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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Children > Comedy > Musical > The Jungle Book 40th Anniversary Platinum Edition (Disney DVD Set)

The Jungle Book 40th Anniversary Platinum Edition (Disney DVD Set)


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: B-     Film: B-



Monkeys, Tigers, and Bears…Oh My!  No, there are no wizards here, just a tale of a boy trying to find his way home and the friends he meets along the way.  I guess that does sound a little like The Wizard of Oz though, right?  Finally on DVD for children of all ages to enjoy is The Jungle Book 40th Anniversary Platinum Edition.  The 1967 classic has been remastered in both sound and picture quality and is now presented to audiences 40 years after its conception.  The Jungle Book by many and even the animators at Disney Studios is considered to be the epitome of Disney greatness.  The Jungle Book has an imaginative storyline that was reworked from its literary origin, as well as a musical soundtrack that in many ways still has not been topped today.  Granted this is by no means this reviewers’ favorite Disney Feature, but many do consider this to be the best of the best.


The film was released in October of 1967 and was the last film Walt Disney was a part of; Walt unfortunately dying midway through production of the film.  The nineteenth full length Disney Film was met with great praise and managed to spin the Rudyard Kipling classic into a new light.


The film takes place in India and centers on a boy named Mowgli who as a baby was sent down river in a basket.  A panther named Bagheera discovers the discarded child and promptly takes him to a mother wolf that raises the boy as one of her own.  It is not long before the boy learns the way of the jungle and finds his place.  The film then goes ten years into the future, where the wolves discover that a man hungry Tiger names Shere Khan has reentered the jungle.  In a desperate attempt to save the boy and return him to the man village Bagheera volunteers to escort the boy ‘home.’  Since Mowgli has no intention of returning to the man village, Bagheera’s job is no easy one.


There is initially a run in with a shifty, hypnotizing, man eating snake named Kaa (that just ends comically), then Mowgli tries to join a troop of elephants (that as well ends comically), and finally Mowgli meets a lovable Sloth Bear named Baloo.  Baloo tells Mowgli that life is about being carefree, having fun, and having no worries; in turn promising NOT to take him to the man village.  Soon after this promise, however, Mowgli is kidnapped by a band of mischievous monkeys who are led by the crazy orangutan King Louie.  King Louie promises that if Mowgli teaches him the secret of Man’s Fire he will never have to go to the man village and can continue to live in the jungle.  In an epically destructive manner Bagheera and Baloo save Mowgli from King Louie and Baloo agrees that it is best for Mowgli to go to the man village where he can be safe.  Before Mowgli can be returned ‘home’ Kaa returns for a late snack, but some other hungry creature has also caught Mowgli’s scent…Shere Kahn.  Will the boy be saved or is he just another tasty morsel to a hungry tiger?


Funny enough this being a film created in the late 1960’s a flock of four fab, British, vultures also make an appearance…looking strangely like another Fab Four, The Beatles.


Another funny factoid about the film is the characters’ names.  Shere Kahn in Persian means Lord Tiger, Bagheera means Panther in Hindi, and Baloo means Bear (Mowgli is said to mean frog in Hindi…but that is not true).


The film overall is excellent.  It is well scripted, well animated with great depth and texture, and the musical scores are extremely admirable.  Whereas this is not this reviewer’s favorite, he recognizes Disney’s genius and ability to recast a classic into an even greater classic.  While the story may seem slow at times the musical interludes give the feature a new jolt each time that are exciting and memorable.  Disney films will be around for all time and The Jungle Book is a perfect example of why.


The film’s staying power can also be seen in its ability to be recycled.  Disney Studios seemed a bit troubled after the loss of their leader Walt Disney and the first release after his death, Robin Hood, utilized their boss’ last venture of The Jungle Book as a mode of inspiration.  If a viewer looks closely at the 1973 feature film Robin Hood, one will notice many of the characters, voices, and even dance numbers are either identical or similar to those of The Jungle Book.  This is not to say that Robin Hood was just a rehashing of The Jungle Book, but rather that The Jungle Book was so epic and meaningful that it could spawn a whole new feature film with heart and meaning.


Besides The Jungle Book being utilized in Robin Hood, it was also transformed completely into the Emmy Award winning series Tale Spin.  Tale Spin ran from 1990-1994 with a 65 episode run that used characters from The Jungle Book such as Baloo, Shere Khan, and King Louie.  Tale Spin centered on a lazy sloth bear (Baloo) who ran a shipping company, but seemed to get into more mischief than anything else.  The series was a fantastic hit and is considered among many to be an animated television classic like Rescue Rangers, Duck Tales, and Darkwing Duck.  Proving once again the versatility of The Jungle Book.


The jungle of technical features on this 2 Disc DVD set are quite nice, but nothing to write home to Papa Bear about.  The picture is presented in a 1.75 X 1 Widescreen image that has been anamorphically enhanced for 16 X 9 televisions.  This reviewer is all about anamorphic enhancement to a degree, but it seems at times that the images’ top and bottom are missing something or have been noticeably altered.  The quality is a funny issue in the case of The Jungle Book, due to it looking better than any VHS, Laserdisc or previous DVD release, but not up to snuff with the original Technicolor film production.  The colors remain bright and fluid throughout, only demonstrating a slight darkness issue occasionally.  The picture, however, fails to recreate the full brightness and jungle atmosphere that Technicolor would have presented.  The Sound quality is excellent as is heard in most Disney Platinum releases, being presented in the Disney staple of Disney 5.1 Home Theater Mix.  The musical soundtrack of the film is quite excellent, but many of the dialogue sequences are distant or even demonstrate a muffled quality.  This is not to say the scenes are horrible, but rather they still need some work.


The extras are Bear-able, but like most Disney releases are more aimed toward a younger audience.  Extras include a music video for “I Wan’na Be like You” by the Jonas Brothers who are very popular amongst children, several Jungle Book themed interactive games mainly centering on animals and language, and a few more adult/documentary type features.  The features that may interest adults more include a featurette on a ‘long lost character’ names Rocky the Rhino, Deleted Songs, a featurette called ‘Disney’s Kipling’ that explores the Walt Disney’s touch on a literary masterpiece, and finally a making of The Jungle Book Featurette.  Overall, the bonus features are exciting and there is definitely something for both children and adults.


In the end, The Jungle Book is a must have for any collection especially in this remastered format.  The picture and sound are nicely presented and the extras give insight into the film’s creation process.  So come for the film, stay for the extras.  Join Baloo, Mowgli, King Louie, and the rest of the Jungle Crew for one fantastic adventure that animators to this day still look to for guidance and inspiration.



-   Michael P Dougherty II


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