Since he was a baby, Mowgli has been raised by wolves in the Indian jungle. When the local animals hear that the fierce tiger, Shere Khan, is nearby, they decide Mowgli must be sent back to his own kind. However panther Bagheera has trouble getting him there, as Mowgli doesn’t want to go, which isn’t helped when he meets carefree bear, Baloo.
It wins nearly every poll of people’s favourite Disney film, so it’s a good job that for its first appearance on Blu-ray, the movie has been given a really great HD transfer, which is pin sharp and has virtually no noise. Indeed it’s impressive what can be done with these older animated movie, as while nearly every other film from before about 1980 has obvious signs of degradation, Disney has managed to ensure their films look as good as the day they were made.
Even those who saw The Jungle Book in post-1967 theatrical re-releases won’t have seen it quite like this, with a picture quality that’s pretty much perfect even on a big home-ent. screen. Indeed, it’s so good you can really appreciate the artistry involved, as you can see the individual brush strokes.
While it’s undoubtedly a rather episodic movie, that not really a problem as every episode is a classic. From Mowgli getting hypnotised by Kaa and learning about the ‘Bare Necessities’ with Baloo, to King Louie wanting man’s fire and the confrontation with Shere Khan, it’s one great piece of entertainment after another. In fact this episodic nature is probably why it’s remained a kid’s favourite for so long, as it always ensures there’s plenty going on. The songs shouldn’t be forgotten either, from the aforementioned ‘Bare Necessities’ to the classic ‘I Want To Be Like You’.
Admittedly there are some rather old-fashioned ideas included in the film. While pretty much every modern animated movie is about learning to be true to yourself, The Jungle Book is essentially about learning to listen to authority and that you should try to fit in with your own kind whether you want to or not.
There’s also the song sung by the little girl at the end, about how she’s hoping to grow up so that she can do the cooking and send her daughter out to get the water. It’s definitely from a different time, but you shouldn’t worry about showing it to your kids, as they’ll just realise that while bears may seem exciting, you should really listen to black panthers.
The disc includes all the special features from the 2007 2-disc DVD release (which are well worth watching), along with a few new additions. ‘I Wan’na Be Like You: Hangin’ Out At Disney’s Animal Kingdom’ is essentially an advert for the Disney theme park, featuring two annoying teenagers being allowed behind the scenes to meet the animals.
The Alternate Ending is rather cool. It’s a newly storyboarded and re-enacted look at what could have been the end of the film. It’s radically different and would have completely changed the tone of the entire movie. It sees Mowgli reaching the man-village earlier in the story and returning to the jungle in warrior, slightly colonialist mode.
Fans of Classic Disney will love the ‘Growing Up With Nine Old Men’ documentary. Disney’s Nine Old Men are a core group of legendary animators who worked on most of the company’s movies from Snow White up to The Rescuers. They are legends, although sadly all are now deceased (the last of them, Ollie Johnston, passed away in 2008). The film features interviews with the children of the men, who talk about their childhoods, what their parents were like and their memories of Disney back then. It’s a fascinating documentary for those interested in the studio.
Overall Verdict: A family masterpiece in every way, which will make you wish you were raised in the jungle. It’s looking amazing on Blu-ray too.
2007 DVD Features: ‘Lost Character: Rocky the Rhino’ Featurette, ‘Sherman Brothers Legacy’ Featurette, ‘Baloo’s Swinging Jungle Cruise’ Interactive Game, Unused Songs, Audio Commentary With Current Disney Animators And Original Creative Team, ‘The Making of The Jungle Book’ Documentary, ‘Disney’s Kipling: Walt’s Magic Touch on a Literary Classic’ Featurette, ‘The Lure of The Jungle Book’ Featurette, ‘Mowgli Returns to the Wild’, Games and Activities
Reviewer: Tim Isaac