The Film (5/5)
There were a handful of Disney VHS tapes that got frequent play through my childhood VCR, and The Jungle Book was one of them. I was frequently caught between viewings of Walt Disney's swansong (he died before the release of the film), and viewings of Tale Spin a show which worked as a semi-sequel of the Disney work during my childhood afternoons, that I was surprised to realize that I did not own a copy of the film on DVD, and thus had not seen the films since my childhood VHS watching days, which in turns means my children had not seen the film.
This needed to change, and it did with Disney's Diamond Edition Blu-ray release of the Jungle Book. It should be said that a film like the Jungle Book can easily be scrutinized for it's narrative issues, and other decisions that were made by Disney due to a rough production process by an adult film critic, unless that critic decides to view the film through the lens of nostalgia. I, thus, decided not to view it through any nostalgic viewpoint, in which it would still have earned a score of 5 easily, but watched it with my children in tow, and gauge their reactions and my own as well. I have noticed that certain films that I enjoyed in my younger years work better on them than others, and the Jungle Book worked exceptionally well drawing my young son in from the very first moments, and keeping his attention throughout.
The film tells the tale of Mowgli, who as a baby was discovered in a basket by Bagheera. Bagheera takes the boy to the wolf Mother, who decides to raise him as one of her own. The film then picks up roughly 10 years later, it is discovered the evil Bengal tiger Shere Khan has returned to that part of the jungle, and has heard of the boy, and wants to make him his dinner. The wolf Mother and Bagheera decide the safest action to take is to get Mowgli to the man village with Bagheera as an escort, however, Mowgli is reluctant to leave the jungle as he views himself as more animal than man. The duo, however, leave and eventually team up with the bear Baloo to get Mowgli through the jungle landscape while avoiding villains, and dangers, and meeting up with a series of quirky characters.
The Jungle Book when viewed through adult vision can be viewed as a simple narrative that uses Mowgli as a standin tour guide to show as Disney's version of Kipling's jungle word. It works to string together various fun, scary, and swinging bits that Disney have come up to entertain a family audience, and to this day it works extremely well. Everything from the wonderful line animation, to the quirky character designs to the irresistibly catchy music makes Disney's version of the Jungle Book an absolute master work of family cinema. Yes, there are issues with the films narrative structure from a technical standpoint, there are moments that feel out of place in the overall whole of the film, and yet when watched with a child's eye fixed on the film the film entertains, and does so extremely well, and isn't that the point?
OK, so we all know by this point that Disney's restoration work has been hit or miss the last couple of years. I'd have to put Jungle Book much more in the hit than the miss category, as it looks quite good to my eyes although the transfer is not altogether natural looking. The transfer is presented in a 1:75:1 aspect ratio in a 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The colors are bright, and beautiful, and detail including line detail looks excellent. However, a good amount of DNR appears to have been applied, as there does not appear to be a trace of grain anywhere on the transfer.
The audio is a DTS-HD MA 7.1 track. The track sounds quite excellent, and dialogue, music, and effects come through nice and sharply. I did not detect any instances of pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
First off the Jungle Book Blu-ray appears to retain all of the DVD features in a section specifically labeled Classic DVD features. We then get new features exclusive to the Blu-ray including an alternate ending called Mowgli and the Hunter. We also get a 10 minute HD interview with composer Richard Sherman, who wrote some of the catchy tunes for the film. We get an 18 minute behind the scenes of Disney's Animal Kingdom amusement park, and a 9 minute tour of one of Disney's animation facilities. Also a Bear-E-Oke sing along of the films iconic tunes.
Disney brings the Jungle Book to Blu-ray in style, the film with reservations looks better than ever before, and the extras are overwhelming. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.