The Adventures of Mowgli (1973)
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This is a classic that every Russian child since 1967 grew up with and I keep returning to it. One of the best in Russian animation, and that means something.
I especially liked Baloo being the law teacher of the wolfcubs and Kaa helping Mowgli, instead of chasing him. Shere Khan's character was very impressive. The few songs, instead, were not necessary for the storyline.
"Maugli. Pokhishchenie" is the second of five 20-minute animated films by Roman Davydov and Leonid Belokurov and came out a year after the first. The two give us the Soviet approach on the famous Kipling work and the time when this came out can be described as the Golden Age of Soviet animation which happened 2-3 decades later than the American. In this one, which runs 20 minutes again just like the first, Mowgli was accepted by the jungle animals and protected from some natural enemies. He becomes a boy and Bagheera and Baloo become his closest friends. We see him adjust (sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much) to life in the jungle and the most interesting addition is Kaa, a snake that possesses the talent of hypnotizing his enemies. A successful continuation after the first. I recommend it.
"Maugli. Poslednyaya okhota Akely" is the third of five installments from the Soviet Mowgli series from the late 1960s / early 1970s. The protagonist has further grown up here. the first 10 minutes are mostly about him getting closer friends with Kha and meeting another snake, a white cobra, who provides him with a strong weapon. The second half is about those we are familiar with already from the previous entries. The wolf leader goes missing and Mowgli has two fateful encounters, one with a young woman, one with Shir Khan. There is some plot development in here that is not part of the American animated film, which makes the watch a here a bit unusual, but not less interesting. It is certainly worth seeing.
"Maugli. Bitva" is the penultimate episode, the 4th of 5 entries from Davydov's and Belokurov's Jungle Book mini series from the 1960s/1970s and even if we see Mowgli physically as a man in here, his actions show that he is still very childish and not intelligent in his actions. He does not see who his friends are, who his enemies are and as a consequence gets the lives in danger of those that matter the most to him and to whom he matters the most. Kaa apparently turns into the main antagonist with the scary tiger being chased away with the help of fire. The human storyline from the ending of the 3rd short film is not further elaborated on. All in all, this felt like maybe the weakest episode to me as it sometimes lost itself in animation instead of elaborating steadily and reasonably on some of the plot points, but this does not mean it was a bad watch. It was still decent and I also recommend this one. It is probably also essential to see in order to understand the chronology and the final episode that is about to come.
"Maugli. Vozvrashchenie k lyudyam" is the final entry to Davydov's and Belokurov's Jungle Book series and I think all in all they managed a good ending, even if I had hoped for something great and this was not it. The series has gotten a little bit worse since the really strong start and this also shows here. the battle sequence with Shire Khan is great and the actual farewell scene at the end is also fairly emotional. Nonetheless, the fact that he leaves could have been better elaborated on. He saw the human girl earlier and she ran away from him and now the same again. Obviously, he realizes where he belongs, but I did not feel he made a truly emotional connection with the humans that really would let him give up life with the animals. Anyway, two more differences: Baloo is the voice of reason in these films and has no parallels to the funny stuff from the American version that came out at the same time or slightly earlier. And Kaa is not as evil as in the American version apparently either, apparently not evil at all, which is somewhat hard to believe with the scary voice provided here. All in all, this last installment was a decent watch that makes sense watching in the grand scheme of things (i.e. if you have seen the previous parts), but as a standalone film disappointed me a bit.