‘The Jungle Book’ 2016 vs. 1967: Who sang it better?


The Jungle Book (2016) took on a few of the 1967 animated film’s most iconic songs, but how did it measure up?

On October 18, 1967, Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book was turned into an animated musical that has stood the tests of time. It inspired plenty of remakes and re-imaginings in the meantime, but Disney’s 2016 live-action adaptation worked to pay tribute to the original story in addition to the classic movie.

It took me longer than most to watch The Jungle Book (2016), and while it turned into more of a sleeper hit than a box office smash, I was surprised by how much I truly enjoyed Disney’s live-action adaptation. It didn’t hurt that it had a stellar voice cast.

Director Jon Favreau decided to not go full musical with this one, which was probably the right call given he was going for a more realistic version of the story — or as realistic as you can get when you’re dealing with talking CGI animals.

Only three songs made the cut, and I’ve done a side-by-side comparison of each one below. Did any from the remake top the original? Read on to find out!

‘The Jungle Book’ soundtrack: Which is better?

‘Bare Necessities’

The Jungle Book (1967) vs. The Jungle Book (2016)

Winner: The Jungle Book (1967)

It was going to be next to impossible to beat the original recording of “Bare Necessities.” Baloo’s voice, both speaking and singing, is absolutely iconic, and one of the highlights of the original animated feature. You just can’t help but want to sing and dance along!

Bill Murray played an excellent Baloo in Jungle Book (2016), but I think his voice lent itself more to his speaking roles. I could never quite get behind the song, as much as I love it. I think the updated version has a lot more personality and captures the spirit of the original, but some of the little changes really threw me for a loop.

Some things are better left untouched. Even by Bill Murray.

‘I Wanna Be Like You’

The Jungle Book (1967) vs. The Jungle Book (2016)

Winner: The Jungle Book (1967)

Is there any reality where Christopher Walken’s cursed version of “I Wanna Be Like You” actually tops the original?

Look, I’m actually a huge fan of Walken’s voice in general. I love the way he speaks, and I love that he’s made a career out of the unique cadence of his words. I don’t hate King Louie’s speaking lines in Jungle Book (2016), but there’s a lot left to be desired about this song.

The original version of “I Wanna Be Like You” is a lot of fun. It’s infused with many elements of jazz that get you up and moving. Even though we know we’re not supposed to trust King Louie, we, just like Baloo, can’t help but get sucked into the song. It works on me every time.

Walken’s version is a lot more sinister. Favreau, in order to be more geographically correct, turns Louie’s orangutan into a gigantopithecus, which is just a little bit more terrifying. Original songwriter Richard M. Sherman returned to adjust the lyrics to this new version of the song, but it just can’t compare to the one sung by Louis Prima.

‘Trust In Me’

The Jungle Book (1967) vs. The Jungle Book (2016)

Winner: The Jungle Book (2016)

I think Scarlett Johansson’s “Trust In Me” is the clear winner over the original version. It’s a wonder that Mowgli falls for the original Kaa’s voice considering how uneven it is. The song is scratchy, not soft or ensnaring. I would not be tempted to fall asleep if someone sang to me like this.

Johansson’s version, on the other hand, is much more seductive, which lends itself to the purpose of the song. Kaa feels more dangerous because of the smooth vocals, even though the full song is only played during the end credits.

As others have mentioned in the comments of the video above, this updated version feels like it belongs in a Bond movie. I couldn’t agree more.

What are your favorite ‘Jungle Book’ songs?

It’s a shame we didn’t get a full roster of Jungle Book songs in Disney’s live-action film, but the movie chose to incorporate them in a way that felt more natural and less like a musical taking place in the jungle.

The upcoming live-action Mulan movie will completely forgo its music in order to honor the historical and traditional significance of the original story.

Though many fans lament this fact, as the original music is just so damn good, the trailer has convinced many viewers that this might’ve been the right call after all.

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