Although it’s number 19 in a lengthy list of Disney features, The Jungle Book was actually the last film to get the personal stamp of Walt Disney himself. The animator and innovator was supposedly very involved with the production, mainly due to the disappointing response received for 1963’s The Sword in the Stone. Alas, he would never see all of his work come to the big screen. Disney died from lung cancer just 10 months before The Jungle Book was released in October 1967.
Despite Disney’s involvement, it has taken 47 years for the film to get one of the studio’s coveted “Diamond Edition” releases. Thankfully, that oversight has now been rectified. Not to worry, though; The Jungle Book: Diamond Edition Blu-ray goes way beyond the “Bear Necessities,” with a fully restored high-definition image and a slew of new extras.
Based on Rudyard Kipling’s much darker book, the film follows the tale of Mowgli, a boy who is orphaned in the jungle and raised by wolves. When the “Man-Cub” turns 10, the pack learns that Mowgli has become the prime target of Shere Khan, a man-eating Bengal tiger. Fearing his safety, the group decides that Mowgli must return to the “Man-Village.” En route, Mowgli does his best to stay in the jungle, all while encountering a variety of characters. The most notable of the bunch is Baloo, a lovable bear, who promises to take care of Mowgli and teach him about the “Bear Necessities” of life.
It really is surprising how long it has taken to get The Jungle Book on Blu-ray. Besides being the final movie that Disney produced, it has some of the studio’s catchiest songs, including the aforementioned “Bare Necessities” and “I Want to Be Like You.” It was also one of the first to include famous voices—although they may not seem all that famous to the next (or current!) generation of viewers. That lineup includes Phil Harris as Balloo, Sebastian Cabot as Bagheera, Louis Prima as King Louie, and a very young Clint Howard as Junior, Colonel Hathi’s son.
The Jungle Book: Diamond Edition is available on DVD and Blu-ray. Both releases pick up all of the special features from the 2007 DVD release, most notably “The Bare Necessities” making-of featurette and a short on “Disney’s Kipling.”
The Blu-ray also has a few newer items, all which are not available on the regular DVD. Those bonuses include separate (but short) film introductions by the late Diane Disney Miller and songwriter Richard M. Sherman, as well as an alternate ending, a peek at what’s going on inside Disney Animation , and a plug for Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
There’s also the incredibly short, but interesting featurette, “Music, Memories, & Mowgli,” which has Miller and Sherman talking with Disney Legend and animator Floyd Norman. Also worth noting is the addition of “Bear-E-Oke,” an on-screen sing-a-along option that can be viewed as one short or via Disney Intermission, a feature that can trigger all of those songs when the movie is paused.
As with many of Disney’s “Diamond Edition” releases, this one has restored audio and video—and that’s not just some marketing spiel. The Blu-ray’s image is clean, but sometimes a bit too much. It doesn’t have that grainy, film-like quality you see in a lot of Blu-rays, but it’s pretty gorgeous nonetheless. The colors are lush and the flicker that you’d typically see with older films is completely gone. It also has a wonderful DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, which helps some of the songs and action really pop.
The Jungle Book is far from my favorite Disney film, but it is a Disney film—and one that the entire family will really enjoy. The themes and songs have aged really well, with the Blu-ray giving the image and audio a boost that’s worthy of sharing with a new generation.
GeekMom received this item for review purposes.