Well, whaddya know?

The Jungle Book” is closer to home than we think because Sabah’s forests were featured in the recently released fantasy adventure film by Walt Disney Pictures. This was revealed by “The Jungle Book” visual effects (VFX) artist Helen Brownell, who visited Sabah in 2006 as a Raleigh International volunteer.

Mowgli & Bagheera in "The Jungle Book" (Source: Disney)
Mowgli & Bagheera in “The Jungle Book” (Source: Disney)

Helen, who works as a VFX Artist for The Moving Picture Company, was involved in Disney’s live-action recreation of “The Jungle Book” since 2014. When she was first told that the film would be her next project, she was instantly thrown back into her Borneo Expedition.


She drew on her memories of the Borneo landscape to re-create some of the beautiful and unique environments in the film.

In her blogpost, she explained, “Something about the jungle had always intrigued me. Even now, after 10 years, I can still vividly remember the sounds, colours and the textures of the Borneo jungle. The gibbon’s constant calls, the constant humming of insects and birds.”

Helen spent a total of 10 weeks in the Borneo jungle, experiencing Mount Kinabalu, the Crocker Range, and Imbak Canyon with her own eyes. She said that she remembers Imbak Canyon as one of the most beautiful places she has and will ever have the privilege of staying.

Source: The Moving Picture Company via Raleigh International

Fun fact: According to her IMDb profile, Helen also previously worked on 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” as a digital artist.

“During the 3 weeks we came across various wildlife. One day our camp was being stalked by a king cobra and a bear frequented our bin at night. I remember a few members of our group being astonished to find that bears live in the Jungle. I explained that in Disney’s Jungle Book (the original animation), Baloo the bear is evidence that they do!” she shared.

“Nothing can compare to the real experience of being in the jungle. But having the challenge of re-creating such an amazing environment in CGI was a real joy. So many things during the project would spark up memories of my Borneo adventure,” she said, adding that she was excited to re-create some of the beautiful and unique environments from her trip.

Check out some photos that Helen included in her blogspot:

*Pictures courtesy of The Moving Picture Company via Raleigh International.


In signing off her blogspot, Helen wrote, “If any of you have been to the Borneo jungle you will understand what I mean, and I hope that when you see the film, you really get a sense of the jungle coming to life.”

“It was nice to be reminded of my real jungle book. I can only hope to return again one day,” she added.

Meanwhile, Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan said the fact that Sabah’s jungle had been the inspiration for the movie makers was a pleasant surprise. He also said that the jungle and parks that Helen experienced during her visit were still there, adding that the state government was in fact enlarging the totally protected areas.

“The Jungle Book” was released in cinemas nationwide on 15th April 2016.

Sources: Raleigh International, The Star Online, Helen Brownell IMDb.

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