Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Jungle Book - Diamond Edition Blu-ray

The Jungle Book (1967)
Animation, Adventure, Family, 78 minutes
Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman
Starring the voices of Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, George Sanders, Louis Prima, Bruce Reitherman and Sterling Holloway

Although Bambi, Dumbo and Lady and the Tramp are my favorite classic Disney titles, The Jungle Book holds a special place in my heart. My mother took me and my brother to see it on the big screen shortly before she died, and it was the only animated Disney film we saw together at the cinema. I remember that we were late and missed a few minutes, so we watched the rest of the film, Treasure Island, and then sat through all of The Jungle Book again afterwards. I only asked to see the few minutes we had missed, but we couldn't bring ourselves to leave at that point.

I don't think I have seen the film since that day around 40 years ago, so I wondered whether my treasured memory would be ruined by seeing it again as an adult. I'm happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Walt Disney's last major animated film is a feel-good story suitable for the whole family. The story is simple: Mowgli is a small child who is discovered by Bagheera the panther in the Indian Jungle. After giving the matter some thought, he decides that the local wolves would provide the best home for the boy. Ten years quickly pass during a narrated scene and we skip ahead to the current day. The wolves have heard that the tiger, Shere Khan, is back in the neighborhood. He hates humans and will likely seek out Mowgli to kill him. Don't worry, I promise that your children won't be frightened by the story.

Mowgli is befriended by a small elephant, and also has the help of Bagheera, who decides to deliver the boy to a village so that he can be among his own kind. Along the way they encounter Baloo the bear, who is the life and soul of the film. He's not too bright, but his heart is in the right place and it's easy to love him.

Like most Disney classics, the story contains plenty of songs. The most notable is Bare Necessities, sung by Baloo, and it was nominated for an Oscar. There are four other songs, including King of the Swingers, which is almost as much fun as Bare Necessities.

The 78-minute story seems to be over all too quickly, but you could always watch it twice as I did all those years ago. I could imagine small children loving the colors, the music, and the bright characters that populate the entire movie.

The Diamond Edition  Blu-ray boasts a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, as well as the original mono track, and 5.1 Dolby Digital versions in French, Spanish and Portuguese. The picture is free of dirt and debris and looks as clear as a watercolor painting could possibly look. Be aware that these hand-painted Disney classics do not have the depth of modern CGI images, but the story is strong enough to make you focus on what's happening in the foreground. I was very happy with the presentation.

As well as features from the Classic DVD, this latest version includes the following:

Music, Memories and Mowgli: A Conversation with Richard M. Sherman, Diane Disney Miller and Floyd Norman (9:42)
Alternate Ending - Mowgli and the Hunter (unfinished animation in storyboard form) (8:46)
I Wan'na Be Like You: Hanging Out at Disney's Magic Kingdom (18:25)
Bear-e-oke (5 songs)
@disneyanimation: Sparking Creativity (9:14)

The package comes with an embossed slip cover and a DVD.

For any Disney fan who hasn't seen The Jungle Book, the Blu-ray is a great way to experience it for the first time. I would also recommend it as an upgrade for owners of the DVD.

Overall score 4/5 (Presentation 5/5)

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