Why The Beatles Turned Down a Cameo in Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’

There are four members in The Beatles, and, not so coincidentally, there are four vultures featured in Disney’s 1967 film, The Jungle Book. Disney asked The Beatles to appear in this animated project. However, John Lennon vetoed the idea, reportedly due to scheduling conflicts. 

‘The Jungle Book’ features four vultures named Buzzie, Flaps, Ziggy, and Dizzy

Disney's 'The Jungle Book' poster featuring characters Kaa, Baloo, Mowgli, King Louie, Shere Khan, Colonel Hathi, and Bagheera
Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’ poster featuring characters Kaa, Baloo, Mowgli, King Louie, Shere Khan, Colonel Hathi, and Bagheera | LMPC via Getty Images

In Disney’s The Jungle Book, one jungle-raised boy journeyed to a human village with the help of some animal friends. In 2016, Disney created a photo-real adaptation of their beloved story, reintroducing viewers to characters like King Louie, Baloo, and Bagheera. 

For the original The Jungle Book, Disney created several characters who interacted with Mowgli on his journey to the man village. That includes a committee of vultures named Buzzie, Flaps, Ziggy, and Dizzy, each sporting a British accent. 

According to The Jungle Book’s IMDb trivia page, the look of the cartoon vultures, with their mop-top haircuts and Liverpool voices, are interpreted as a homage to The Beatles. One bird’s voice and features are not-so-secretly based on George Harrison. 

With The Jungle Book debuting in 1967, The Beatles were already achieving international recognition as a boy band. A Hard Day’s Night premiered in 1964, while Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band debuted in June 1967.

The Beatles almost appeared in Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’

As one of the biggest boy bands in the world, Disney asked The Beatles to appear as the Vultures in Disney’s animated film, The Jungle Book

The IMDb page reports, the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, approached Disney Studios about having The Beatles appear in the film. As a result, Disney had his animators create the Vultures specifically to be voiced by the band.”

Epstein took the idea to The Beatles. Lennon vetoed the idea and told Epstein to tell Disney he should hire Elvis Presley instead. Of course, Presley did not appear in the Disney project. In the final version of The Jungle Book, Disney swapped their rock ‘n’ roll Vultures for a barbershop quartet.

According to Screenrant, the main reason the artists turned down The Jungle Book was scheduling conflicts. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr never voiced Disney characters. 

However, Disney and The Beatles did continue to have a relationship. In 2021, Disney+ debuted the documentary series The Beatles: Get Back.

Who voiced other characters in Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’

The Beatles did not appear in The Jungle Book. Years later, though, other musicians partnered with Disney, appearing as voice actors in animated productions. Recently, that included Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s starring role in Disney’s 2019 version of The Lion King.

In 2016 adaptation of The Jungle Book featured award-winning actors like Scarlett Johansson (Kaa), Lupita Nyong’o (Raksha), and Idris Elba (Shere Khan). The original 1967 adaptation featured the voices of Louis Prima (King Louie), Bruce Reitherman (Mowgli), and others. 

Both versions of The Jungle Book are available on Disney+.

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