Featured Blu-ray review - The Jungle Book
The Jungle Book was the last movie Walt Disney worked on before his death in 1966, although it wasn't released till 1967. The last time it came out on DVD was seven years ago, but this week it makes it debut on Blu-ray. How does the film look and sound on high definition? And how are the extras?
This is the second review this weekend where I previously reviewed the film. Because of this, there's not as much that needs to be said about the plot or the quality of the movie.
The film begins with Bagheera narrating how he found a man cub in a wreck in the river. Knowing the man cub will die without food, he takes him to a wolf family who just had a litter of pups. He drops the kid off and runs away hoping the new mother wolf will take care of it. Ten years later, we meet Mowgli, who is at home in the jungle. Bagheera knows soon Mowgli will have to return to the human villages. That comes sooner than expected, because Shere Khan, a man-eating tiger has returned and Mowgli is not safe, nor is the wolf pack strong enough to protect him. Bagheera agrees to take the boy to a nearby man village. When Mowgli learns what's happening, he decides he's better off in the jungle. Even a run in with Kaa, a python with hypnotism, isn't enough to change his mind.
The next day, Mowgli decides to find a place in the jungle where he can stay, starting with Colonel Hathi and the military obsessed Elephant. Then he meets Baloo, a sloth bear, who lives up to the sloth part of his name. The pair also encounter King Louie, the king of the Orangutans. But eventually, Shere Khan comes back into the picture.
The Jungle Book is not one of the best-reviewed films of the era for Disney and there are certainly some elements that keep it from being a true classic. Some of the songs are not as catchy as they could be. On the other hand, "The Bare Necessities" is easily one of the best Disney songs of all time. The plot is segmented and sometimes the film moves from one plot point to the next in a rather abrupt way, while not every segment is as engaging as it should. (The scene with the elephants feels like filler.) The animation isn't top-notch with some scenes being reused to save money. That said, those are the only complaints I have and they are rather minor in the grand scheme of things. Overall, The Jungle Book is considered a classic for good reasons and most fans of Disney animation will want to own it. Then again, most likely already do own it. So the real question is is the Blu-ray worth picking up.
There are quite a lot of extras on the Blu-ray, many of which are from the old DVD. This includes an audio commentary track, Bare Necessities, Disney's Kipling, etc. There are some new items, including the Bear-E-Oke intermissions, which include five songs. (The voice of Baloo here is off enough that I found it distracting at first.) Music, Memories & Mowgli is a ten-minute featurette with Richard M. Sherman, who co-wrote the music; Diane Disney Miller, the daughter of Walt Disney; and Floyd Norman, one of the animators. There is also an alternative ending in storybook mode. I Wan'na Be Like You is the longest of the new extras running nearly 20 minutes, but it looks at the new theme park, Disney's Animal Kingdom. The final new extra is Sparking Creativity, about the Disney animation studio.
Technical presentation is excellent, of course. The first thing to note is the aspect ratio, with is 1.75:1, while the average widescreen TV is 1.77:1, so there are small black bars on either side of the image. Really small. I didn't notice them at first. The picture quality is amazing, for the most part. I think some of the pencil marks were scrubbed out, which might annoy some purists, but the DNR is not overused like in some past releases. The colors are very vivid, while the backgrounds look fantastic. The audio is not quite as good, but they were trying to stretch a 7.1 surround sound track out of the original mono track, so that's a challenge. The dialog and lyrics are always clear and there is quite a bit of separation and activity in the surround sound speakers. There's not as much activity as you would find in a film made today, but the upgrade is worth it.
If you love The Jungle Book and own the previous DVD release, then you might be wondering if the new Blu-ray Diamond Edition is worth the upgrade. I think it is. There are more additional extras than I was expecting and the technical presentation is wonderful. Worth picking up and worth upgrading to.
Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Date posted: 2014-02-09