There is no shortage of anniversaries for the Walt Disney Company to mark, and since The Jungle Book came out in 1967, a 40th anniversary edition DVD is now available. The movie is insubstantial, but well-crafted and appealing to children. Longtime fans will be pleased by the collection of special features in this two-disc set.
- audio commentary
- games for kids
The Jungle Book was inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s book of the same name, which includes stories about Mowgli, the boy who was raised by wolves in a jungle in India. According to the DVD’s bonus features, Kipling’s stories were dark and serious. The original story treatment, which was closer to the tone of the book, was discarded in favor of a new story which was emphasized characters over plot. The result is much more Disney than Kipling.
Mowgli, the man-cub, has lived with the wolves for ten years. But now the man-eating, man-hating tiger Shere Khan has returned to the jungle. The wolves decide that their foster son would be safer in the man village. Mowgli doesn’t want to go, so Bagheera, the panther who rescued the infant boy from a wrecked canoe, offers to take him back.
The plot, in a nutshell, follows Mowgli’s journey back to his own kind. There are many detours which involve a series of encounters with an assortment of wacky, and sometimes scary, jungle inhabitants. Baloo the Bear (voiced by Phil Harris who ad-libbed much of his dialogue), practically steals the movie.
The film’s great appeal, mentioned repeatedly in the bonus features, is the characters and their interactions with one another. In the making-of documentary, an animator who worked on later Disney productions, tells of his amazement that a pile of drawings could be so expressive and alive.
As usual, many of the bonus features pile on the love for Disney (both the man and the company), but they have substance as well. The audio commentary features Bruce Reitherman (the voice of Mowgli and son of director Wolfgang Reitherman), composer Richard Sherman and animator Andreas Deja (a Disney animator who did not work on this movie), as well as some archival interviews with others who worked on the movie. They spend much of the commentary complimenting the on-screen action. Reitherman and Sherman tell a few inside stories, while Deja provides some insight on the challenges of animation.
Disc one includes a deleted scene which never got past the storyboard stage and 21 minutes of deleted songs, which were written for the original story treatment. It also has a three-minute plug for the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund.
Disc two is divided into two sections: Man Village and Jungle Fun. Man Village is for anyone interested in the making of the movie. The Bare Necessities: The Making of The Jungle Book is a 46-minute look at every aspect of the movie’s production. It’s full of praise for everyone who worked on the movie (including Walt Disney, who died during production), but it has enough of the nitty gritty details to be interesting.
Disney’s Kipling: Walt’s Magic Touch on a Literary Classic compares Kipling’s stories and the two story treatments done by the studio. Many storyboard images from the first story treatment are included. In The Lure of the Jungle Book, younger animators, including Pixar’s Brad Bird, talk about how the movie inspired them. As with other Disney DVDs, there are extensive art galleries.
The Jungle Fun section on disc two has two games intended for young children. DisneyPedia: Junglemania! is 14 minutes of stock footage with factoids about wild animals found in Indian jungles.
Picture and Sound
According to the back of the box, this DVD has a new digital restoration. The picture is almost flawless, but not completely. In a scene with closeups of Baloo, horizontal stripes were visible in his coat. This digital noise was noticeable on a high definition television, but not on a smaller regular tv or on a computer screen. Though the original theatrical soundtrack was in mono, the sound was recorded in stereo. The DVD has the option of listening to the restored original soundtrack or Disney’s enhanced home theater mix. The surround sound wasn’t very noticeable, but overall the movie sounded just fine.
How to Use This DVD
After watching the movie, adult fans should take a look at the behind-the-scenes features on both discs (the deleted songs can be skipped through quickly). If they hold your interest, keep watching. The commentary track is for serious fans only. Whether the games on disc two are any fun is something your kids will have to figure out for themselves.