The film contains a number of classic songs, including "The Bare Necessities" and "I Wanna Be Like You". Most of the songs were written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. The film was directed by Wolfgang Reitherman. The film grossed over $73 million in the United States in its first release, and as much again from three re-releases.
After the film's success, Disney released a live-action remake, and a theatrical sequel.
The film stands as one of the most popular Disney movie of all time. In its initial release, the popularity was equivocal to that of The Lion King or Frozen, making it a great influence for some of today's biggest names in animation (such as Andreas Deja and Brad Bird). However, Disney wouldn't receive a similar success until The Little Mermaid in 1989.
Mowgli (Bruce Reitherman) is found in a basket as a baby in the deep jungles of Madhya Pradesh, India by Bagheera (Sebastian Cabot), the black panther. He promptly takes him to an Indian Wolf who has just had cubs. She raises him along with her own cubs and Mowgli soon becomes well acquainted with jungle life. Ten years later, Mowgli visits the wolves and gets his face licked eagerly when he arrives. One night, when the wolf pack learns that Shere Khan (George Sanders), a man-eating Bengal tiger, has returned to the jungle, they realize that Mowgli must be taken to the "man village" to protect him and those around him. Bagheera volunteers to escort him back.
They leave that very night, but Mowgli is determined to stay in the jungle. They spend the night on a large tree, where they encounter Kaa (Sterling Holloway), a python who hypnotizes Mowgli and tries to eat him. Bagheera stops him, and he and Mowgli go to sleep.
The next morning, Mowgli tries to join the Indian elephant patrol led by Colonel Hathi (J. Pat O'Malley). Bagheera finds Mowgli and they argue; Mowgli runs away from Bagheera. The boy soon meets up with the fun-loving bear Baloo (Phil Harris), who shows Mowgli the fun of having a care-free life and promises not to take him to the man village.
Mowgli now wants to stay in the jungle more than ever. Before long, Mowgli is caught by a gang of monkeys and taken to their leader, King Louie (Louis Prima) the orangutan, who makes a deal with Mowgli that if he tells him the secret of making fire like a human, then he will make it so he can stay in the jungle ("I Wanna Be Like You"). However, since he was not raised by humans, Mowgli doesn't know how to make fire. Bagheera and Baloo arrive at the palace, unseen and try to plan a away to rescue Mowgli, but the catchy beat of the song distracts Baloo and he wanders off dancing. Soon, however, he appears dressed in banana skins and coconut shells posing as a female organgutan which fools the King. But soon, Baloo's disguise is revealed and there begins a mad chase between the monkeys and Baloo and Bagheera over Mowgli. The King accidentally knocks down a pillar and holds up the temple the best he can until he struggles when Baloo begins to tickle him frantically under the arms. The monkeys manage to stop Baloo's tickling, but end up bouncing the king onto the other pillar instead, causing the temple to collapse in rumble. Mowgli is rescued from King Louie by Bagheera and Baloo. Bagheera explains to Baloo that the jungle isn't safe when Shere Khan is here. In Morning, Baloo explains to Mowgli that the Man Village is best for a boy, Mowgli accuses him for breaking his promise and runs away in the deepest part of the jungle. Bagheera (after Baloo explains to him) then finds the Elephant Patrol and tells Hathi of Mowgli running away with Shere Khan himself overhearing, Hathi then organizes a special search mission for all his herd. Later, Kaa hypnotizes Mowgli into a deep and peaceful sleep, and tries to eat him (after tricking him that Mowgli can trust him), but thanks to the intervention of Shere Khan, Mowgli escapes.
He encounters a group of solemn vultures (J. Pat O'Malley, Digby Wolfe, Lord Tim Hudson and Chad Stuart), who closely resemble The Beatles, and they say they'll be his friend. The vultures argue and continually sidetrack Mowgli with their pointless arguments. Shere Khan appears shortly after and challenges Mowgli to a fight, but Baloo and Bagheera rush to the rescue. Baloo is knocked unconscious and Mowgli ties a flaming branch onto Shere Khan's tail in order to get rid of the ruthless tiger. Baloo then wakes up and he and Bagheera take Mowgli to the edge of a man-village, but Mowgli is still hesitant to go in. His mind soon changes when a young girl from the village comes down by the riverside to fetch water. After noticing the boy, she "accidentally" drops her water pot, and Mowgli retrieves it for her and follows her into the man village. After Mowgli chooses to stay in the man village, Baloo and Bagheera decide to head home, never to see Mowgli again.
- Bruce Reitherman provided the voice of Mowgli, who is the main protagonist of the film. Mowgli is an orphaned boy, commonly referred to as "man-cub" by the other characters.
- Phil Harris voiced Baloo, a sloth bear who leads a carefree life and believes in letting the good things in life come by themselves.
- Sebastian Cabot voiced Bagheera, a serious black panther (melanistic leopard) who is determined to take Mowgli back to the village and disapproves of Baloo's carefree approach to life.
- Louis Prima voiced King Louie. King Louie is an ape who wants to be a human, and offers to let Mowgli stay in the jungle (by bribing him with bananas) if Mowgli shows him the secret of "Man's Red Flower" (fire), though why he wants it is unknown.
- George Sanders voiced Shere Khan the Bengal tiger and the film's main antagonist, who wants to catch and eat Mowgli. For this reason the Wolf Council votes to send Mowgli away. Bill Lee provided his singing voice.
- Sterling Holloway voiced Kaa, a Indian python who is determined to catch and eat Mowgli before Shere Khan does.
- J. Pat O'Malley voiced Colonel Hathi the Indian elephant/Buzzie the Vulture
- Verna Felton voiced Winifred, Colonel Hathi's wife. It was Felton's last film role, with her dying one day before the death of Walt Disney, during the film's production.
- Clint Howard voiced Junior, Colonel Hathi's son.
- Chad Stuart voiced Flaps the Vulture
- Lord Tim Hudson voiced Dizzy the Vulture
- John Abbott as Akela the Indian Wolf.
- Ben Wright as Rama the Father Wolf.
- Darleen Carr as The Girl (named Shanti in The Jungle Book 2).
- Digby Wolfe as Ziggy the Vulture (uncredited)
- Hal Smith voiced the Slob Elephant (uncredited)
- Ralph Wright voiced the Gloomy Elephant (uncredited)
- Terry-Thomas did the Elephants' singing voices (uncredited)
- Leo De Lyon as Flunkey the Monkey (uncredited)
- Bill Skiles and Pete Henderson as Monkeys (uncredited)