This unit was developed around this particular novel and these films because of their exotic location, the fact that the hero of the story is a young boy, and the fact that the villains in the story are fearful and awe-inspiring wild animals. In addition,
The Jungle Book
has been adapted for the screen in both live-action and animated narrative forms. When Carole Cox conducted a study which posed the question “What films do children like,” she presented upper-elementary aged children with short films, and asked them to rank the films on a scale of one (well-liked) to four (disliked). Interestingly, she found that the children preferred live-action narrative films over all others. Cox concluded that “apparently children prefer the qualities of story, or narrative, and human characters in realistic surroundings and situations, recorded through live-action filming techniques.”
Animated narrative films ranked next (other films were non-narrative live-action films and non-narrative animated films). Since
The Jungle Book
is available on video-cassette in both of the preferred movie styles, it will appeal to children who prefer live-action films as well as those who prefer animated films.
In addition, both movie styles have strengths and limitations to explore. For example, the live.-action movie takes liberties with Kipling’s original story, greatly expanding the role of humans. Most of the movie focuses upon Mowgli’s relationships with the Englishmen who wish to have Mowgli lead them to a vast treasure. The arch-villain in this movie is an evil English soldier rather than Shere Khan, the tiger; in fact, Mowgli and Shere Khan unite in friendship against the Englishmen. The nature of animation, on the other hand, allows this narrative to remain more true to Kipling’s The Jungle Book. The focus of the animated film is on Mowgli’s relationships to the jungle animals which are his friends. This version is more a fantasy than the live-action film, as is the novel. The wild animals speak, sing, and dance: these feats are impossible to accomplish in a live-action film.
The Jungle Book
with the students, concentrating on the Mowgli stories, as well as viewing both films, will encourage the students to develop critical thinking skills by comparing story elements of text and film. Rickelman and Henk assert that “video technologies and their respective media can make a significant contribution to a literature-based reading curriculum [as long as] the media preserves the integrity of the technology, and entices the child[ren] into exploring the book firsthand.”
Duncan states that films serve as models for a creative response to literature by allowing students to look at the way movement, scenery, and speech operate to bring a narrative to life.
Further evidence to support the use of both literature and film to improve comprehension skills is presented in a study carried out in the Netherlands by Beentjes and van der Voort which compared children’s written accounts of televised and printed stories. Children either watched a televised story or read its printed version, and then retold the story in writing. Results showed that stories written by those who saw the televised version were. more complete and contained fewer errors. However, stories written by children who read the printed version were easier to understand as they contained specific character references and more descriptive details.
Combining the mediums of film and literature to spark interest and creativity, then, should, at the same time, help to improve the academic and social skills of the students. Cox reminds educators that the use of films can be “critical to the creation of a positively charged instructional atmosphere in a classroom, [but that it] requires the same careful thought, planning, and evaluation that go into any component of instruction which links the, arts with language and provides children the raw material with which to sense, feel, think, and use an expressive mode themselves.”