song — where we are at the beginning of the song, where we’re supposed to be at the end, and in this case it was such a character song: we wanted to explore Shanti’s character and her fear. She was going to get out there in the jungle to find Mowgli, and she was terrified, and through the song — through the lyrics of the song — the character blossomed into this braver, more self-assured personality. And after we got through writing it — and we fell in love with the melody and fell in love with the feel of the song —
Sharon: Loved it, loved it.
Matt: But it almost gave too much away of Shanti.
Sharon: And that actually brings up another point which is that ultimately this is Mowgli’s movie. This is a story about Mowgli and the choices he has to make about his life, and unfortunately we had to take the song out — as much as we didn’t want to — because we really needed it to be a story about Mowgli.
Matt: So what you’re going to hear is a rough demo — again two years ago — with scratch vocals, keyboard synth, pieced together with the storyboard of Shanti trying to make her way through the jungle.

“Braver” video plays.

Comments

  1. says

    That’s really pretty chilling.

    I’m assuming you’ve watched the movie (which I haven’t) – does the character Shanti come out pretty well in the final cut? Or has she been pared down to as much of a timid, second-string personality as this dialogue seems to intimate?

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    Sounds like my screenwriting classes. Seriously. You start out with an equal or greater female character to the lead male, and they tell you a bunch of really eloquent sounding crap that boils down to: “Make it about the guy; make the girl submissive to him; and if possible, have them shag.”

    They couch it in what sounds like legitimate, academic reasoning, but that’s all they’re ever really saying. And when you argue with them as long as I did, they finally admit that yeah, that’s what they’re saying, and if you don’t want to rewrite a script the way you’re being told, your future bosses will just hire someone else because writers have no power in the industry whatsoever.

    And that’s why I quit before I’d really made an effort to sell a script. I knew what was going to happen, and I was just too “oversensitive” to sell out my gender one more time.

  3. says

    In the final version, the character herself could have been worse considering the above. But I think the movie suffers from their contradictory reasoning “We cut the first song because we wanted to develop the character, then we cut the second song because we didn’t want to develop the character…”

    The story is a standard formula: Mowgli thinks he wants one thing and and has to learn that really he wants something else. Shanti represents the draw of living in the human village and Baloo (the bear) represents the draw of the jungle.

    The first song they cut (“I’ve Got You Beat”) gave the opportunity to contrast his two choices, and from the storyboards you can see a lot of rich detail about village life including a bustling marketplace. The song was replaced with the song “Jungle Rhythm,” which — thematically — is just “I’ve Got You Beat” with Shanti’s half of the duet cut off. Without Shanti singing about the village rhythm, the lively village scenes weren’t relevant, so they shifted the focus to having the children of the village dressing up in cheesy jungle-animal costumes. As a result, village life looks far more limited and less colorful, and when Mowgli goes back to the village in the end, it’s more like an obligation than a choice.

    Since they decided not to focus on developing the Shanti character, I think it might have been a better movie if they’d stuck with the original idea of portraying her as someone to be reckoned with from the beginning. From some things some others said in other parts of the bonus material, it looks like they felt constrained to have her start out demure because of the fact that the little girl who leads Mowgli into the village in the end of the original Jungle Book seems very demure. But I thought of a trick they could have used to deal with that constraint: two female characters.

    I know, call me a radical… ;)

  4. SunlessNick says

    But I thought of a trick they could have used to deal with that constraint: two female characters.

    But … but … how?

    If it is meant to Mowgli’s story, wouldn’t it have been better to put his fear front and centre? Afraid of the village, of other humans; Shanti could be a focus for that fear, or someone he clings to to shield himself from it. And if he does – as I presume – choose the jungle, then perhaps he has to conquer his fear of the village before he can properly choose the jungle for the jungle’s sake.

  5. says

    SunlessNick — exactly.

    This film would have been far more interesting if the focus had been on village life and Mowgli trying to adjust and fit in. (We found an old black-and-white Jungle Book film from the thirties that was just that — Mowgli trying to live with humans after having been raised by jungle animals.)

    It would have made more sense, for example, to show the interactions of Shanti and another girl (who would logically been more self-assured than Mowgli since they were raised in the village and know how everything works), and Mowgli trying to figure things out and fit in. As it is — even though he’s supposed to have been there only a few days at the beginning of the film — he’s perfectly integrated socially with the other kids, leading them out into the jungle and arranging a prank with another boy to scare Shanti by pretending to be a tiger.

    I think the main problem, though, is that this is very much a made-for-DVD-sequel. There were probably writers on the project who wanted to focus on the village situation, but that would have meant a lot of costly new animations and original scenes. The idea of this movie is to get Mowgli back out into the jungle pronto so that they can recycle all of the jungle-animal characters from the original movie.

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