Jungle Book was always the one Disney film I hadn’t seen when I was young. I eventually got the VHS release of it, likely the 30th Anniversary Edition, and remember watching the film quite a few times. By and large, Jungle Book is probably one of the tamer Disney tales; aside from the Shere Khan antics, the majority of the film is just dialogue and song. The film floats effortlessly along until it reaches the conclusion and we see Mowgli go on his way to becoming a man.
Adapted from the Rudyard Kipling novel of the same name, The Jungle Book sprung to life in the late 60s. Walt Disney insisted that no one on the staff read the novel as it was not the tone he was going for; the novel was much darker than the film and Walt didn’t want the film to be anywhere near as dangerous as Mowgli’s world in the book. Even with the drastic departure from the novel, the characters largely remained the same, slightly adapted to this newer, brighter setting.
As stated before, the film is nothing too intense nor too dull. The film plays out and before you realize, it’s over. There is no real drag in the film where you want it to move along and go faster, as the songs in this film are some of the most well-known in Disney history, what with “Bare Necessities” and “I Wan’na Be Like You” being included in every Disney song collection book or CD that I’ve seen.
Of course the animation in the film is nothing to scoff at either. As with all of these classic Disney films, the animation is the shining star and never before have you seen so many subtle motions in animation that make you believe that these characters could be real if only they were colored in a more realistic manner. Mowgli’s yawning and chewing of bananas and the motions of Bagheera are beautiful to observe.
While some may object to the seeming ease Mowgli leaves his friends at the end of the film, it’s obvious that as much as he loved being Baloo’s friend, he couldn’t reside in the jungle forever. I’ll admit as a kid I wondered why the looks of a girl his age would necessitate his leaving the jungle, but now I can see the subtleties of the animation that was given to the young girl. It’s obvious now, but, like all Disney movies, there are things that you just don’t realize until you’re older.
By and large, Jungle Book is a wonderful film. There are no huge set pieces or stand-out acts of the film and the film very much feels like a typical summer for a child: largely the same week in, week out with a vacation thrown in. At the end of the summer he must go back to school and deal with the work that that comes with. Trying to pick out a single sequence of The Jungle Book is difficult as it all flows together so well, it’s hard to discern where one scene stops and another ends.
Whatever your feelings towards The Jungle Book it’s nothing that should be dismissed. If you didn’t enjoy it as a kid because it wasn’t “exciting” enough, give it another chance. As an adult you can really appreciate the laid-back nature of the whole film. Highly Recommended.
After the myriad of classic Disney animation releases on DVD, it’s obvious from the start that you’re going to want to own the DVD. Continuing the line of excellent releases is this 40th Anniversary release of The Jungle Book.
The DVD arrives in a standard two-disc amaray case with a cardboard slip case. Inside are offers from Disney and a booklet for the DVD, explaining the menu system and all of the extras and goodies you’ll find spread across the two discs. Menus are animated with music and easy to navigate.
First up on the DVD review front is the technical aspects. For the first time, the film is presented in its original aspect ratio (1.75:1) and in anamorphic widescreen. The clarity of the image is astounding and it looks magnificent. Detail is sharp and the colors are superb. If anything, animation was meant for the digital video format—the clear images that all of these Classic Disney two-disc films contain are clearly evident of that. Audio comes in several mixes with a new English 5.1 mix alongside French and Spanish 2.0 mixes. A restored original theatrical soundtrack is included as well. The 5.1 mix sounds great and having the original track is always welcome; plenty of ambient jungle sounds are thrown into the 5.1 mix and it makes for a great viewing experience.
Moving onto the extras we get a feature length commentary with Richard Sherman (one half of the song writing team), Andreas Deja (current animator at Disney and a fan of the film), and Bruce Reitherman (voice of Mowgli and son of the director). Mixed in are audio clips from Larry Clemmons (writer), Ollie Johnston (animation legend) and Wolfgang Reitherman (director). The track is lively and whenever you think there is going to be a dull moment, we get to hear some rare audio from the studio vaults. Bruce Reitherman adds some cool behind-the-scenes info about being the voice of Mowgli and the track is an overall joy to listen to.
There are still plenty of extras on the first disc aside from the commentary, however. First up is the “The Lost Character: Rocky the Rhino”, which goes in-depth about the long lost character from the movie. Cut for time, Rocky was voiced by Frank Fontaine and was a fully rounded character prior to being cut. With his removal, the vultures were reinvented and the character of Rocky was lost to the film forever; he’s presented here in storyboards with full voice over.
A series of songs, including a horrible rendition of “I Wanna Be Like You” by the Jonas Brothers, are included here as well. A “Disney Song Selection” collects all of your favorite songs from The Jungle Book and presents them karaoke style, with or without lyrics. The brunt of the songs, however, comes from those that were deleted from the film. “Deleted Songs” collects twenty-one minutes of songs written, composed and recorded by composer Terry Gilkyson. The audios a bit on the weak side, obviously coming off of some old of media, as evidenced by the popping, hissing and mono sound, but to even hear them is a real treat. Those who want to hear more of what the brilliant composers of the Classic Disney days could do, this music is an invaluable addition to this DVD.
A commercial promoting Disney’s work with animals (“Insuring a Future for Wildlife and Wild Places”) is included as well as a set of trailers promoting future Disney releases and their travel agency. Skipping onto the second disc, we find an even larger wealth of extras.
“The Bare Necessities: The Making of The Jungle Book” is a near hour long documentary on the making of the film. This documentary is incredibly in-depth and very well done, including even the shocking death of Walt Disney during the production of the film. The great thing about these documentaries on old films is everyone is a lot blunter with their comments. There’s nothing offensive, but it’s refreshing to watch over so many modern documentaries where no one says anything negative.
“Disney’s Kipling” is an in-depth look into the differences between the Kipling novel and the film. As stated before, the differences are many and this extra is nice, in-depth look about what changed between the two adaptations. Moving onto “The Lure of The Jungle Book” we get to see animators and how the film influenced their lives and careers in animation. It’s a wonderful to see how the film has influenced some of the more prominent animation directors of our day (including Brad Bird) and just how much the film means to them.
“Mowgli’s Return to the Wild” talks about Bruce Reitherman’s wildlife photography and how his father influenced him, while “Frank & Ollie” is an older featurette that talks with animation legends Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. The extra goes on to show much of themselves they put into their work and it’s a great little extra to watch, if only for its age. Also an interesting note is that these two animated half of The Jungle Book themselves, which is astonishing to think about.
“DisneyPedia: Junglemania!” showcases the real-life versions of The Jungle Book animals with images from all over the Earth. From this extra we have only a few others, including a wealth of images in the still-art gallery, ranging from character designs to publicity photos. Plenty of cool retro images to look at in these galleries and while I usually find them tedious, these are well worth going through.
The only extras left are some games for kids and toddlers, nothing adults will want to worry too much about.
Overall this DVD is going to be hard to pass up. Disney collectors will find the DVD to be just as robust as past releases and fans of the film will love to hear the deleted songs. This is a solid set that is well worth owning and this release comes Highly Recommended.
The Jungle Book: 40th Anniversary Edition is now available on DVD.