Jungle Cubs was an animated series produced by Disney for ABC in 1996. It was based on their 1967 feature film The Jungle Book, but set in the youth of the animal characters. The show was a hit, running for two seasons in syndication before moving its re-runs to the Disney Channel. The show was seen on Toon Disney until its removal in 2009. It was airing on US television again on March 23, 2012, when reruns of the series started airing daily on the Disney Junior channel and the Disney Junior block on Disney Channel. The show was removed from the Disney Junior block on Disney Channel on September 3, 2013. The show also aired in the United Kingdom on Disney Cinemagic until it was removed in 2009.
The stars of Disney's 1967 animated film The Jungle Book were regressed to cubs for this syndicated animated series. Disney's The Jungle Book's Jungle Cubs suggested that when they were younger, both the good and evil animals lived together in relative peace.
Each of the characters were given distinct characteristics which reflected their future personalities as seen in The Jungle Book; this creative idea further tied the show in with its film predecessor. Panther Bagheera, free spirit bear Baloo, headstrong tiger Shere Khan, wild orangutan Prince Louie, neurotic elephant Hathi, and hypnotic snake Kaa all returned from the film, putting aside their differences to live and learn together. The show gave Hathi's wife Winifred a prominent role.
The cubs brave a variety of jungle dangers, often matching wits with sneaky vultures Arthur and Cecil, the villainous baboons Ned, Jed & Fred and Mahra, and the wicked wolf pack leader Cain. Living up to new federal regulations for educational television, Jungle Cubs offer lessons on friendship, self-respect, and other healthy traits, crafted for an audience of young children.
In the second season of the show, many of the cubs become slightly older and more distanced from one another. (Many are also given different voice actors.) And, although they still remain good friends, they are getting more and more busy with their own lives and spending less time at their fort, the Cub House (Louie's future palace). Louie becomes wrapped up in being King of the Jungle and is no longer so close to Baloo, Bagheera becomes more serious and uptight than before, and Hathi begins spending more time with Winifred than with the other Cubs. The biggest change, however, is Shere Khan. He spends a lot of time hunting, as Bagheera and Kaa do, and as the series progresses, begins to become more annoyed with the other Cubs than before. He even attempts to overthrow Louie at one point, using Kaa (who didn't really get a choice in the matter) as a henchman. Kaa, as well as Baloo (with the exception of his friendship with Louie), doesn't really change much. He still remains sneaky and uses his hypnotism power.
The Jungle Cubs: Born to Be Wild (a compilation of episodes with Jungle Book cutscenes) was released on VHS in May 1997 and DVD on September 8, 2003, but only outside the United States.
The entire series was released on digital in SD format in the United States in 2016 on Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, and Google Play. However as of 2022, it has yet to be release on Disney+.
The Jungle Cub kids from left to right: Shere Khan, Kaa, Bagheera, Baloo, Hathi and Louie
Jungle Cubs on middle left corner
Another carryover from the film was a remix of the Oscar-nominated tune "The Bare Necessities", which served as Jungle Cubs' theme song, performed by the late Lou Rawls.
This series is among the shortest and most unknown shows in the Disney company.
Despite the show's relative obscurity, Jungle Cubs, like many short-lived TV shows, developed a cult fan following.
According to this series, Louie wasn't self named King of the monkeys; throughout the series, he is referred as Prince Louie, and it is noted that he will be king one day.
The series has several episodes inspired by Rudyard Kipling's tales that never made it to the big screen, including "Red Dogs" and "The Treasure of the Middle Jungle". In the book, these were some of the adventures Mowgli lived while living in the jungle.
The series features many animals that are indeed found in Indian jungles but were never mentioned in the original movie or in Kipling's book, including the rhinoceros, the pangolin, the Four-horned Antelope and the striped hyena. Other animals, however, were misplaced, such as the Babirusa, which appears in "Benny and Clyde", the frequently seen Toucan, the Sloth that appears in "The Five Bananas", or the Asiatic Cheetah that appears in "Hulla Baloo." The baboons, which seem to be based upon geladas, are also misplaced (however, geladas actually did live in India in prehistoric times).
The length of Kaa the python varies between (or even during) episodes, sometimes being very short, and sometimes exceedingly long.
Jim Cummings, the voice of Kaa throughout both seasons of Jungle Cubs, reprised his role once again for the 2003 sequel The Jungle Book 2, making him the longest-running voice actor in The Jungle Book franchise, as well as the only actor to have been in both the TV series and the feature films (except for the original).
In Kipling's book, Bagheera the panther was born in a menagerie. In Jungle Cubs, however, it seems that he was born in the wild.
As the series progressed, more "human like" items were shown, and the animals did more human things; for example, in "Hathi's Makeover" two wolf cubs are seeing playing some kind of chess game. In "Kasaba Ball", some signs with words written on them are seen, which were obviously not written by humans, and even, in this same episode, Shere Khan runs on his hindlegs, something no tiger could do.
The accents of many of the characters are different from their adult counterparts, most notably Bagheera and Shere Khan, who have a British accent as adults, yet North American accents as cubs.
The last episode, "Sleepless in the Jungle," features two elements from the Disney movie; the rock of the wolf council, and the song "The Bare Necessities" sung for the first time by Baloo and Louie.
Oddly, in Season Two of the series, Baloo has blue fur instead of gray fur like in the films, books, and Season One of the series.