The Imitation Phenomenon
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"The Imitation Phenomenon" analyzes the theme of conformity in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book (1894) and animated adaptation produced by Walt Disney Productions in 1967. By examining Disney's reinterpretation of the metaphor of conformity through film, variations of the same story create differing perspectives on the condition of mankind internally and externally. The internal condition of man pertains to evolutionary progression and regression while the external condition pertains to man's relational interaction with foreign cultures. Disney redefines Kipling's Jungle Book, a culmination of British and Indian culture, through the interpretation of an American film company, accentuating the stark cultural differences in a work concerning the way in which cultures interact. As Kipling's work relates conformity to colonialism, multiculturalism, and Lamarckism, Disney reinterprets The Jungle Book to relate conformity to racism, assimilation, and atavism. Kipling's Mowgli narrative emphasizes the motif of language as a law in itself, through which Mowgli is able to exploit and manipulate animals. In this, Kipling depicts dialectic and linguistic conformity as a quintessential form of colonialist power. Disney's work contrasts this by depicting linguistic conformity as a process of assimilation that abandons the identity of the conformist, particularly with the musical compositions "Bear Necessities" and “I Wanna Be Like You. Through the lyrics and performance of these songs, Disney associates Mowgli with atavistic regression while King Louie evokes references to blackface minstrelsy. The comparison of Disney and Kipling's works incites analyses of the theme of conformity as it affects cultural relations and human advancement, informing the condition of humanity.