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Dustin Putman

Dustin's Blu-ray Review
The Jungle Book  (1967)
Reviewed by Dustin Putman

The Film
3 Stars
(Release Date: February 11, 2014) – Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, "The Jungle Book" was Disney's 19th animated feature and the final one made during Walt's lifetime (the studio head passed away from lung cancer at the age of 65, ten months prior to its release). If not one of the company's best films, it is easy to see why it has continued to win new fans, young and old, through the ensuing generations. Very liberally based on the 1894 novel by Rudyard Kipling, the story tells of an abandoned human infant found by nurturing black panther Bagheera (voiced by Sebastian Cabot) in the jungles of India. The boy, Mowgli (Bruce Reitherman), is happily raised in the wilds, taken under the furry wing of Baloo the Bear (Phil Harris). Bagheera, however, knows that the jungle is no place for a Homo sapien to grow up and must find a way to return Mowgli to the nearby man village.

Watching the 78-minute "The Jungle Book" for the first time since I was a kid was an eye-opening experience. When you get right down to it, the film is about two men (a bear and a panther) fighting over a human "cub." Female characters are almost entirely absent and, when one shows up at the end, Baloo the Bear comments that "they are nothin' but trouble." As for the old, effeminate tiger villain, Shere Khan (George Sanders), he is ultimately cast out of the jungle while on fire—literally flaming. The gay subtext runs rampant throughout the film—a whole book could very well be written on this subject alone—and actually improves "The Jungle Book" as a whole. Viewed strictly as a family movie, the music is exceedingly toe-tapping (particularly "The Bare Necessities" and "I Wan'na Be Like You") and the characters entertaining, but the story is slim and the outcome feels a little rushed and artificially happy. It's still a terrific picture, though, right down to the slithery, manipulative Kaa the Snake, voiced by the original Winnie the Pooh himself, Sterling Holloway.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

Militant purists are going to have their misgivings about the 1080p video transfer of "The Jungle Book" because it is not overcome with the natural grain of the film stock and animation cells. In freshening the film up, Disney has remastered the picture and used a bit of DNR to polish the image, but in no way, shape or form have they compromised the dignity of its aesthetic. By this reviewer's eye, "The Jungle Book" is close to a revelation, bursting with splendiferous colors and a lovely texture to its watercolor-inspired backgrounds. A slight smudging of character hair is noticeable, though it is tough to say whether this is a flaw or inherent to the source. Either way, it is negligible. This is a winning upgrade over the standard-def DVD, a showcase for newfound details and the pure beauty of hand-drawn animation. Audio-wise, a DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio track has been included. There are no overt issues to be had—the movie sounds great, particularly the music—except to suggest that a 7.1 track is unnecessary here and almost entirely front-centric. The original audio is 1.0 Mono, so there is only so much that could be done with it anyway. Nevertheless, this track lends the picture a full-bodied aural presentation.

Blu-ray Features
Audio Commentary with songwriter Richard Sherman, actor Bruce Reitherman (Mowgli), and artist Andreas Deja; Special Introductions with Diane Disney Miller and Richard Sherman (2:00, HD); "The Bare Necessities: The Making of 'The Jungle Book'" (46: 27, SD); Featurettes: "Disney's Kipling: Walt's Magical Touch on a Literary Classic" (15:01, SD), "The Lure of 'The Jungle Book'" (9:28, SD), "Mowgli's Return to the Wild" (5:09, SD), "Frank & Ollie: Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnson Discuss Character Animation" (3:46, SD), "Deleted Scene: The Lost Character - Rocky the Rhino" (6:36, SD), "Disneypedia: Junglemania!" (14:21, SD), "@DisneyAnimation: Sparking Creativity" (9:14, HD), "Music, Memories, and Mowgli: A Conversation with Diane Disney Miller, Richard M. Sherman and Floyd Norman" (9:49, SD), "I Wan'na Be Like You: Hangin' Out at Disney's Animal Kingdom" (18:25, HD); "Bear-E-Oke Sing-Along" (12:47, HD); Music Video: "I Wan'na Be Like You" by The Jonas Brothers (2:51, SD); Alternate Ending: Mowgli and the Hunter (8:46, HD)

Bottom Line
Looking and sounding like a million bucks (or more) and full of exhaustive bonus content new and vintage, the Blu-ray release of "The Jungle Book" is a must-own for anyone who loves animation, the Walt Disney studio, or film in general. Put all together, it is quite an impressive package that deserves a place in any viewer's collection.

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© 2014 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman