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The Jungle Book
Platinum Edition

review by Zach B.

 

 

Running Time: 78 Minutes

MPAA Rating: G

Starring The Voices Of: Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, Louis Prima, George Sanders, Sterling Holloway, J. Pat O'Malley, Bruce Reitherman

Written by: Larry Clemmons, Ralph Wright, Ken Anderson, Vance Gerry
Inspired by: Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book"

Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman

 

Studio: Disney

Retail Price: $29.99

Features:
Disc 1:
Audio Commentary with Composer Richard M. Sherman, Animator Andreas Dejo, Voice Actor Bruce Reitherman and Guest Archival Appearances, Deleted Scene, Deleted Songs, "I Wan'na Be Like You" Music Video, Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund
Disc 2: The Bare Necessities: The Making Of The Jungle Book, Disney's Kipling, The Lure Of The Jungle Book, Mowgli's Return To The Wild, Frank & Ollie, Art Galleries, Baloo's Virtual Swingin' Jungle Cruise, DisneyPedia: Junglemania!, The Jungle Book Fun with Language Games

Specs: 1.75:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1 Enhanced Home Theater Mix, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, English Mono, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, French Subtitles, Scene Selections (24 Scenes)

Released: October 2nd, 2007

 

Presented in 1.75:1 anamorphic widescreen, "The Jungle Book" has been given a lovely digital restoration. Other than the slightest bit of noise, this is a flawless transfer that this gorgeously animated film rightfully deserved. The picture quality is remarkably sharp, and the animation flows in such a smooth and silky manner. Color saturation is perfect too, as the lush greens of the jungle and color schemes of the animals really pop out. Detail is impeccable - you can often see the ink outlines for the characters. There are no blemishes or specks to report of, and there is not a hint of edge enhancement either. This restoration has made "The Jungle Book" look barely a day old, and not forty. This transfer deserves that elusive 5/5 score. It is all the epitome of eye candy and I assure you that you will not be disappointed!

 

Like their other Platinum release, Disney has given "The Jungle Book" a fresh 5.1 Enhanced Home Theater Mix. I have to say that it is pretty discrete, and actually quite boisterous - particuarly in how the film's memorable songs have been remixed. The songs certainly have "oomph" and dazzle a bit, and add life to the channels. The same goes for the rich instrumental compositions by George Bruns. Other than that, the subwoofer is used pretty decently, and there are decent surround effects - be it the roars of Shere Khan or the climactic battle. Some sound effects are a bit front heavy though, and while they don't sound thin, they are a bit soft. Dialogue is very crisp and easy to hear, though - which is fantastic, given the film's fantastic voice work. The remix is not as astounding as the transfer, but it has its moments and thankfully doesn't feel as if it's a mono track stretched through five speakers.

Also included are 5.1 mixes in Spanish and French, and for you purists, the original English Mono track. Subtitles in English, Spanish and French are also on the disc.

 

On disc one, there's an Audio Commentary with Composer Richard M. Sherman, Animator Andreas Dejo, Voice Actor Bruce Reitherman and Guest Archival Appearances. It sounds as if the three have been recorded together, and how the archival audio gets segued into the commentary is seamless (you get to hear musings from the animators, and many more). But the core trio is great, are quite enthusiastic and offer a staggering amount of information. Sherman, of course, focuses a lot on the music and gives plenty of credit to his collaborators. Dejo is animator who has been with Disney since 1980, but certainly seems to know the film's history and gives a lot of thoughtful remarks concerning the animation, and the film's overall look and structure. And then there's Reitherman, an accomplished nature filmmaker and photographer himself, and who's father directed the movie. Reitherman must have heard a lot of stories from his dad, since he points out some remarkable details. This is a very enjoyable commentary that really highlights what a masterpiece "The Jungle Book" is, and why it is so important in the Disney canon. The commentary will probably appeal to older fans of the film, and if you're one, it's not to be missed.

A Deleted Scene is included, featuring a character that never made it past the storyboard stage - Rocky The Rhino. This feature is actually a newly-made story reel featuring the character and the vultures (in a bit of a different form) in a song (plus an uncovered audio track), and is book-ended by stills and narration about the Rocky's development, and why he got the ax. A definite watch for Disney fanatics.

In the Music & More section, there's the "I Wan'na Be Like You" Music Video, starring the the latest tween sensation, The Jonas Brothers. There are also seven Deleted Songs to be heard, lasting 21 minutes in total. It's really fascinating to hear what didn't make the final cut of the movie. And boy, "The Bare Necessities" demo sure sounds different than the final version. Good thing that song got a major tweaking.

Finishing off the first disc is a responsible promo for the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, showcasing how Disney and the animal world are basically intertwined, and the importance of helping wild animals. Other than words from Roy Disney, Walt himself back in the day, and footage from Disney movies and lovely footage of real animals, the only mention of getting involved is at the end with this weblink.

The second disc is divided into two sections. The first being Man Village, and the centerpiece attraction is The Bare Necessities: The Making Of The Jungle Book. The documentary is broken down into five sections covering the production, and lasts a little over 46 minutes. Using a mix of clips from the movie, stills and a bustle of new and old interviews, this is a very thorough look at the film's development. Everything is practically covered here: the origins of the production and the talent that made it fly, the unique voice casting, the music and the bittersweet resonance the film takes on, since this was final animated film Walt himself worked on (the final six-and-a-half minutes of the doc are devoted to Walt's final days, and who took reigns at the studio). Those who guide us through the making of the film are songwriter Richard M. Sherman, "Jungle Book" screenwriter Ken Anderson, Bruce Reitherman (the voice of Mowgli), director Woolie Reitherman, animator Marc Davis, film historian Brad Sibley, story artist Floyd Norman, filmmaker Brad Bird, famed Disney animator Glen Keane, animator Will Finn, animation historian John Culhane, filmmaker Ted Thomas, animation historian John Canemaker, author Neal Gabler, animator Ollie Johnston, story artist Burny Mattinson and quite a few more. A must watch for fans of the film and of Walt himself.

Next up is the fifteen minute Disney's Kipling, in how Disney handled the tricky adaptation of Kipling's stories that were featured in his "The Jungle Book." This is a pretty straightforward but good look comparing Kipling's original words and narrative, and how the Walt Disney and his storytellers compressed it into the film and made their own version. Film clips are used to highlight the points, but the real treat are the dozens of originals sketches and storyboards to also show how the movie took shape - plus the original drawings and story treatment by Bill Pete. It's a little repetetive, and some of the narrator's dialogue is a bit corny, but this is still worth a watch.

The Lure Of The Jungle Book is a nice piece lasting about ten minutes, featuring interviews with animators, filmmakers and many of the talking heads featured in the main documentary, in how they took inspiration from the classic and where and when some saw it for the first time. There's also insightful words concerning the technique behind the animation. Animator Andreas Dejo just might be the biggest fan of all, as he shows off his personal collection of sketches used for the film.

Mowgli's Return To The Wild is a charming featurette lasting a bit over five minutes, focusing on the life of Bruce Reitherman, who voiced Mowgli. As you're probably well aware of, Bruce's father was the director of the movie. Here Reitherman talks about how his father's work personally inspired him, and as a result, helped shaped his own career in nature photography and filmmaking (which we get to see a bit of). Reitherman also compares and contrasts his father's work to his own, with lots of insights on their processes (as well as those who worked with his dad). This is pretty heartwarming, and features lots of personal stills. Certainly a nice supplement, that not only helps give "The Jungle Book" an additional context, but also shows how it's lived on through several generations in interesting ways.

Frank & Ollie, of course, focuses on the legendary Disney animators. Lasting four minutes, this excellent older piece has the two animators discussing their character work on "The Jungle Book," talking about the challenges and showcasing their talents. There are also six Art Galleries to enjoy, divided up into these sections: "Visual Development," "Character Design," "Storyboard Art," "Layout And Backgrounds," "Production Photos" and "Publicity."

One gripe though about the pieces produced specifically for this DVD edition: why oh why are they presented in non-anamorphic widescreen?

The second section is called Jungle Fun, and is clearly aimed more at the kiddies. Baloo's Virtual Swingin' Jungle Cruise is a selection of four different memory games using different locales and characters from the film. DisneyPedia: Junglemania! is a fourteen minute documentary that puts the film's location in a real-life context, with plenty of facts about real jungles, and all that's in them. It is quite educational, and I'm sure kids will enjoy memorizing this newfound knowledge. Finally, The Jungle Book Fun with Language Games has two set-top games and two DVD-ROM games that has a focus on animal names, and makes learning fun. (Sorry, now that sounded corny.) And it can be played in English, French and Spanish.

 

"The Jungle Book" is truly a Disney classic, and should remain timeless for decades to come. Bearing Disney's special Platinum label, this long-awaited release to mark the film's 40th anniversary does not disappoint. The transfer is breathtaking, the 5.1 enhanced home theater mix is enjoyable and the extras - while a bit on the smaller side compared to some other Platinum releases - are quite engrossing and really showcase the film's grand artistry and rich production history. Honestly, do I really need to tell you that this is worth having in your collection?