DVD Review – ‘The Jungle Book’ 40th Anniversary Platinum Edition

The latest Disney Platinum Edition is a jungle of fun.
By Blake
Originally posted October 14, 2007.
Well, it’s that time of year again. Last Tuesday, October 2, Disney fans across the country fled to the nearest DVD store to get Disney’s annual deluxe, royal treatment-given DVD. Yup – it was Platinum Tuesday!
Twice each year (in March and in October), Walt Disney Home Entertainment releases one of their most beloved animated features on DVD, each volume beautifully restored to original brilliance and jam packed with supplemental features. Disney dubs these titles “Platinum Editions”, and they’re quite something. Most are provided with extensive in-depth backstage looks at how these magnificent films were made, though some are clearly shoving every sort of promotional device to the film’s franchise right in our faces. Thankfully, the latest Platinum installment, 1967’s The Jungle Book, falls into the category of the former, as it delivers everything fans could ever want: wonderful digital restoration and multiple making-of featurettes, as well as a few tossed-in games.
The Jungle Book was the 19th motion picture in the Walt Disney animated feature canon, and was the last to receive personal instruction from Walt Disney, as he died in December 1966, (8 months before the movie was released). The movie is loosely based on 19th century novels in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book series, and tells the story of Mowgli, a human boy, who grows up in the care of jungle animals and is forced to choose between two worlds when he learns that he belongs in the nearby “man village”. And this choice won’t be so easy, as although Mowgli has dear friends in the jungle, including the laid back & care free bear Baloo and the protective panther Bagheera, he also has enemies who are prowling around every corner, including the sinus-infected snake Kaa, the sneaky & beat-loving monkey King Louie, a prowling band of vultures, and of course the predator tiger Shere Khan.
The Jungle Book’s animation style involves soft, vague backgrounds and dignified, sharp characters in the foreground. It sports excellent use of the Multiplane Camera, as the setting looks stunningly fantasized and come to life with the dimensions the Camera provides.
The characters in the film also have a brilliantly stunning life and realism in them, especially the way in which they move. Their weight moves with them across the screen when they dance; you can actually FEEL them moving. When Baloo scratches his back up against a tree in sync with the rhythm of “The Bare Necessities,” the audience can fully feel the bear’s relaxation. It’s so real, it’s almost impossible to think how the animators working on the film accomplished such a feat. No longer did characters carry stillness when they moved or were in action, they were capable of shifting and progressing themselves and the audience moves right along with them. If there’s anything majorly different that sets The Jungle Book apart from other Disney animated films, it’s the characters’ movement compelled onto the screen.

The songs are also on par with the Disney legacy, as to be expected from Richard & Robert Sherman, who before The Jungle Book had also worked on Mary Poppins and Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (and later went on to compose songs for The Aristocats, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, the non-Disney Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Disney theme park attractions Carrousel of Progress, it’s a small world, and Journey Into Imagination).
The movie also sports a familiar voice cast to Disney fans. Baloo is voiced by Phil Harris (who was also Thomas O’Malley in The Aristocats), Bagheera is Sebastian Cabot (the narrator in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh), Mowgli is Bruce Reitherman (Christopher Robin in Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree); Kaa is Sterling Holloway (Pooh in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, and Mr. Stork in Dumbo); Hathi, Jr. is Clint Howard (Roo in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh). Rounding out the other characters that don’t include Disney vets include Louis Prima as King Louie, George Sanders as Shere Khan, and J. Pat O’Malley as Colonel Hathi.
Released only once before on DVD (with no bonus material whatsoever) in 1999, the 40th Anniversary Platinum Edition delivers a plethora of bonus material, much worth the wait.
Disc One opens with the usual option of whether to use Disney’s Fastplay, a VCR-like feature that allows all material on the disc to be played consecutively without touching your remote control. I personally prefer going directly to the main menu, though, where animated submenus are abundant.
Usually Disney DVD menus consist of some background music with maybe a few animated aspects onscreen, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that some of Pixar’s work has rubbed off on Disney, as the menus have a rotational loop of the film’s highlights on the main menu, with characters dancing & moving on the submenus. As you move your remote control to each selection on the main menu, the icon next to your selection is highlighted (a feature I DETEST on DVDs, due to you not being able to tell which on is highlighted and which is not, though works well in this case), and on each of the submenus, a red paw print appears next to the selection you’re making (I like this way much better).
The digital restoration of the film is fantastic, as it adds sharpness and more dignified color choices to the film, but still keeps that classic “feel” of most of the Disney 60’s and 70’s animated features.
Bonus features on disc one include “The Lost Character: Rocky the Rhino”, a fascinating look into a character that never made it into the film. A promo for Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund advises viewers to donate to Disney’s animal protection efforts. A new Jonas Brothers music video “rocks out” one of The Jungle Book’s best songs, “I Wan’na Be Like You” in an odd and bizarrely strange setting. Deleted songs offer a neat look into songs that never made it into the film, but gets a little boring after a while (as the songs are audio only – no storyboard or concept art are offered). Finally, there’s Disney Song Selection, an option offering all the songs in the movie to be played consequently with the lyrics on the bottom of the screen. The last bonus feature on Disc One is also the most worthwhile, the newly created Audio Commentary. The insight on the commentary is provided by Richard Sherman (one of the movie’s song writers), Andreas Déjà (a current Disney animator), and Bruce Reitherman (the voice of Mowgli and also the son of the movie’s director, Wolfgang Reitherman). Although this might seem like a pretty random bunch, between the three of them we’re provided with plenty inside looks into pretty much all aspects of the film. Sherman speaks of what went into creating the movie’s songs and score, Reitherman remembers the production of the film from the perspective of a voice actor, and Déjà provides a secondary source (he didn’t actually work on the film) of the animators’ jobs in the film. Thankfully, Disney pulled a slick move on this particular commentary by having all its contributors (with the exception of snippets of archival footage from the film’s ancient animators and directors) being all in the same room together while recording their commentary. It wasn’t choppy like some commentaries are (where none of its contributors are together in the same room) and provided very insightful information on the making of the movie. We even learn that the tune to the song “Trust in Me” was originally supposed to be featured for “Feed the Birds” in Mary Poppins. The Audio Commentary provides a feast of other interesting concepts about the film, and is definitely worth checking out.
As we wrap up Disc One’s bonus features, we move on to Disc One’s other menu, Sneak Peaks. Disney is known for jamming lots of previews for upcoming products on their DVDs, and The Jungle Book is no exception. We’re shown here commercials for Return to Never Land (on DVD Nov. 27), The Aristocats Special Edition DVD (release date not specified), High School Musical 2 (on DVD Dec. 11), The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (on DVD Nov. 20), the Adventures by Disney program, Enchanted (in theatres Nov. 21), Meet the Robinsons (on DVD Oct. 20), Ratatouille (on DVD Nov. 6), and the Disney Movie Rewards program. Oddly enough, we’re not shown a preview for the next Platinum Title (expected to be 101 Dalmatians), as that has been a staple on every Platinum release and it certainly is odd that we’re not shown a commercial for it here.
Disc Two

Disc Two is divided into two sections: Backstage Disney and Games & Activities. Under Backstage Disney, there is a 45-minute documentary that delves into the making of the film. It’s a nice addition, but most of its contributors are people who didn’t even work on the film, but instead are feeding us secondary stories about how the movie was made.
Also in Backstage Disney is “The Lure of the Jungle Book”, an interesting feature (and also the highlight of the disc, to me) showing how current Disney animators were influenced by The Jungle Book while animating modern Disney movies.
“Disney’s Kipling” is a look at how Walt Disney transformed the book story to the screen story.
“Frank and Ollie” is a retrospect honoring two legendary animators who basically drew 50% of The Jungle Book themselves.
Lastly, there’s an art gallery, and ever-intriguing look at concept art and early sketches of the movie.

The Games & Activities section of Disc Two could be easily discarded from the DVD, as all its contents are mediocre to say the least. “Baloo’s Swingin’ Virtual Jungle Cruise” is a set of impossible and pointless games that I couldn’t exactly figure out, so I can imagine how difficult they would be to its elementary-aged target audience.

“Fun with Language Games” is a series of games aimed at 5-6 year-olds learning to read, as they show a word on screen and the player chooses the picture that matches the word. Two of these games are DVD-ROM only, though they wouldn’t play even when I inserted the disc into my computer. Go figure.
The other addition to Games & Activities is also the most worthwhile, “Disney Pedia”, which delves into the film’s real-life animal counterparts.
Wrapping It Up
The Jungle Book 40th Anniversary Platinum Edition is certainly a welcome addition to any Disney fans’ library, and is an obvious must-buy if it isn’t already part of your collection. Its master storytelling and amazing animation highlight the film’s exceptional value, and its recent restoration makes the movie even more spectacular. The DVD’s bonus features are satisfactory, but nothing more: the audio commentary and the making-of documentary are the high points, but the cheesy games can be easily defenestrated. Otherwise, this is a no-brainer. Surely The Jungle Book, the last film to EVER be supervised personally by Walt Disney, has a spot awaiting it on your DVD shelf.
How do I rank The Jungle Book 40th Anniversary Platinum Edition? (Bolded is my choice.)
Very good movie + Very good bonus features =
  • Utterly repulsive
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

The Jungle Book 40th Anniversary Platinum Edition will most likely please: Disney Fans – Kids (ages 5-8) – Older Folks

By Blake; originally posted October 14, 2007. All images (C) Disney.

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