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So let's start with the usual argument here that talking animals aren't on-topic, as established in the following meta discussion: Are anthropomorphic animals by themselves enough to deem a work fantasy?

Now let's look at the situation we have in The Jungle Book, mostly based on the Disney animated version.

When do talking animals make a work on-topic?

Their speaking was somehow fantastical to the other characters.

The talking rats in Ratatouille would certainly fall into the latter category. There's no specific evidence of how they became intelligent but it's clear from the scenes in the film that animal sentience certainly isn't a normal feature of that universe.

But what if animals aren't the ones that can talk to humans?

Mowgli is unique in the fact that HE can talk to animals. As far as we are concerned, animals can't talk to humans, only to Mowgli. It's clear the animals stay away from humans, because humans are dangerous to them. But if in-world they could simply walk up to humans and say "sup, don't shoot", the entire story of The Jungle Book wouldn't make any sense.

Also from my understanding of the book, the animals are actually nervous around Mowgli, because HE is weird to them.

Having a main character who can talk to animals seems pretty much in line with fantasy to me.

  • Addressing your general issue rather than The Jungle Book specifically: would you want Doctor Doolittle to be on-topic? – Rand al'Thor Jun 14 '16 at 21:59
  • "if in-world they could simply walk up to humans and say "sup, don't shoot", the entire story of The Jungle Book wouldn't make any sense." - so according to you, there can never be wars between humans because they can talk to each other? :-P – Rand al'Thor Jun 14 '16 at 22:00
  • @Randal'Thor id like doctor doolittle to be on topic as well, the man can talk to animals. – Himarm Jun 14 '16 at 22:33
  • @Randal'Thor Yes, because Doctor Dolittle did go to the moon once, you know. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_Dolittle_in_the_Moon – Organic Marble Jan 21 '17 at 17:06
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I don't care for the film adaptations, but the short story collections The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book on topic, because Mowgli is a superhero and superhero stories are on topic.

Mowgli has superpowers. He commands wolves and other animals, even elephants to do his bidding. He knows everything that happens in the jungle by getting news from other animals, and can move as silently as the indians in wild west stories.

Mowgli uses this superpower to avenge people who has wronged his family. In “Letting In the Jungle”, he destroys an entire human village and sends all its people to poverty. He did all this because the village people have started a witch trial against his mother, tortured her, and would have killed her have Mowgli not saved her. Later in “In the Rukh”, he punishes a thieving servant, returns the stolen goods, and gives another change for the servant to live a sinless life. All during this, he keeps his hands free of blood like Batman does in some continuities.

Certainly not all stories in are ones where Mowgli works as a superhero, but the rest are relevant too. The first stories of the The Jungle Book (“Mowgli's Brothers” and “Kaa's Hunting”) are origin stories of Mowgli, telling how he became the superhero we see in The Second Jungle Book. “The Miracle of Purun Bhagat” is the story of a less powerful superhero saving an entire village from certain death.

The stories explain that Mogli got his powers because he was raised by wolves during his childhood. Such superpowers are rare even in universe: “In the Rukh” says that almost all humans raised by wolves die early. But even with that explanation, his superpowers don't seem less fantastical. Mogli's superpowers are as real as those of Mathias Sandorf, who can use his mental powers to put people to a state where they appear dead and later revive them. Mathias Sandorf explains that he's learnt hypnosis and healing from some masters when he's spent years hiding in East Asia, and that his submarines are powered by electric batteries. But none of those explanations work in real life, which is why we don't hear about armies training soldiers by sending them to East Asia or having wolves raise them. The explanations are still fantasy or sci-fi, only slightly more believable than getting mutant superpowers from radioactivity or a red sun. (I'm not trying to compare in detail to Marvel or DC superheros, because I don't know much about those.)

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    For full disclosure, Dr R Dizzle has a relevant counterargument at chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/30346331#30346331 : "We only consider Batman to be on-topic thanks to the more science fiction and fantasy elements that populate the world he exists in, not because he's a superhero." – b_jonas Jan 18 '17 at 11:38
  • Well because hes batman means alp of his works are ontopic even if the work itself would normally be off topic . So superhero is enough to make on topic imo despite what your story is – Himarm Jan 18 '17 at 12:35
  • I firmly agree, but only regarding the books. – Valorum Jan 19 '17 at 14:42
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On Topic

To offer a counter point to the other answers...

The Jungle Book (primarily based on the 1967 Disney film) has

  • A human being successfully raised by wild animals from near birth.
  • Said human can speak to and understand said animals.
  • A snake with hypnotic powers
  • A group on primates that resemble a monarchy
  • Elephants that have adapted a military like structure

Also we have two questions on and I see the two works as being similar; however it is not a large enough sample size for a conclusion.

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    The last 4 of your points are merely tropes from like every kids' movie ever that features anthropomorphized animals. And the 1st points totally happens in real-life. Nothing fantastical about that at all. He doesn't actually talk to them. – TARS Jun 15 '16 at 12:32
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    1: could happen in real life. 3: does appear to happen in real life. 4, 5: changing the social structures of certain animals might not be found in a David Attenborough documentary, but it doesn't make the work fantasy. – Rand al'Thor Jun 15 '16 at 12:35
  • Mowgli is unique in his ability to talk to animals we have no evidence that any other human can, while we do have evidence they cant – Himarm Jun 15 '16 at 12:37
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    @Himarm Because they haven't been raised by wolves, or apes, or whomever. The point is that mowgli still doesn't actually talk with those animals. – TARS Jun 15 '16 at 12:43
  • @CahirMawrDyffrynæpCeallach i don't understand what you mean by doesnt actually talk to animals, in the disney movie they speak together – Himarm Jun 15 '16 at 12:49
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    @Himarm So do the animals in every Disney film, but we know animals can't talk to each other either. It's merely an anthropomorphization made for a kids' movie to not have those guys communicate by growls and gazes, which they would actually do in real-life. – TARS Jun 15 '16 at 12:51
  • And I thought my answer was a downvote magnet – Valorum Jun 15 '16 at 16:24
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No, the Jungle Book (2016) isn't on topic for SFF:SE


Conceit

The two main elements of fantasy are the ability of the main character to speak with animals and the ability of those animals to act contrary to how animals would normally act. Since there's no evidence of "uplifting", nor any explanation of how the animals are able to speak, this can't be considered in itself to be fantastical. Talking animals are apparently a normal feature of this universe.

Marketing

The film is described by Disney as a "live-action epic adventure". No mention of fantasy is made in any of the press-releases that accompanied the film.

Directed by Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”), based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories and inspired by Disney’s classic animated film, “The Jungle Book” is an all-new live-action epic adventure about Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi), a man-cub who’s been raised by a family of wolves.

Cast/Crew

The director makes a passing reference to the film being a "fantasy" in this interview, stating that the film is...

“... a fantasy about a boy living among both friendly and dangerous animals, and coming of age”.

However, he seems to be referring to the overall conceit mentioned above, where animals are basically furry people. For the record, pretty much all of the reasons above also apply to the earlier animated version.

  • i meant the cartoon junglebook, for my knowledge source, any thing on how that was marketed. – Himarm Jun 14 '16 at 14:19
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    @Himarm - All of the above applies except the interview. The 1967 film was marketed as a "musical comedy adventure", not a fantasy film. – Valorum Jun 14 '16 at 14:20
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Based only on the films, I see no evidence that Mowgli is special.

We never see an animal surprised to learn that they can talk to Mowgli, not even ones who have never seen him before. Take Baloo, Kaa, or the Elephant March - none of them are shocked or surprised or even at all curious about meeting a human they can talk to.

This indicates that in the world of The Jungle Book (or at least, both of the films titled that which I have seen), humans talking to animals isn't all that fantastical.

A better litmus test, however, is to simply ask "If the animals were human, would the work in question have any science fiction or fantasy elements that make it on-topic?". In the case of The Jungle Book, I feel confident in saying that no, there are no further elements of science fiction or fantasy.

As such, we should consider The Jungle Book to be off-topic.

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    I don't get your logic. Of course talking animals isn't fantastical in the movie... it's part of the fantasy universe. Animals speaking to people doesn't happen in our world, so it's a fantasy element. May as well say "if all the vampires were human, would True Blood still be on-topic?" – KutuluMike Jun 30 '16 at 2:39

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