The Jungle Book (Diamond Edition) (1967) Blu-ray Review
I remember as a child seeing THE JUNGLE BOOK on the big screen. No, I was not born in the 60’s. In fact, it was 1990 and THE JUNGLE BOOK was re-released for theaters. It was a glorious week where I was able to see a double feature of sorts that also included DUCK TALES THE MOVIE: TREASURE OF THE LOST LAMP (another great animated film from my childhood). In 1990, THE JUNGLE BOOK seemed as fresh and funny as any film a kid my age could ask. In my college years, I revisited the film while I worked at Blockbuster. The G rating and catchy musical cues lend itself perfectly for in-store viewing. The film still holds up but not quite to the liking of my childhood self. But what animated film truly does?
A young boy known as the man cub is raised by wolves in the wild. He is widely accepted by the animals and given the name Mowgli (voiced by Bruce Reitherman). However, the villainous tiger, Shere Khan (voiced by George Sanders), wants to kill the man cub and poses a threat to anyone who protects him. Bagheera (voiced by Sebastian Cabot), the responsible panther who first discovered Mowgli abandoned as a baby, volunteers to take Mowgli back to the man village. Of course, Mowgli doesn’t understand why he must leave the jungle and pairs up with a big lovable bear named Baloo (voiced by Phil Harris) who promises to watch over him. Of course this plan quickly goes awry as the king of the swinger, the jungle V.I.P., King Louie (voiced by Louis Prima) of the apes kidnaps Mowgli in hopes to learn the secret of man’s red fire. While this encounter is a bit harmless, more danger lurks nearby in the form of Kaa (voiced by Sterling Holloway), a hypnotizing snake and of course the dangerous Shere Khan.
I always thought the adventure of young Mowgli was extremely captivating and I’m sure most children will still get caught up in the silly actions of the animals and catch tunes to sing-along with. But the older version of me can’t help but ask the obvious questions like: Why is Mowgli so broken up to leave Baloo who he has only known for 5 minutes yet has no response that he didn’t even get to say goodbye to the wolf family who raised him since he was a babe? or Why does Shere Khan care if Kaa eats Mowgli? He’s still getting rid of the man cub. Do these questions have any huge baring on the film? Of course not. While it may not be quite up to snuff to todays standard of great story telling within animation THE JUNGLE BOOK is still an enjoyable classic.
Based on the novel by Rudyard Kipling, Disney’s version of THE JUNGLE BOOK exceeds the classic standard with some of the more memorable musical moments. Between ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ by the vulture version of The Beatles who can’t decide “what to do” or perhaps the Oscar nominated song ‘The Bare Necessities’ by Baloo the Bear nearly every song is a catchy tune worth singing along to. But my personal favorite is ‘I Wan’na Be Like You’ by King Louie, which is not only a great song but visually the funniest moments with the story. But the moment that will live on forever is the crooked half smile young Mowgli gives when he sees a young girl fetching water. This moment transcends the movie capturing life at its most primal truths of man’s lack of brain function when it comes to love. As usual Disney goes over-the-top providing everything possible for their Blu-ray release making this a must for any Disney aficionados.
Video: (MPEG-4 AVC, 1080p 1.75:1) The picture has been cleaned up and the colors look more vibrant. The Blu-ray thankfully has kept the old-style, jumpy line drawing in tact providing the necessary authenticity
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1) A decent sound that highlights the musical portion of the film.
Intros by Diane Disney Miller (1:04) and Richard M. Sherman (:30)
Music, Memories & Mowgli: A Conversation with Richard M. Sherman, Diane Disney Miller and Floyd Norman (9:49): The group fondly reminisce about several different aspects of The Jungle Book and Walt Disney.
Alternate Ending – Mowgli and The Hunter (8:46): A fascinating ending shown through storyboards that sees Mowgli reunited with his parents and lengthy subplot about about a villain villager who wants to steal the monkey kingdom treasure. It feels like a completely different movie.
I Wan’na Be Like You: Hangin’ Out at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (18:25): Blake Michael and G Hannelius from ‘Dog with a Blog give an energetic behind-the-scenes look at all the attractions, people and animals from Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Bear-E-Oke Sing-Along (12:47): The sing alongs include: “The Bare Necessities,” “I Wan’na Be Like You,” “Trust in Me,” “Colonel Hathi’s March,” and “That’s What Friends are For.”
@DisneyAnimation: Sparking Creativity (9:14): Disney really supports it’s employees to come up with ideas and this goes into detail on how they’ve created a program and breeding ground for new creative ideas or “sparks.” It’s really quite cool.
Classic DVD Bonus Features: The following are all included in the previous DVD release.
The Bare Necessities: The Making of The Jungle Book (46:27): Divided into “Walt’s Lasting Impressions,” “Kings of the Jungle,” “Drawn to the Voices,” “The Jungle Beat,” and “The Last Act.”
Disney’s Kipling: Walt’s Magic Touch on a Literary Classic (15:01): This details the changes that were made to the classic novel to make the perfect Disney children’s movie.
The Lure of The Jungle Book (9:28): Animators, directors and other Disney employees talk about why The Jungle Book is so great.
Mowgli’s Return to the Wild (5:09): The voice of Mowgli, Bruce Reitherman, talks about Disney’s influence in becoming a nature filmmaker.
Frank & Ollie: Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnston discuss Character Animation (3:46): The two talk about how they study live-action animals to capture the essence on how to draw and adapt them into animation.
Deleted Scene: The Lost Character – Rocky The Rhino (6:36): The missing character of a slow-witted rhino was also included in the alternate ending from the previous featurette.
Disneypedia: Junglemania! (14:21): This is an educational piece detailing further about the real life animals represented in The Jungle Book.
Disney Song Selection with optional on-screen lyrics (12:16)
“I wanna be like you” music video performed by Jonas Brothers (2:51)
Audio Commentary: The commentary contains excerpts from archival interviews including composer Richard M. Sherman, supervising pensic animator Andreas Deja, and the voice actor who played Mowgli, Bruce Reitherman.