The Jungle Book: 40th Anniversary Edition – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Directed by:
Wolfgang Reitherman

Cast:
Bruce Reitherman ……… Mowgli
Phil Harris ……… Baloo
Sebastian Cabot ……… Bagheera
George Sanders ……… Shere Khan
Sterling Holloway ……… Kaa

The Film

The Jungle Book is the last animation feature film produced by the great Walt Disney, who died during production. To this day it remains one of Disney’s greatest films and a cornerstone of the studio’s classic animation features.

The Jungle Book, loosely based on Rudyard Kipling’s novel, tells the story of Mowgli, a human baby who is found by wild animals in he jungles of India. Some of the animals, like Bagheera the panther and Baloo the bear, take care of him and try to protect him. Others, like Kaa the Python or Shere Khan the tiger see him as a tasty lunch.

The movie follows Mowgli on his voyage to join human society. The loving and caring animals recognize that Mowgli’s place is with his kind and they escort him to the nearest human village. They do so despite Mowgli’s early objections, as he got so accustomed to jungle life he doesn’t want to leave. Love, however, changes his mind, as he follows a beautiful girl into human society.

The Jungle Book contains all the staples of a Disney animated feature film. It’s main theme of co-existence between man and animal runs through many of the studio’s classic movies, as well as the modern ones. Walt Disney loved the wild kingdom and tried to incorporate it into his productions and this movie was perhaps the highlight of this campaign to make people friendlier towards the wildlife and animals in general. With supposedly “hostile” animals, like a bear and a panther playing the roles of Mowgli’s protectors, many kids grew up less afraid of those animals. Even Mowgli’s were portrayed either in a humorous way or in other likable manners so they weren’t seen as a real threat. Every frame in this movie screams about Walt Disney’s love of animals and how, perhaps, the animal community can b better than the human one.

The movie also has some classic songs that became children favorites for decades after the movie was released. “The Bare Necessities” is the most obvious and perhaps the biggest hit, but others, like “I Wanna be Like you” and “Trust in Me”. Kids and adults alike will join the songs while watching the movie, as this is a major part of the experience that is watching a Disney movie.

40 years later, The Jungle Book is still one of the greatest animated films of all time. You can tell when Walt Disney himself was personally involved in a movie and even though his spirit is still evident in all of the studio’s recent release, there is still something special in a movie that was handled by the legend himself. Truly a movie for all ages, it remains a must see on DVD.

The DVD
Sitting firmly in a sturdy keep case, the cover looks beautiful. Disney went all out in designing this release, with special printing on the outside sleeve that makes it jump out and catch your eye as soon as you see it.

A/V Control
This release demanded a lot of work in order to bring the audio and video quality to today’s standard, and this work was successful. The movie looks better than it ever has with vivid colors and bright picture. Sporting a 5.1 Audio track it’s a pleasure listening to the songs on the DVD.

The Extras
This is a Disney Platinum Series release, ad as such it is loaded with bonus features.

Disc 1 has a small featurette on the deleted character “Rocky the Rhino” with storyboards of the rhino. The rest of the features on this disc deal with the musical aspect of the film. There’s a video for “I Wanna be Like you” with a Jonas’ Brothers touch. Song Selections lets you see some of the songs with karaoke-like subtitles and the third music feature is a 21 minute piece that includes demos of deleted songs composed by Terry Gilkyson before he was replaced by the Sherman Brothers.

The first disc also includes audio commentary from composer Richard Sherman, animator Andreas Deja and the voice of Mowgli, Bruce Reitherman. The trio is joined, from time to time, by additional crewmembers, including the director and writer of the film. The commentary track offers a lot of insight into the movie and is definitely worth a listen. A promo for Disney’s Wildlife Conservation Fund and recent Disney movie and DVD releases round up the first disc.

Disc 2 is divided into two sections. The first section is called “Man Village” and it has all the features about the “making of” process. There’s a 45 minute featurette, divided to five chapters, which is a thorough retrospective of everything and everyone that was involved in making the film. It covers the story, animation, music and Walt Disney’s own involvement. Another, shorter featurette deals with comparisons between Disney’s film and the original book and earlier screen adaptation. There’s a discussion with current Disney animators on the movie that got them interested in the field and an interview with Bruce Reitherman. The last featurette is copied from the laserdisc release and it’s an interview with two of Walk Disney’s animators. This section is capped off with art galleries that include over 200 pieces in total from various aspects of the movie and production.

The second section, “Jungle fun”, lives up to its name as it provides just that – fun. It’s target audience is children, so adults may not find it that appealing, but it’s worth checking out. It includes a collection of fast mini-games. The first game asks the player to identify the right set of eyes from three swirling and hypnotic options. The second is a “repeat the pattern” game where the player has to repeat a musical number.

Another feature on this section is “Disneypedia: Junglemania” – an educational (but fun) piece on the real life behavior of the animals featured in the film. Everyone would learn something from watching that.

The final feature is a couple of trivia quizzes both for DVD-ROM and standalone players. They’re available also in French and Spanish and the questions keep changing for return visits.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for
The Jungle Book: 40th Anniversary Edition
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

9.0
THE VIDEO

8.0
THE AUDIO

8.0
THE EXTRAS

9.0
REPLAY VALUE

9.0
OVERALL
9.0
NOT AN AVERAGE)

The Inside Pulse
There aren’t enough superlatives to describe how much I enjoyed this film and the DVD release. One of the all time greatest Disney animation features received a worthy DVD release that will make the adults remember why the loved the film when they first saw it, and make the kids fall in love it today. A can’t miss.

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