Plot: What’s it about?
A young child has been abandoned in the dangerous jungle, but he is soon taken in, though by an unexpected someone. A panther named Bagheera (Sebastian Cabot) scoops up the boy and names him Mowgli. He is raised by the animals in the jungle, so Mowgli (Bruce Reitherman) only knows that world and his wolf pack is his family. When he reaches the age of ten, Mowgli becomes a target for one of the jungle’s most vicious predators, Shere Khan (George Sanders). Khan vows to take revenge on all humans, so it is decided that Mowgli should be returned to the village of humans. The trek to the village proves to be long and dangerous, with threats and distractions of all kinds. Some are violent like the fierce snake Kaa (Sterling Holloway), while others are more friendly, like Mowgli’s friend Baloo (Phil Harris). On the verge of leaving the only world he has ever known, can Mowgli transition back into life in the world of humans?
In the animated annals of Disney, The Jungle Book has been mostly lost in the shuffle, which is a shame. The movie retains a low profile, not as famous as the early classics or the films produced during the studio’s rebirth. Even so, The Jungle Book deserves to be held up with the classics, a unique adventure that has plenty of Disney magic. The film has a relaxed pace, which suits the tone of the material, but is unlike most recent animated features. Here we have a strong focus on the bond between Baloo and Mowgli, how it began and how it evolved. This isn’t the rapid fire, attention deficit disorder type children’s movie, this is a well written, well executed story that develops genuine characters. But The Jungle Book is also a lot of fun, with great songs and some of the best voice talent you’ll find in an animated feature. This Platinum Edition has just about everything we could ask for, from restored visuals to a vault of supplements. The Jungle Book is a wonderful movie and deserves a place in any collection, whether you’re a child or just a kid at heart, this release is given our highest recommendation.
Video: How does it look?
The Jungle Book is presented in 1.75:1 anamorphic widescreen. This transfer represents the result of a digital restoration and fans should be thrilled. The print looks pristine, so the tolls of time are nowhere to be seen. That provides us a clean, crisp visual presentation that simply sparkles. The most noticeable change to me was the colors, which have been restored to bright, bold levels and that makes a huge impact on the visuals. What was dull or washed out now looks brand new, a trend that also holds true with the contrast, as black levels are spot on. The cleaned up visuals also sport enhanced detail and sharper backgrounds, this movie hasn’t looked this good since it was shown in theaters.
Audio: How does it sound?
The Dolby Digital 5.1 option doesn’t stand out as much as the visuals, but the audio is much improved, nonetheless. The main boost has been given to the music and song numbers, as expected. Those scenes now boast impressive presence, so the music comes to life and has solid depth. Some other scenes also got a kick up from the surrounds, but for the most part, the movie is laid back in terms of audio presence. The vocals sound fine also, no complaints to lodge here. This release also includes French and Spanish language tracks, as well as English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This two disc edition more than lives up to the title of Platinum Edition, with a host of worthwhile extras to peruse. An audio commentary starts us off, as songwriter Richard Sherman, animator Andreas Deja, and the voice of Mowgli Bruce Reitherman sit down to discuss this production. As if the three weren’t enough, additional archival interviews are also included, so rest assured, there is never a dull moment with this session. Next is The Bare Necessities, an over forty-five minute look back at The Jungle Book, with both the positives and negatives explored. This was a great piece and much more open than I expected, so if you’re a fan of this movie, don’t miss this one. Disney’s Kipling examines how the book was adapted for the animated feature, while The Lure of The Jungle Book shows the influence the film has had on current animation artists. You can also watch pieces on Bruce Reitherman and animators Frank & Ollie. A special look at Rocky the Rhino is next, which allows us to see what might have been, then we have about twenty minutes of unused music, which is worth a listen. This release also includes a look at the real life animals shown in the movie, extensive artwork galleries, and some interactive games.