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Baloo is the deuteragonist of the 1967 Disney animated feature film, The Jungle Book. He is a fun-loving, easygoing, and good-natured sloth bear who becomes the best friend of a "man-cub" named Mowgli.

Background

Development

When story-man Bill Peet was given the green light to develop an animated adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's stories, he made notable effort to stay true to the source material, specifically with its dark tone. Walt Disney was against the idea, wanting the story to be a fun adventure, and subsequently took control of overseeing the project, personally. This would spark major changes to both the story and characters, including Baloo; in the original book, Baloo was more of a serious character, as he was very strict with Mowgli and did not tolerate negligence. The Disney version was developed as a fun-loving, humble character, with a relationship with Mowgli that would serve as the heart of the film.

Baloo's trademark song, "The Bare Necessities", was actually written for Bill Peet's original draft of the film. When Walt overtook the project, "The Bare Necessities" and the accompanying songs were cut, with the Sherman Brothers being brought on to write the new songs. However, the filmmakers loved "The Bare Necessities" and pleaded to have it remain in the film; Walt would eventually agree.

Voice

When it came to casting Baloo, Walt suggested television personality and social friend, Phil Harris, to provide the voice. This was met with controversy amongst the filmmakers, as they believed Harris was unfit to star in a Rudyard Kipling-inspired film. Walt, nevertheless, encouraged the team to move forth with the idea, additionally using it as a means to further separate the tones of Kipling's stories and the Disney adaptation. Once Harris came into the studio, he felt out of place and hesitant to fully accept the role. To make himself more comfortable, he asked the directors permission to approach the role with his own unique flair and mannerisms. The results were universally beloved, and the character of Baloo was largely shaped to match the personality of Harris, himself, from that moment forward.

Personality

Baloo is easily characterized by his laid back, gentle nature. Often speaking with a soft, smooth tone, the sloth bear is known for his ideals of remaining relaxed as often as possible, and preventing the pressures and responsibilities of life hold one down, as vocalized through his song, "The Bare Necessities". Bagheera, the wise Panther, describes him as a "jungle bum"; a seemingly useless member of animal society, only focused on lounging, snacking, scratching his back, and other minimal activities labeled as lazy pastimes. Though lazy, stubborn, and foreign to true responsibility, Baloo has a large heart, often taking his ideals (which are seen to have successfully led him to a happy lifestyle) and sharing it with others, including Mowgli, the man-cub, in hopes of spreading the happiness he's been fortunate enough to experience.

Additionally, aside from enjoying the pleasures of relaxation and tranquility, Baloo is also a lover of parties, jazzy music, and jungle beats. Through the sound of bouncy rhythms alone, the sloth bear can be seduced into joining a party, going as far as to becoming the center of attention, as seen during the climax of "I Wanna Be Like You".

However, in spite of his loyalty to his "bare necessities", Baloo is not above abandoning morals and disregarding the safety of others for himself, or what he believes in, as evidenced by his decision to ultimately join Bagheera in escorting Mowgli to the Man Village, where he belonged, despite the bond the two had formed by that time, showing the sloth bear is capable of taking responsibility should the circumstances reach a valid level of importance.

Appearances

The Jungle Book

Baloo is first seen eating and taking a stroll in the jungle when all of a sudden he sees the strangest thing. Baloo takes a closer look at this "thing" and the boy slaps him in the nose. He tells Baloo to go away, eventually starting to punch and kick, although Baloo cannot even feel it. He does the boy a favor and begins teaching him how to fight. Eventually, the boy and Baloo become friends, and the boy's name is revealed to be Mowgli. Bagheera, who is watching Mowgli, is ready to take him back to the Man Village. Baloo offers Mowgli the opportunity to stay with him, which he accepts gladly, but Bagheera does not. Baloo then begins to teach Mowgli about "The Bare Necessities". Baloo teaches Mowgli about eating ants and relaxing. He tells him to never work hard and to not waste time looking around for something he may want but cannot be found.

During a nice swim down the river, Mowgli is kidnapped by monkeys. Baloo tries to fight them off to save his bear cub, but they get away, taking Mowgli with them. Baloo shouts for Bagheera. The two know exactly who is responsible for this, and they head off. The plan was from none other than King Louie, king of all primates. Louie desires the power of Man, and wants to create Man's "Red Flower". He asks Mowgli, who he tries to convince by singing "I Wanna Be Like You". Mowgli claims he does not know, but Louie refuses to believe. Baloo and Bagheera devise a plan; while Baloo distracts the monkeys, Bagheera will rescue Mowgli. Baloo dresses as a female orangutan and dances with Louie. They are discovered after Baloo's costume comes apart, and a chase begins. The ruins begin to collapse just as Baloo, Bagheera and Mowgli make their exit, leaving Louie at his destroyed kingdom.

That night, Baloo and the others rest. Bagheera takes the time to explain why Baloo cannot adopt Mowgli as his son. Baloo is reluctant to listen until the mention of Shere Khan, the tiger who seeks to kill Mowgli only because he is a human. Baloo sadly agrees to take Mowgli, knowing it will save his life. In the morning, Baloo and Mowgli begin to travel to the village, although Mowgli does not know where they are going. Baloo tries to break the news gently but becomes angry when Mowgli speaks ill of Bagheera. Mowgli then runs away heartbroken and bitter, and Baloo and Bagheera separate to find him. Baloo then regrets at what he done and he never forgives himself if something happened to Mowgli.

Baloo searches in the wasteland home of the vultures, and just in time, as Shere Khan and Mowgli are about to battle. Baloo grabs Khan's tail, holding him back a bit. The tiger spins in circles with Baloo holding on until they wrap around a tree where Shere Khan faces Baloo's behind and, in a fit of anger, takes a massive bite into Baloo's butt, causing him to cry out in pain. Soon, Shere Khan starts clawing him to death. Mowgli scares Khan away with fire, and when all seems well, darkness falls on Mowgli as Baloo lies unconscious and presumed dead. Just as Bagheera and Mowgli depart, Baloo awakens, revealing he is alive and reunites with Mowgli. During their trip back into the jungle, Mowgli becomes enchanted by a beautiful girl from the Man Village. Mowgli follows the pretty maiden and returns home. Baloo accepts this, and he and Bagheera return to the jungle, singing "The Bare Necessities" together.

Baloo is first seen eating and taking a stroll in the jungle when all of a sudden he sees the strangest thing. Baloo takes a closer look at this "thing" and the boy slaps him in the nose. He tells Baloo to go away, eventually starting to punch, although Baloo cannot even feel it. He does the boy a favor and begins teaching him how to fight. Eventually, the boy and Baloo become friends, and the boy's name is revealed to be Mowgli. Bagheera, who is watching Mowgli, is ready to take him back to the Man Village. Baloo offers Mowgli the opportunity to stay with him, which he accepts gladly, but Bagheera does not. Baloo then begins to teach Mowgli about "The Bare Necessities". Baloo teaches Mowgli about eating ants and relaxing. He tells him to never work hard and to not waste time looking around for something he may want but cannot be found.

During a nice swim down the river, Mowgli is kidnapped by monkeys. Baloo tries to fight them off to save his bear cub, but they get away, taking Mowgli with them. Baloo shouts for Bagheera. The two know exactly who is responsible for this, and they head off. The plan was of none other than King Louie, king of all primates. Louie desires the power of Man, and wants to create Man's "Red Flower". He asks Mowgli, who he tries to convince by singing "I Wanna Be Like You". Mowgli claims he does not know, but Louie refuses to believe. Baloo and Bagheera devise a plan; while Baloo distracts the monkeys, Bagheera will rescue Mowgli. Baloo dresses himself as a female orangutan and dances with Louie. They are discovered after Baloo's costume comes apart, and a chase begins. The ruins begin to collapse just as Baloo, Bagheera and Mowgli make their exit, leaving Louie at his destroyed kingdom.

That night, Baloo and the others rest. Bagheera takes the time to explain why Baloo cannot adopt Mowgli as his son. Baloo is reluctant to listen until the mention of Shere Khan, the tiger who seeks to kill Mowgli only because he is a human. Baloo sadly agrees to take Mowgli, knowing it will save his life. In the morning, Baloo and Mowgli begin to travel to the village, although Mowgli doesn not know where they are going. Baloo tries to break the news gently, but becomes angry when Mowgli speaks ill of Bagheera. Mowgli then runs away heartbroken and bitter, and Baloo and Bagheera separate to find him.

The Jungle Book 2

Some time after the events of the first film, Baloo is seen in the jungle creating a dummy version of Mowgli. He attempts to sing with it but begins to realize, Mowgli is gone. Depressed, and anxious to see Mowgli, Baloo sneaks towards the Man-Village, only to be confronted by Bagheera and Colonel Hathi. They attempt to stop Baloo from going any farther, but the bear makes an escape with the help of Hathi's son.

That night, Baloo sneaks into the village and reunites with Mowgli. Unfortunately, Mowgli's sweetheart Shanti begins to panic at the sight of Baloo, a wild animal. The villagers rush to the scene, while Baloo and Mowgli escape to the jungle. Once in the safety of the jungle, Baloo is informed of the "tortured" life of the villagers. To steer away from the village life, Mowgli and Baloo reprise "The Bare Necessities". The next morning, Baloo is informed by Bagheera that the villagers are in the jungle searching for Mowgli. After Bagheera departs, Baloo and Mowgli head to King Louie's Palace, which to the jungle animals is a popular hot spot, to hide.

There, Baloo tells the animals of the "horrid" village. Mowgli begins to feel sorrow, showing that he misses his village and his girlfriend. At the mere mention of Shanti, Mowgli leaves the palace and heads into the jungle. Baloo goes out looking for him, and spots Mowgli reuniting with Shanti, accompanied by Mowgli's adoptive brother Ranjan. Earlier that day, Baloo and Mowgli had advised a plan to scare Shanti off if she happens to find them. Following the plan, Baloo proceeds to scare Shanti. She learns that Mowgli planned the scare and storms off.

Feeling angry and regretful for what Baloo had done, Mowgli rushes off the find Shanti and Ranjan. He finds them, but also finds Shere Khan. Mowgli and Shanti are pursued by the tiger while Ranjan hides. Ranjan runs into Baloo and alerts him of Shere Khan. Baloo and Shanti later put aside their differences and rush to the rescue, where they find themselves in the ancient ruins. Together, Baloo, Mowgli, and Shanti attempt to confuse Khan by banging on gongs, until Shanti's collapses. Khan heartens to kill Shanti unless Mowgli reveals himself. He follows Khan's orders, and a chase follows. Baloo tries to stop Khan to no avail, and the chase leads to an open lava pit. Khan, Mowgli, and Shanti begin to fall, but Baloo grabs Mowgli and Shanti while Khan falls into the pit, before Baloo bids a heartfelt farewell to Mowgli as he rejoins the village. The next day, however, it shows that Mowgli, Shanti, and Ranjan visit Baloo and Bagheera every day in the jungle. They dance off singing "The Bare Necessities".

Trivia

  • Walt Disney was used as a reference for the dance moves seen when Baloo is introduced in The Jungle Book.
  • Baloo's full name was given as Baloo Bear or Baloo von Bruinwald XIII in TaleSpin.
  • In the 1994 film, Baloo is played by an American black bear.
  • In the 2016 film, Bagheera acknowledges that Baloo is a sloth bear. However, his statement is inaccurate as Baloo rather resembles a Himalayan brown bear (a species of bear which is not native to the Seoni area, where the story takes place) than a sloth bear.
  • Even though Mowgli is the star, Baloo and the other animals are promoted more than the man cub.
  • Baloo actually means "bear" in Hindi, so in a way, Baloo is named after his own species.
  • Baloo bears a striking resemblance to Little John from Disney's Robin Hood, who were both voiced by Phil Harris, who also gave the voice of Thomas O'Malley from Disney's The Aristocats.
  • Baloo and Little John perform the same dance moves with King Louie in Jungle Book and with Lady Kluck in Robin Hood, complete with recycled animation.
    • Interestingly, Baloo was originally designed with brown fur, as shown in one production cel and original theatrical release posters of the film.
  • Although Baloo's species mainly eats plants, they are known to be aggressive, and also the bear species that has the greatest tendency to kill people. Ironically, it is an interesting comparison with a real sloth bear and the fun-loving, completely harmless Baloo.
  • Interestingly, in the original books by Rudyard Kipling, Baloo is the polar opposite of his cartoon counterpart. In the Disney version, Baloo is laid-backed, wacky, free-spirited and is rarely serious. While in the original books, Baloo is incredibly strict, humourless, stiff and very knowledgeable. In fact, he shares more traits with Disney's Bagheera than Disney's Baloo.
  • When Bagheera was saying his speech about Baloo, he wished his mother heard it, hinting that she is deceased.
  • Aside from King Louie, Baloo is the only animal character to walk on two legs in the film.
  • There is a bear in the "Say It with a Slap" sequence from Bongo that highly resembles Baloo. This is most likely because Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston were animators for that scene, and there is a possibility that the bear was a prototype of Baloo.
  • Bill Murray, who voices Baloo in the 2016 film, is the younger brother of Brian Doyle-Murray, who also voiced Baloo in The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story. In short, both Murray brothers had voiced Baloo in two different live-action Jungle Book projects.
  • Baloo is visibly afraid of Shere Khan; as real tigers eat sloth bears, this is not surprising.

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