- “Many strange legends are told of these jungles of India, but none so strange as the story of a small boy named Mowgli.”
- ―Bagheera's first lines in the first film
Bagheera is the tritagonist of Disney's 1967 film the Jungle Book, its 1996-97 television series, and its 2003 sequel. He serves as the guardian of "Man-Cub", Mowgli, for most of the original film and the somewhat reluctant companion of Baloo.
Bagheera is loosely based on the character of the same name from the original book by Rudyard Kipling. In the film, he starts off as the narrator, explaining how Mowgli came to live in the jungle. Bagheera cares deeply for Mowgli and his safety, though he doesn't openly show it. This concern leads Bagheera to take Mowgli to the man-village, where the boy would be safe from Shere Khan. Bagheera serves as a foil to Baloo. Whereas Baloo is more laid back and fun loving, Bagheera is more responsible and serious.
When first introduced in the film, Bagheera was presented as humble and extremely caring, rescuing an unknown creature from the perils one faces in the jungle alone. As the film goes through, Bagheera was shown to be rather intelligent and easily stressed. Like most adults, Bagheera is quickly annoyed by Mowgli's stubbornness during their trip to the Man-Village. In spite of the struggle, Bagheera continued to try to the best of his ability to take Mowgli to said village for his own good.
At one point in the film, Bagheera actually gives up on Mowgli not wanting anymore of the hassle and abandons him. This separation was brief after Bagheera heard the powerful roar of a bear, quickly rushing back to rescue Mowgli and openly regretful to his prior decision to leave the man-cub.
Bagheera also shares a frienemy relationship with Baloo the Bear. More often than not, Bagheera appears to hold an amount of dislike toward the bear but nonetheless has shown to hold a great brotherly bond. He acts as a foil as well.
Bagheera is the first major character to appear in the film. He discovers the infant Mowgli amidst the debris of a wrecked canoe. Knowing that the man-cub would need nourishment, he brings Mowgli to a family of wolves who had recently had cubs. There, Mowgli is nurtured for 10 years, with Bagheera often stopping by to check on him. However, Bagheera knew that eventually Mowgli would have to return to his own kind someday.
Bagheera's notion proves right when Shere Khan the tiger returns to their part of the jungle where the wolf pack lives, and threatens to kill the boy and all those who would protect him. As a result, the wolf elders decide to have Mowgli leave the pack, so Bagheera offers to take him to a man village, where Mowgli will be safe. Bagheera starts the journey that night, but runs into problems as stubborn Mowgli does not want to leave the jungle. Even the threat of Shere Khan and a run in with Kaa does not change the boy's mind. Aggravated, Bagheera leaves Mowgli on his own, but upon hearing a roar, quickly rushes back to Mowgli's aid. To add to his annoyance, he discovers that the roar is none other than Baloo, who was playing with Mowgli.
Bagheera declares that Mowgli must go back to the man-village, but Mowgli decides to stay with Baloo, who has promised to take care of him. Bagheera chooses to leave Mowgli in Baloo's care, knowing that Baloo will soon need his help. Sure enough, Mowgli is kidnapped by monkeys and Bagheera is called to assist in Mowgli's rescue. The rescue is successful, despite Baloo getting caught by the monkeys' leader, King Louie.
That night, Bagheera talks with Baloo about the danger that Mowgli is in if he remains in the jungle, pointing not only to the kidnapping, but to the threat of Shere Khan. Baloo realizes that Bagheera is right, and prepares to tell Mowgli that he must return to the man-village.
The next morning, Bagheera hears Baloo calling for Mowgli. Bagheera comes to find that Mowgli has run away, having felt betrayed by Baloo. They both rush off the find Mowgli. During the search, Bagheera runs into Colonel Hathi and his patrol, and enlists their help in finding Mowgli. But in doing so, he tips off Shere Khan, who was hidden nearby, that Mowgli is lost and alone.
Bagheera does not appear until after Shere Khan has attacked Baloo, who was defending Mowgli, who in turn, attacked him with fire, scaring him off. Believing Baloo to be dead, Bagheera eulogizes him, only for Baloo to awaken, calling for more. Bagheera is annoyed, going so far as to call the bear a fraud, but Mowgli is overjoyed. Bagheera and Baloo later watch as Mowgli is lured into the man-village by a young girl. Pleased that Mowgli is safe, they head back to their own homes.
In the second film, Bagheera's role is not as big. He is first seen watching in sympathy as Baloo dances with a dummy version of Mowgli. Bagheera's sympathy turns to fury as Baloo makes way for the Man-Village in an attempt to get Mowgli. Bagheera halts him over a fallen tree bridge, telling Baloo that he needs to leave Mowgli in the man village, as his future lies with his own kind, and that's not safe for him due to Shere Khan searching for the boy, bent on revenge. Baloo, however, thinks he can protect Mowgli from the tiger and avoids Bagheera having him result to Plan B: Colonel Hathi and his troops. They create a giant wall to block Baloo, but the bear manages to escape through swimming underwater. Bagheera orders the troops to search but they're too bumbling to succeed.
Later on, Bagheera is taking a walk through the jungle when Hathi and his troop come stampeding in his direction. They cram into a cave with Bagheera with them. Hathi informs Bagheera that man is in the jungle. By spying on them in the cave, Bagheera learns Mowgli is missing and immediately finds Baloo guilty. He pays a visit to Baloo but Mowgli is nowhere to be found. Oblivious to Bagheera, Mowgli is hiding in a close range. Baloo convinces Bagheera that he hasn't seen Mowgli and Bagheera departs. Near the end of the film, Bagheera is continuing his search for Mowgli when he witnesses another man-cub, Mowgli's adoptive brother Ranjan, atop Baloo's shoulders. He goes to investigate to find that Mowgli is being pursued by Shere Khan at that very moment.
The follow leads to a hidden temple. While Baloo goes in to rescue Mowgli and his friend Shanti, Bagheera waits outside and watches over Ranjan. After Khan is defeated, Bagheera reunites with Mowgli and meets Shanti who is actually the girl that lured him into the village in the first film. Mowgli, Shanti and Ranjan rejoin their village. Bagheera is proud to see Baloo letting Mowgli go but becomes suspicious as Baloo's sorrowful frown turns into a clever grin. Soon after, it is revealed that Mowgli, Shanti and Ranjan are now allowed to visit Baloo and Bagheera in the jungle. Bagheera is last seen being chased by Ranjan, who enjoys playing with his tail, and walking with his friends as they reprise "The Bare Necessities".
While Bagheera himself was left out of the television series, Shere Khan's team of elite panther pilots bear a striking resemblance to him. It is more than likely that these characters were modeled after him.
A younger version of Bagheera appears in the spin off series, Jungle Cubs. E.G. Daily voices Bagheera in Season One, and Dee Bradley Baker took over in Season Two. Jungle Cubs shows that Bagheera lives together in a clubhouse with Baloo, Shere Khan, Kaa, Hathi and Prince Louie. Bagheera is stated to be the youngest of the group. Like his older counterpart, he is very serious and solemn, but also has a preoccupation with cleanliness. When the cubs had a fantasy of what life would be like if they could have anything and everything they wanted, Bagheera revealed to desire to have all the knowledge in the world. In spite of his adult counterpart, Bagheera can arguably be considered the weakest link in the group, often running away from danger. In a related topic, he appears to be a weak hunter as well. This is often brought up by Shere Khan who taunts the panther because of this.
In Jungle Cubs: Born to Be Wild DVD, Bagheera, as an adult, spends his time trying to get Mowgli to the Man Village, although Baloo would rather keep the man-cub around.
Bagheera makes numerous cameo appearances in the animated series House of Mouse.
Bagheera also appears in Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse, where he is seen sitting at a table with Baloo and later reappears during the ending song. Bagheera also makes his final return in Mickey's House of Villains, where he is seen for a split second in the kitchen before being locked away in there by numerous Disney villains. He later reappears after the villains flee from The House of Mouse.
Bagheera makes no live appearances in the theme parks around the world. However, his likeness can be found in a few places. Bagheera is featured in The Jungle Book's float in the Flights of Fantasy Parade in Hong Kong Disneyland. In the former Animal Kingdom show, Journey into the Jungle Book, Bagheera was featured as the narrator and supporting character, living out his role in the original film.
Live-action appearances1994 live-action movie, Bagheera serves a jungle animal friend to Mowgli and his pet wolf, Grey Brother. After Mowgli and Grey Brother were separated from civilization, Bagheera found them the next day. Hearing Shere Khan's roar from a distance, Bagheera signaled with his tail for Mowgli to grab onto it so as to lead him out of harm's way; realizing he meant no harm to the boy or cub. It took a bit of a while until Bagheera finally brought Mowgli and Grey Brother to a pack of Grey Indian wolves. Seeing as to how the child was young, friendly, helpless, harmless, and kind to a cub of their species, the wolves accepted them as members of the pack; much to Bagheera's delight.
Years later, Bagheera is seen most of the time spending time on a tree not doing much and sometimes running with a fully-grown Mowgli, Grey Brother, a new friend named Baloo the brown bear (who was saved as a cub by Mowgli on the day Mowgli was accepted into the pack), and the wolf pack. After Mowgli had been reunited with his childhood sweetheart, Katherine "Kitty" Brydon, antagonized a British officer named Captain William Boone (the main villain of the film), pushed two other officers into a river as with Boone before, and is close to being shot by one of Boone's men, Lt. John Wilkins, Bagheera and Baloo are seen roaring at the soldiers, thus scaring them off as a means of protecting Mowgli. Nevertheless, due to Wilkins' shock, he instead accidentally shoots Mowgli on the right arm.
A few days later, after Mowgli has learned the ways of men and re-entered civilization thanks to Kitty and Dr. Julius Plumford, he is seen being caressed and introduced to Kitty by Mowgli along with all the rest of Mowgli's jungle animal friends. Bagheera and the other animals watch as Kitty teaches Mowgli some dancing lessons, much to their amusement.
In a later tussle against soldiers working for Captain Boone, Baloo is shot and left for dead. Bagheera is then seen running with Mowgli and the wolf pack to locate Dr. Julius Plumford to save Baloo's life; only to find that the doctor had already left with Kitty and her father, Colonel Geoffrey Brydon, to bring Katherine to the ship to England. So, Mowgli goes out and follows them with the wolves and Bagheera behind. After saving Dr. Plumford from death by an Indian bandit named Buldeo, Bagheera is seen charging along with the wolf pack against the Indian bandits. Dr. Plumford is then taken by Mowgli to save Baloo's life.
After Mowgli (who had no choice: either the treasure the villains are after, or Kitty and her father's death) is captured by the evil British soldiers: Boone, Lt. Wilkins, and Sergeant Harley and the remaining Indian bandits: Buldeo and Tabaqui, Bagheera can be seen with the wolves keeping an eye on Mowgli, his friends, and enemies while staring at Boone and Wilkins mostly. When Wilkins asks himself why Bagheera is staring at them, Mowgli replies, "Because to him, you are food." A reply is hinted afterwards when Bagheera sticks out his tongue to show his hunger for them. The next morning, Bagheera is seen biting through the ropes tying Mowgli to a tree, thus, allowing him to escape, and then later on, to rescue the left-out injured Colonel Brydon from death.
In the final scene, after Boone's defeat, Bagheera is seen crossing a bridge with Kitty and a triumphant Mowgli while reuniting with the British Army sent out by Colonel Brydon, who was successfully cured from his injuries by Dr. Plumford (who also managed to cure Baloo too), to find them.
Bagheera is slated to appear in the upcoming 2015 live-action film adaptation, voiced by Ben Kingsley.
Bagheera has made a few video game appearances including The Jungle Book, a game based off the film.
In this video game, Bagheera plays a role mirroring that of the film's. However, when Bagheera first takes the tasks to take Mowgli to the Man-Village, Mowgli wishes to stay so Bagheera tests him. Even though he passes, Bagheera continues to make the trip.
A costume of Bagheera is available as an add-on with The Jungle Book pack.
Bagheera is sometimes mentioned by Mowgli.
- Mowgli: "I bet Bagheera could climb those trees faster than anyone."
- In the original book by Rudyard Kipling, Bagheera spoiled Mowgli, whereas in the 1967 film, he's more of a serious character.
- In the original film, Bagheera has a thick British accent, while in Jungle Cubs, he speaks without a Brittish accent.
- In the Russian dub of the film, Bagheera has for some reason changed into a female. It supposedly happened due to the mistake in the Nina Daruzes' (Russian translator) translation of the original book and Russian cartoon series "Adventures of Mowgli" (1967-1971), where Bagheera also appears as a female.
- Ironically, Bagheera's name actually means "black tiger" in Hindi.
- In some parts of the first movie, like when he slapped Kaa's mouth to save Mowgli and when he grabbed Baloo's cheeks when he asked the bear to tell him what happened to Mowgli, Bagheera had five fingers and in other parts, like when he was demonstrating a lethal swipe at Baloo in their argument, he had four, whereas in the second movie he had five fingers when he was holding onto Colonel Hathi's tusks.
- According to Jungle Cubs, Bagheera was said to have been born in the wild, but in the original novel, he was born at a zoo but eventually escaped into the wild, where he eventually reverted back into a wild panther.
- Bagheera is similar to various serious Disney characters including Chief Powhatan and Kerchak. Whilst they care for the main protagonist, they are easily angered at their stubborness. However, Kerchak isn't annoyed at Tarzan; he just wants the gorillas to be safe. In fact, Bagheera was one of the characters Kerchak was inspired by.
- Bagheera experiences a lot of injuries in the film.
- Even though he and Shere Khan knew each other, they never met in the first or second Jungle Book.