HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Jungle Book - Diamond Edition
HTS Overall Score:80
The Mouse House is back again with another of its silver status titles (leaving only a few more of their animated classics to yet hit Blu-ray) and I once again sit with a mixture of eager anticipation of a classic childhood film and nervous that once again the DNR monster will rear its ugly head to disappoint once more. With Disney it’s really hit or miss in the animated department. Some titles will look pristine and unmolested, while others look like someone fell asleep at the wheel and bumped the DNR know up to 11 on a scale of 1-10. Luckily for us Disney decided to not meddle with a good thing and left the picture alone for the most part and we can all sigh a sigh of relief and just watch the movie with that big grin that we had when we were children.
For those not in the know, “The Jungle Book” is an adaptation of a book by the same name, penned by Rudyard Kipling, the king of “boy” stories. The original book was a set of 14 short stories revolving around the Indian Jungle, a boy named Mowgli and his many jungle friends. Disney’s version is a light hearted adaptation that takes much of the deep, dark and serious themes and glazes them with a sugar coating pulling much of the meaning from them. So from a literary perspective “The Jungle Book” film adaptation is a bit void of meaning, leaving only the “bear essentials” (pun intended) of the story still in place. However, that still doesn’t mean that being “Disneyfied” is a bad thing, especially when you consider the fact that Walt Disney was very much in favor of creating light hearted tales for children to watch besides the mindless drivel out there. The film still carries a few meanings within its shortened time frame and stars probably one of Disney’s greatest stars….the music.
Mowgli (Bruce Reitherman) is an abandoned child, thrown away in the Jungles only to be rescued by Bagheera the panther (Sebastion Cabot) and sent to be raised by a group of wolves that had a litter of pups. Many years later, Mowgli is all grown up and now the target of a man eating Tiger by the name of Shere Khan, who happens to be voiced by the amazingly talented George Sanders (you might remember him as the smooth talking scoundrel in “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”). It seems that Shere Khan wants to kill the boy based on the fact that he’s a human and fears what may happen if the boy ever grows up becomes a hunter.
So, whisking him away to a man village, Bagheera is given the task of looking over the boy as they try and get him to safety. Along the way they meet the jungle bum bear, Baloo (Phil Harris) and encounter obstacles from every directions, whether that be Mowgli’s own desire to stay in the jungle, a group of singing monkeys who want Mowgli as a template for their own “humanity” and very hungry snake named Kaa. All of this leads to the inevitable meeting between the young man cub and the vicious Shere Khan where the man cub must decide whether to stand his ground or run for the hills.
“The Jungle Book” is a fantastic trip down memory lane and has been a classic in my household for quite some time and I’ve owned just about every version on home video for the last 25 years. It’s been about 8 or 9 years since I had seen it last and I wanted to see just how well the film holds up from my younger years. While it’s definitely light and airy, it’s got a sense of fun and adventure that makes you want to tap your toes to the music and sing along with every catchy tune. For a kids adventure film, it’s one of Disney’s milder ones, but there are some morality lessons still in there for the adults as well. As I get older I see the underlying themes of love and doing what’s best for a person, whether or not that person stays with you. Baloo and Bagheera love the little tyke, and would LOVE to see him stay in the jungle with them, but reality can be a different thing all together. Part of love, is doing what’s best for the other person, even if that means losing something dear to you in the process.
The book is scads more in depth with the characters and many characters are actually changed for the film, but the basic story is there and the film makers rolled with the punches and polished them up to be pure and unadulterated Disney fun. Phil Harris is perfect as the bumbling jungle bum, Baloo and George Sanders classic rich and deep voice resonates as the snobbish, yet cruel Shere Khan, giving the film it’s darker tone. The only character I never liked in the movie was Kaa, the snake. There’s a sense of danger with him always trying to eat Mowgli, but his character in the book was so incredibly well done as a neutral character that the bumbling Kaa loses some of its luster when compared to the original.
Rated G for General Audiences
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=14352[/img]“The Jungle Book” is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.75:1 with a nice 1080p AVC encode and I must say I am physically relieved to see that there has been minimal, if any, tinkering done to the video ala “Oliver and Company”, or “The Sword in the Stone”. The beautiful pastel watercolor backgrounds are luscious and shine with soft color, and offset by the primary oranges and greens of the jungle foreground. Black levels are clean and deep as can be, with some good shadow detail. The fine detail itself is fantastic, showing off each individual pen stroke that creates the characters of the jungle. My only real complaint is that there is some sporadic ringing around the characters, creating halos if you look closely. Luckily it’s only sporadic and not every scene, has them, but it’s noticeable. There doesn’t appear to be any major compression artifacts besides the occasional issue of color banding. Overall a nice image with some mild flaws.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=14353[/img]The audio rests right in that “good” stage with the video. Given a 7.1 DTS-HD MA upgrade, the audio is still limited by its original recording channels. The audio is definitely more front loaded with the surrounds lighting up mostly in the songs and end battle scenes. There’s a few ambient jungle noises to play around with, but the vocals and the rest of the sounds tend to stay in the front three speakers. Dialogue is clean and crisp though, with no major issues to report there and well balanced with the effects. The LFE channel is used a surprising amount considering, and gives us some nice thumb during the songs and the battle with Shere Khan. Very pleasing all around it does the job well and the only real downsides are really just the way it was recorded.
• Disney Animation: Sparkling Creativity
• Bear-E-Oke - Sing Along
• Recently Discovered Alternate Ending
• Music, Memories and Mowgli
• I Wanna Be Like You - Hanging out at Disney's Animal Kingdom
• Special Introductions
• Disneypedia: Junglemania
• Deleted Scene
• Audio Commentary
• Backstage Disney
With solid audio and video with some impressive extras, “The Jungle Book” is a definite recommendation from myself. Filled with great musical numbers and a lighthearted feel, it’s still a romp for everyone, giving you a chance to relax from a long day and tap your toes to every song and grin as you enjoy the antics of Phil Harris and crew. While it’s not the best of the Disney best, it still has earned its status as one of Disney’s more memorable films and is just plain FUN. With the lack of digital tinkering this one becomes a must buy.
Starring: Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, Louis Prima
Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman
Written by: Larry Clemmons, Ralph Wright
Aspect Ratio: 1.75:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, English DD Mono, Spanish, French DD 5.1
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Runtime: 78 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: January 14th, 2013
Buy The Jungle Book Diamond Edition Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Check It Out
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