New ‘Jungle Book’ Sound Track Thrills Two of Its Composers : Movies: The digitally remastered CD will be out Monday. The Sherman brothers are animated about the recording.
“The Jungle Book,” the last animated film that Walt Disney personally supervised, was considered one of his best, not only for its vivid animation and stellar cast of voices--Phil Harris, George Sanders and Louis Prima among them--but for its free-spirited score, a bright symphonic, jazz, rock ‘n roll mix.
Walt Disney Records will release the sound track Monday, for the first time in its entirety, digitally remastered on CD. It includes Terry Gilkyson’s Oscar-nominated “The Bare Necessities,” five memorable Richard B. and Robert M. Sherman songs, George Bruns’ evocative score, an interview with the Shermans, original demo material and two songs from a later album, “More Jungle Book.”
(The film itself will be re-released on Friday.)
In a recent interview, the songwriting brothers--Richard Sherman, an ebullient 62, and quiet Robert Sherman, 64--reminisced about their work on the film.
“We were called in after the picture had one go round on the drawing boards,” said Richard. “The original version was very artistic, but heavy. Disney didn’t want that.”
“He said,” Robert added, “ ‘I want it the Disney way.’ ”
“Walt wanted us to do the unexpected,” Richard said. “So we came up with a barbershop quartet of Cockney vultures, a Dixieland number, the little girl’s sweet, siren ballad and a mysterious song for Kaa the snake.”
Sterling Holloway was Kaa. He was recording the Shermans’ songs for “Winnie-the-Pooh” and “had this wonderful sandpaper voice,” said Richard. “We said we had to give him the snake,” said Robert.
The original demo for the “mysterious” tune that became Kaa’s song is on the CD; the Shermans had written it for a “Mary Poppins” sequence that was never shot. (“Chim Chim Cheree” from “Mary Poppins” won the Shermans an Oscar for Best Song.)
In “I Wanna Be Like You,” a memorable scat “conversation” takes place between Las Vegas wild man Louis Prima (King Louie of the Apes), Prima’s band and Phil Harris’ laid-back Baloo the Bear.
The unexpected casting of Prima and his band--Sam Butera and the Witnesses--occurred when Disneyland Records’ Tutti Camarata and Jimmy Johnson of Walt Disney Music urged the Shermans to fly to Las Vegas, meet with the band and play them the song.
“I was singing, ‘Ooo, ooo, ooo, I wanna be like you, ooo, ooo,’ Richard said, “and they were listening with straight faces. When it was through, Louis Prima said, ‘Are you trying to make a monkey out of me?’ ”
(In 1988, Los Lobos recorded its own version of the song for Hal Willner’s “Stay Awake,” a compilation of Disney songs by various artists. “It was the best recording on the whole album,” Richard enthused, “a great rendition.”)
Robert and Richard, born in New York City in 1925 and 1928, respectively, have been working together “all our adult life,” ever since their father Al “a wonderful songwriter,” challenged them to write a pop song together.
But it wasn’t until 1958, after Robert’s military stint during World War II and Richard’s Korean War service, that “we truly became the Sherman brothers as a team,” Richard said.
Before and during their years with Disney, they wrote early ‘60s pop songs such as “You’re Sixteen,” and “a string of hits with Annette Funicello, our lucky star,” according to Richard.
Their current project is a musical for Broadway star Tommy Tune. “We’re keeping the title under wraps,” said Richard. “All I can say is that it’s about buskers--street singers of London.”
The brothers are delighted that “The Jungle Book” sound track is being released intact. “In the original version, they did about half an hour of music,” said Robert. “With the ability to put much more music on the CD, they went to the original cuts and instead of doing a short section of the song, they did the complete sequence, or used the dramatic underscore as a full piece. It’s so well done.”
“It never sounded so good,” Richard agreed. “I’m so happy to know it’s on digital recording. It’ll be at its best forever like this.”