The Russian Jungle Book Cartoon

Mowgli from The Russian Jungle Book Cartoon

One of my favorite bookish movie adaptations has to be the 1967 Russian animated version of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book by Soyuz Multfilm. It’s certainly more faithful than the somewhat recent adaptation featuring Jason Lee that completely misses the point of The Jungle Book and instead features an Indian Tarzan in a story too dumb for adults and children. Is it OK to ask for your money back even if it’s a dollar rental special? But I digress. The Russian Jungle Book cartoon is more of an epic, by people who quite clearly really enjoyed the book.

My son refers to the Russian version alternately as his Jungle Book or “the one with pink gitch”. Wikipedia refers to it as the “heroic” version and while I like the “pink-gitch version” heroic certainly does do it justice. It’s fairly faithful to the first and second Jungle Books, highlighting tales from the youth of Mowgli, the tortured outsider, with two major changes, one of which is brilliant, the other just weird.

The first, making Shere Khan the big bad, is a no-brainer. Sure, Disney did this too but did they have Shere Khan follow Mowgli around until he was 17 where he’s finally defeated (off-screen) in bare-handed combat by having his head torn open? No they did not—but I would like to hear the jazzy number that would have accompanied that scene in the Disney version.

The second change, the just plain weird one, was making Bagheera female. Thanks for confusing my son Soyuz Multfilm. On the other hand, making Bagheera female did seem to deliver inspiration to the animators. Bagheera is one of the most interesting animated characters to watch on screen, with a knowing slink that explodes into action and then twists into retreat in time with every one of his, er, I mean her lines.

Speaking of lines, The Soyuz Multifilm Jungle Book is, of course, dubbed and features narration by none other than Charles Heston whose pained reading is a guilty pleasure of mine. As an added bonus he mispronounces Mowgli (think cow instead of flow) for the first half of the film. Classic.

Bonus Weird Russian Cartoon Links

5 responses to “The Russian Jungle Book Cartoon”

  1. Bagheera is female because in russian language it is unnatural to refer a panther as a male character. In Russian, panther is pronounced as ‘pantera’ and it is definitely feminine. (Russian language has grammatical gender, see

  2. Thanks, faulx! That makes way more sense now. It’s a good thing “little frog” isn’t feminine. That would have been even weirder.

    Welcome to Upper Fort Stewart.

  3. No offense but I think the Russians didn’t have a strike of genius to make Baghera female. It was just an accident, because in Russian BAGHERA does sound like a female name.

  4. A question rather than a comment:
    Could someone please tell me where I may find a copy of this Russian adaption of The Jungle Book? I had it on VHS but lost it.

  5. I have both the English dubbed and original Russian versions in DVD (original name is ‘Maugli’). I agree with you Ian about these hard-to-find jewels. According to Wikipedia, it has been a cartoon miniseries produced by Soyuzfilm in the former USSR, but has been compiled both to VHS and later to DVD. I became a fan of the Jungle Book since I joined Scouting back in my country, Peru. By the way, I agree with you all that Disney’s version is crap, although it has good animation and designs, but it’s not faithful to the book at all (and to think that Walt Disney said that it was according to the book, bleah!)

    Also I may remark that English dubbed release has been edited and many scenes were absurdly cut off (e.g., Bagheera spanking Mowgli after Baloo did it, Akela and the pack were hunting a shanbar before Shere Khan made him miss his mark – this scene is not complete in the American version, and finally, Mowgli killing Shere Khan with his bare hands).

    Maybe it’s shocking to English speakers that Bagheera (my favorite character) is female in this version but as faulx said before, it’s because of Russian language (same thing happens with Spanish, my native language, where the noun ‘pantera’ is female as well).

    Need Maugli in DVD? Try this link @ Amazon (I got Russian DVD from there):

    Hope that helps!

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