The Jungle Book appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.75:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though much of the film looked positive, some issues came along for the ride.
Like many Disney animated offerings, Jungle Book scrubbed away grain. Usually these transfers do so fairly well, but in this instance, the noise reduction went a bit too far, and detail could suffer.
That said, sharpness was usually good. Some softness occasionally interfered with wide shots, but the majority of the movie came across as accurate and well-defined, even if some fine detail got lost along the way. I noticed no shimmering, jaggies or edge enhancement, and the film came free from source defects.
Colors pleased. The jungle setting offered a good selection of natural tones that the disc reproduced in a satisfying and vivid manner. Blacks were dark and dense, and shadow detail was reasonable. This was a more than watchable presentation, but the “scrubbed” nature of the image left it as a “B-“.
The Jungle Book offered reasonably nice DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio. What was originally a monaural soundtrack has been remixed into a passable surround piece, with unspectacular but decent results.
In truth, the audio remained largely monaural. Some stereo effects appeared from time to time, as I heard an occasional voice emit from a side speaker, and thunder rumbled in a nice manner.
The surround channels occasionally kicked to life as well, but they didn’t get a lot of room to shine. Moments like thunder and the elephants’ footsteps did the most to boost the rear channels.
The music offered the best quality in this mix. The score itself seemed surprisingly bright and clear, with some nice depth as well - note the bass guitar that accompanied the vultures.
Strangely, the music sounded slightly thinner and less vivid when it appeared in the form of actual songs. These still seemed good but not as rich as the score itself.
Dialogue appeared clear and relatively natural, though lines could be a bit flat, and effects also were fairly realistic. The audio won't dazzle you, but it's good for a film from this period.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2007 “40th Anniversary” DVD? Audio was a little warmer, but not a lot, as the source material held back the soundtrack’s potential.
Visuals demonstrated some added pep. The Blu-ray was tighter and more dynamic than the DVD. Though it came with its own issues, the Blu-ray did improve on the DVD.
The Blu-ray mixes old and new extras, and we begin with an audio commentary from actor/director’s son Bruce Reitherman, composer Richard M. Sherman, animator Andreas Deja, director Wolfgang “Woolie” Reitherman, animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, and writer Larry Clemmons. Note that Bruce Reitherman, Sherman and Deja were recorded together for this commentary, while the others come from archival sources. The disc’s producers edit all this together, so the parts with Sherman et al. are screen-specific but the others aren’t.
The track looks at story and character issues, cast and performances, music and songs, animation techniques and styles, the (non)adaptation of the novel, working with Walt Disney, and a few other production issues. At its start, the commentary proves unimpressive. We get lots of praise and not a lot of insights.
Happily, matters improve before too long – around the time we hear about the initial “dark” take on the story and Walt’s directives to make it lighter. From there we get better information about the different aspects of the production.
Bruce gives us interesting comments about his performance, while Deja manages to provide some historical and technical perspective for the animation; he didn’t work on the movie, but he knows his Disney history. We still find more happy talk than I’d like, but the commentary improves and becomes quite stimulating. Overall, the track provides a nice examination of the flick.
One Deleted Scene appears. It looks at a “lost character” called “Rocky the Rhino” and runs six minutes, 36 seconds. It uses narration, storyboards and archival audio to show where Rocky would have appeared in the film and what he would’ve done.
We also hear a “British Invasion” version of the vultures’ song. I like this portion of the disc, as it gives us a cool look at an alternate possibility for the flick.
Next comes a music video for “I Wan’na Be Like You”. This accompanies a modern rock version of the tune played by Jonas Brothers. The video mixes some movie clips with a lip-synch performance by the band. It’s a pretty lousy affair in all ways.
After this we find a documentary called The Bare Necessities: The Making of The Jungle Book. This 46-minute, 27-second show mixes movie clips, archival elements, and interviews.
We hear from Sherman, Woolie Reitherman, Deja, Clemmons, Bruce Reitherman, Johnston, Thomas, animators Glen Keane, Will Finn, Milt Kahl (from 1984), Eric Goldberg, Marc Davis (from 1985) and James Baxter, author/film historian Brian Sibley, writers Ken Anderson (from 1983) and Vance Gerry (from 1985), story artist Floyd Norman, animation historians John Canemaker and John Culhane, filmmaker Ted Thomas, author Neal Gabler, director Brad Bird, composer Robert Sherman, story artist Burny Mattinson, and actors Phil Harris (from 1983), Chad Stuart, and Clint Howard.
“Bare” examines Walt’s impact on the production and the work of story man Bill Peet. We learn of the film’s story development, its characters and their design, notes about some of the filmmakers and their special talents, the voice cast, score and songs, Disney’s death and what it did to the studio, and the film’s reception.
Like many programs of this sort, we get more praise than I’d like; that side of things gives the show a less objective tone. It also repeats some info from the commentary, though not as much as I’d fear.
Instead, “Bare” provides a pretty strong examination of the film’s creation. We get useful details about the various aspects of the flick in this enjoyable piece.
For a look at the source material, we head to the 15-minute, one-second Disney’s Kipling: Walt’s Magic Touch on a Literary Classic. It depicts the differences among three versions of Jungle Book: Kipling’s original book, Bill Peet’s initial adaptation, and the final version. This doesn’t offer a complete compare/contrast examination of the different renditions, but it highlights the biggest variations and provides a satisfying look at the subject.
Next comes The Lure of The Jungle Book, a nine-minute, 28-second featurette with notes from Deja, Finn, Bird, Canemaker, Ted Thomas, Keane, Goldberg, Baxter, and animator Sergio Pablos. An appreciation for Jungle Book, the animators discuss what the film meant to them as kids and how it impacted on their choice of career. They also offer a general appraisal for its charms.
Obviously this means a lot of the praise I usually disdain, but in this context, I don’t mind the happy talk. The personal nature of the program makes those aspects acceptable. It’s nice to find out how the flick affected modern animators and to hear their thoughts about the work found in the picture.
Mowgli’s Return to the Wild goes for five minutes, nine seconds and presents remarks from Bruce Reitherman as he talks about his work as a nature filmmaker. This relates tangentially to Book since we learn a little about his relationship with his dad. Those are the best parts, as the bits about Bruce’s work are less involving.
Called Frank & Ollie, the last featurette runs three minutes, 46 seconds. Here animators Thomas and Johnston as they discuss how to do character animation of anthropomorphic animals. Despite the clip’s brevity, it’s quite informative. The two animators pack a lot of valuable insights into their brief chat.
Another feature with siblings on other movies, we get an entry in the DisneyPedia line. Oriented toward little ones, this 14-minute, 21-second program teaches about various animals featured in Book. It’s a light but reasonably informative view that should be fun for kids.
The remaining extras are new to the Blu-ray.
These let us view how this different conclusion would’ve worked. The existing ending isn’t great, but I prefer it to this laborious, drawn-out finale.
By the way, does it mark me as old that I’ve never heard of Blake and G – and I also never heard of their series, Dog With a Blog?
“Creativity” looks at ways Disney tries to foster new ideas. This offers a few glimpses of the subject matter, but like many Disney reels, this one feels more self-serving than informative.
What does the Blu-ray lose from the 40th Anniversary DVD? It drops deleted songs, galleries, and games. I don’t mind the absence of the games, but it’s too bad the Blu-ray doesn’t port over the songs and the artwork,