The film was originally produced as a direct-to-video film but was released theatrically first. It is the fourth Disney sequel to have a theatrical release rather than going direct-to-video after The Rescuers Down Under in 1990, Fantasia 2000 in 1999, and Return to Never Land in 2002. The film is not based on The Second Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, first published in 1895. However, they do have several characters in common. When released, it was criticized mainly for its cut-rate animation and a lazily similar plotline to the original film, but was a commercial success, grossing $135 million on a $20 million budget.
Disney released the VHS and DVD versions on June 10, 2003. On June 17, 2008, a Special Edition DVD was released. On March 18, 2014, the film was released on Blu-ray.
Taking place some short time after the first film, Mowgli is in the Man Village, living with his adoptive parents and new little brother, Ranjan. He has become sweethearts with Shanti, the girl who lured Mowgli into the Man Village. One day Mowgli tries to take the Village Children into the Jungle but Shanti realizes this and yells stop. Mowgli and Ranjan's father arrives and orders the kids back into the village and scowls at Mowgli telling him the jungle is a dangerous place and shows Mowgli a scar on his left arm. He also punishes Mowgli by sending him to his room without dinner. After Mowgli gets in trouble, he blames Shanti and won't talk to her, then Mowgli starts to miss the jungle.
Meanwhile, Mowgli's best friend, Baloo, a free-spirited bear, was starting to miss Mowgli, so he decided to pick him up. But Mowgli's old panther guardian, Bagheera, however, forbids him. Passing through Bagheera and a herd of elephants, Baloo sneaks into the Man Village - unnoticed by the villagers - to visit Mowgli and get him back. Also, Mowgli's old arch enemy, Shere Khan, a vicious tiger, returns for his revenge. Meanwhile, Shanti tries to apologize to Mowgli, but she sees Baloo with Mowgli and shrieks for help. Shere Khan sneaks into the village, and everyone thinks he's the wild animal. After Baloo and Mowgli escape into the jungle, Shanti, believing her boyfriend was kidnapped, follows them. Then, Kaa, a python, spots Mowgli and Baloo talking and attempts to eat Mowgli. But, fortunately, he fails.
Later, Kaa spots Shanti alone and tries to eat her. He manages to subdue her with his hypnotic stare, which causes her hands to hang loosely at her sides, and to not be able to look away, until Ranjan comes forward and pulls Shanti away in time, releasing her from Kaa's trance. Ranjan starts beating Kaa with a stick, and Kaa ends up accidentally swallowing a large rock. The weight of the rock makes his coils fall on top of him. While Ranjan keeps hitting Kaa, Shanti grabs him to get away from the snake. Ranjan soon scares Kaa from behind and causes Kaa to fall off a nearby cliff and into a coconut tree, and Shanti and Ranjan soon leave. Mowgli enjoys the jungle as he used to and tells Baloo about his life in the Man Village and Shanti.
Soon, Bagheera figures out that Mowgli had escaped the Man Village with Baloo when the villagers are in the jungle, calling for Mowgli, and he tries to find him. Shanti and Ranjan are still looking for Mowgli, then get lost in the jungle. They soon find Mowgli sadly sitting in a tree, and when he sees Shanti, he falls into some vines and gets tangled. Baloo finds them and scares Shanti but gets caught in the vines and punched in the nose by Shanti's fist. Shanti learns that Mowgli told Baloo to scare her, and she gets angry at him and runs away with Ranjan. Mowgli gets angry at Baloo for scaring Shanti and goes after them. He finds them and wants to explain, but Shanti points to Shere Khan, who is behind him. The children run, and Mowgli tells Shanti and Ranjan to stay put in a bush. Shanti goes to help Mowgli and tells Ranjan to stay; Ranjan (after snagging his loincloth on a branch and getting sling-shotted backward while trying to follow Shanti) encounters Baloo. He tries to run away, but Baloo picks up Ranjan by the loincloth, tells him to calm down, and asks him where Mowgli is. Ranjan shouts, "Shere Khan!" and Baloo takes Ranjan on his shoulders while running after Mowgli. Mowgli finds an ancient temple and hides. Baloo and Ranjan run into Bagheera, whom Baloo leaves Ranjan with when they all arrive at the temple, which Shanti has arrived at as well. She and Baloo encounter each other and soon learn that they are on the same side and split up. Baloo begins banging on a gong, soon being joined by Shanti and Mowgli each in their hiding places and confuse Shere Khan. Shanti's gong falls down, and Shere Khan threatens her. Mowgli comes out of his hiding place, and Shere Khan runs to kill him. Mowgli begins to run, and Baloo pushes Shere Khan away. Mowgli and Shanti run up a staircase, soon being followed by Shere Khan after Baloo tries to stop him again and soon run into a crater and jump across and land on a tiger head statue. Shere Khan jumps onto the tiger head, which starts to fall. Shere Khan falls and lands on a rock, and the tiger head lands down, trapping him inside. Mowgli and Shanti fall too but are saved by Baloo.
Meanwhile, Lucky, a new member of the vultures, comes down and teases Shere Khan. After returning to safety, Mowgli, Shanti, and Ranjan say goodbye to Baloo and Bagheera and reunite with their families where Mowgli's father apologizes to him for not understanding that the jungle is part of who he is, and they return to the village. Not long after returning to the village, Mowgli, Shanti, and Ranjan secretly return to the jungle to spend some time with their new jungle family, unaware that Mowgli and Ranjan's parents know where they're going.
Due to a legal dispute, the character of King Louie from the original Jungle Book could not be included in this film. However, he makes a non-physical appearance as a shadow puppet in the beginning of the film and is briefly mentioned in the middle of the film.
The decision was made to keep Shere Khan in shadow during the beginning of the film to "reflect his 'wounded pride'".
During one of the attempts at the classic musical number The Bear Necessities from the first film, two prickly pears land on and stick to Kaa's head, making him look like Mickey Mouse. This is an example of a Hidden Mickey.
During W-I-L-D, Pumbaa can briefly be seen dancing until Baloo bounces him off with his backside.
Haley Joel Osment and Mae Whitman would later co-star again in Kingdom Hearts II, voicing Sora and Yuffie, respectively.
"Jungle Rhythm," a new song composed by Lorraine Feather and Paul Grabowsky for the film, appears in two incarnations: firstly by Mowgli (Haley Joel Osment), Shanti (Mae Whitman), Ranjan (Connor Funk), and the village children chorus (Colin Davis, Jon Robert Hall, D.J. Harper, Karen Harper, Luana Jackman, Meagan Moore, Bobbi Page, and Ayana Williams). A Mowgli solo version appears later on in the film.
Like the first film, "The Bare Necessities" is performed on three separate occasions in The Jungle Book 2. First as a solo by Baloo, second as a duet between Baloo and Mowgli, and finally as a trio with Baloo, Mowgli, and Shanti.
"Colonel Hathi's March" also returns for this film, this time performed by Bob Joyce, Rick Logan, Guy Maeda, and Jerry Whitman.
"W-I-L-D," another new song composed for the film by Lorraine Feather and Paul Grabowsky, is performed by Baloo (John Goodman) and a chorus of various jungle animals (Enoch Azmuth, Cindy Bourquin, Bill Cantos, Randy Crenshaw, Kevin Dorsey, Lorraine Feather, Karen Harper, Angie Jareé, Rick Logan, Melissa Mackey, and Bobbi Page). It was included in the DVD and Blu-ray releases of the film.
The film is released on June 10, 2003, on both DVD and VHS. The DVD special features included music videos, "W-I-L-D" and "I Wan'na Be Like You", deleted scenes, and the behind-the-scenes. In 2008, the film was re-released on "Special Edition" DVD. It included a new music video, "Jungle Rhythm".
This was Tony Jay's last reprising role before his death in 2006.
Shere Khan's line, "Don't insult my intelligence. It makes me irritable," is similar to a line said by Michael Corleone in The Godfather.
This was the first film released under the Disneytoon Studios label after Disney MovieToons/Disney Video Premieres was split from Walt Disney Television Animation (now Disney Television Animation) to be owned by Walt Disney Animation Studios which was then known as Walt Disney Feature Animation in January 2003 though those names would not be changed till June of that year.
This was Disney's first animated film outside of Pixar to be broadcast on STARZ.