With all the attention Disney is paying to the Blu-ray Disc format (hello, Magical Blu-ray Tour), it’d be easy to think the company would forget about the DVD format. But while there’s no denying Disney’s investment in the Blu-ray format, the company is still standing staunchly behind its DVD releases, as evidenced by the Jungle Book 40th Anniversary Platinum Edition DVD, which boasts one of the best bonus-feature lineups in recent animated memory and has gorgeous picture quality to boot.
The Jungle Book is one of Disney’s most famous animated features, both for its status as the last film Walt Disney himself oversaw and for its get-in-your-head-and-stay-there song “Bare Necessities.” The story itself, in fact, is relatively pedestrian, as it follows the story of a human (Mowgli) who is raised in the forest and has various encounters with a lovable bear (Baloo), a monkey king (Louie), a fierce tiger (Shere Khan) and a python (Kaa), among other creatures. All along the way, Mowgli learns about how to live his life “the right way,” but by most narrative standards, the plot meanders and is more quaint than quality.
However, there’s always been something special about The Jungle Book and its animation style, and the film’s 40th anniversary provided Disney a great excuse to pull out all the punches for this two-disk Platinum Edition. As the tenth disk in Disney’s Platinum Edition set, The Jungle Book certainly feels like Disney has hit its stride with these DVD releases. For starters, the film is presented in its original 1.75:1 ratio, the first such time this has happened for a home release, and the color transfer is simply gorgeous due to the producers’ decision to scan the original negatives to produce this DVD. The audio is also given the digital treatment, with full 5.1 support, as is the original Dolby Digital Mono track, for those A/V purists who want to listen to the original audio as they watch the original aspect ratio.
But the biggest and most pleasant treat of this two-disk set is the sheer number of bonus features. The first disk features a full Audio Commentary that covers a lot of nostalgia and information related to both the production and the studio’s interpretation of Kipling’s classic. This behind-the-scenes insight continues with The Lost Character: Rocky the Rhino (6:35), which provides background on a character that was ultimately axed from the final production in spite of having been fully developed and conceptualized. Considering the work that went into Rocky, viewers can’t help but wonder how this movie known for its music would’ve fared with yet another musical character in the mix.
Following that “songs” theme, three more bonus features round out Disk One: I Wanna Be Like You (2:45), a music video performed by the Jonas Brothers (no, no relation); a Disney Song Selection (12:13) that lets viewers sing along with the film’s songs via on-screen lyrics; and Deleted Songs (21:00), an audio-only presentation of seven songs that, like our dear friend Rocky the Rhino, never saw the light of day until this two-disk DVD set.
Disk Two, however, is where the bonus features really take off. The disk is highlighted by two featurettes in particular, a five-part The Bare Necessities: The Making of The Jungle Book (46:23) documentary the includes interviews with people about both the movie and Walt Disney’s personal oversight, and Frank & Ollie (3:45), a brief but incredible archived interview with Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, two classic Disney animators (part of the “Nine Old Men”) who personally animated most of the film. Viewers who aren’t all that into animation may not appreciate the second featurette as much as this reviewer, but for those of us who have Disney animation cels on our walls, the interview is a true gem.
Disney’s Kipling (15:01), the second-longest bonus on Disk Two, delves into how Disney took Kipling’s classic Mowgli tales and turned them into his own story that is arguably better known in many circles than the source material. DisneyPedia: Junglemania (14:19) is another hefty feature, as it uses its entire length to both entertain young viewers while teaching them about various jungle animals. Considering the majority of consumers who buy this set will be doing so for their children, this feature is both a “must watch” and a welcome addition, if for no other reason than it will have the kids talking about animals at times rather than humming the “Bare Necessities” song over and over. The Lure of the Jungle Book (9:27) also teaches a thing or two, but it does so about the way The Jungle Book influenced current animators and inspired some to either enter animation or adjust their animation techniques based on “Frank and Ollie’s” approach.
Considering there are still a few additional (albeit minor) featurettes on Disk Two, it’s clear than Disney has pulled out all the stops for this two-disk set. Much ado has been made about the storage capacity of Blu-ray Discs, but with a veritable archive of bonuses on this standard DVD set, it’s clear that the DVD format, at least where Disney is concerned, is far from dead. The Jungle Book Platinum Edition is both a welcome addition to Disney’s Platinum series and a refreshing reminder than for all the “high def wars” going on in the marketplace, all we really need is the “bare necessities” of a DVD player and TV to experience the magic of classic animation.
- Overall: 9
— Jonas Allen