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The Jungle Book: Diamond Edition Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

The Jungle Book (1967) movie poster The Jungle Book

Theatrical Release: October 18, 1967 / Running Time: 78 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Wolfgang Reitherman / Writers: Larry Clemmons, Ralph Wright, Ken Anderson, Vance Gerry (story); Rudyard Kipling (Mowgli stories)

Voice Cast: Phil Harris (Baloo the Bear), Sebastian Cabot (Bagheera the Panther), Louis Prima (King Louie of the Apes), George Sanders (Shere Khan the Tiger), Sterling Holloway (Kaa the Snake), J. Pat O'Malley (Colonel Hathi the Elephant), Bruce Reitherman (Mowgli the Man Cub), Verna Felton (Winifred Hathi the Elephant), Clint Howard (Junior Hathi the Elephant), Chad Stuart (Flaps the Vulture), Lord Tim Hudson (Dizzie the Vulture), John Abbott (Akela the Wolf), Ben Wright (Father Wolf), Darleen Carr (The Girl)

Songs: "Colonel Hathi's March", "The Bare Necessities", "I Wan'na Be Like You", "Trust in Me", "That's What Friends Are For", "My Own Home"

Buy The Jungle Book from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy • New DVD • 2007 Platinum Edition DVD • 1999 Limited Issue DVD • Instant Video

Under Walt Disney, feature animation tended to pull from one of three sources: centuries-old fairy tales (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty), small stories that otherwise would have gone largely unnoticed (Dumbo, Lady and the Tramp), and literature old and revered enough to be considered classics. The lattermost group consisted primarily of English works published in the 19th century
or early 1900s. The class produced films like Alice in Wonderland, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, and The Jungle Book.

Released to theaters in the fall of 1967, The Jungle Book was the Disney studio's first major release following Walt's December 1966 death and is regarded the last animated film to strongly bear his creative imprint. Not as strongly as the earliest animated features, which at the time were all that occupied Walt. By the 1960s, a film like The Jungle Book had to compete with live-action films, the weekly anthology television series, and the always evolving theme park for Walt's attentions.

Still, animation was a cornerstone of the company and of Walt's entertainment empire. Each effort took several years to develop and realize. They would typically then proceed to gross more than a number of quickly and inexpensively-produced live-action films put together. Today, Disney and the general public seem to have forgotten the vast majority of these live-action productions, even those quite successful in their day, like That Darn Cat!, Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. and The Absent-Minded Professor. Meanwhile, The Jungle Book, embraced by generations of children via theatrical reissues and home video, reaches Blu-ray tomorrow to considerable fanfare and sales numbers that new blockbusters would envy.

Baloo the bear teaches man cub Mowgli about the bare necessities in Disney's 1967 animated classic "The Jungle Book."

Adapted from two 1890s collections of stories by Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book tells the story of "man cub" Mowgli and the animals of the Indian jungle who look after him. The wolf pack that raised Mowgli decides to let him go his own way. The sympathetic panther Bagheera takes the boy away and offers him safety from less noble creatures, like the hypnotic snake Kaa.

The biggest source of danger to Mowgli is Shere Khan, a tiger who hates mankind and will not stand to let the harmless youth grow into a feared hunter. Bagheera's pal, the bear Baloo, also takes a turn watching Mowgli, giving serious thought to adopting him as his son and raising him as a bear. But that's not to be, with Shere Khan returning and other threats like fire-obsessed orangutan King Louie looming.

In stature, The Jungle Book ranks among Disney's most respected animated films, just below Walt's sacrosanct first five films and, with a few exceptions, above everything else. Not until the Renaissance that The Little Mermaid is credited with starting at the end of 1980s did any of the division's films produce as much passion. Though such films from the Michael Eisner era are now a great deal more popular, The Jungle Book still numbers among them, its position among the studio's crown jewels never in doubt even back when the Platinum Edition line was reserved for just ten bestsellers.

Kaa the snake uses his psychedelic eyes to casts a trance on young Mowgli. Man-hating tiger Shere Khan keeps his ears and eyes alert.

The Jungle Book is a film of significant artistic and entertainment value. For children of the '60s and '70s, there was no other animated film as widely seen. For that matter, few live-action films had the kind of impact of The Jungle Book,
whose reported original gross of $74 million (the equivalent of a staggering $469 million today) towers over other '60s hits that won their years, like Cleopatra, Lawrence of Arabia, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The only other Disney film that decade more successful was Mary Poppins.

Reflecting its source material, Jungle Book is a highly episodic film, but that design does nothing to hinder its greatness. The colorful cast is one of Disney's deepest and most diverse. Instead of just different kinds of dogs and cats, we get an assortment of personalities of all shapes, sizes, and moral codes. There are Beatle-like vultures and elephants who march like soldiers. Their bold contrasts in hue, movement and motivation add up to an atmosphere that's rich and unpredictable. Rather than just one larger than life villain, there are different levels of antagonism, some of them downright ambiguous.

As in the best of Disney animated features, there's also great music, including a couple of cinema's all-time finest songs. Most of the tunes are the work of brothers Richard and Robert Sherman, who had already cemented their place in cinema history on Mary Poppins, the most extensive of their many contributions to Disney's films. Arguably the best number and the one nominated for the Academy Award is the only one the Shermans didn't write. Though dancing around an obvious play on words, "The Bare Necessities" by folk singer and lyricist Terry Gilkyson endures as the film's comforting anthem. As catchy is King Louie's "I Wan'na Be Like You", a lively number allowing voice actors Louis Prima (King Louie) and Phil Harris (Baloo) to engage in a scat-off for the ages.

One of nine Limited Issue titles with which Disney jumped half-heartedly into DVD in the fall of 1999, The Jungle Book had to wait all the way until October 2007 to get a two-disc DVD worthy of it. Though Disney had already begun pushing Blu-ray then, the format has eluded Jungle Book until now, as it hits stores tomorrow in a Diamond Edition consisting of one Blu-ray and one DVD. That this release occurs in February and not the more heavily-advertised, robust-selling early October slot suggests that the film is no longer as marketable as Disney's biggest princess movies or The Lion King. Still, it's clearly a bigger draw than most of the studio's animal-driven films and its Diamond Edition designation thankfully ensures you needn't buy its subpar sequel (which is getting its own Blu-ray combo pack next month) to own this classic.

NOTE: The presentation of both the Blu-ray and new DVD attaches a new 21st century computer-animated Disney logo to the film... but only its end. The opening logo is the original Buena Vista distribution card.

The Jungle Book: Diamond Edition Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.75:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 7.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby 1.0 (Portuguese); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English); Both: Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish), Dolby Mono 1.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; BD only: English, Portuguese
DVD Closed Captioned; Most Extras Subtitled
Release Date: February 11, 2014 / Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as new DVD ($29.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video Previous DVDs: 2-Disc Platinum Edition (October 2, 2007) and Limited Issue (December 7, 1999)


I was a bit troubled by The Jungle Book's 1.75:1 Platinum Edition DVD aspect ratio. Back in 1967, Disney's press book instructed exhibitors to show the film in 1.75:1, so it's not as if the studio goofed up the DVD.
But the picture felt too cramped in certain shots and was achieved by simply matting the 1.33:1 full frame presentation of its VHS releases and first DVD. The Diamond Edition Blu-ray and new DVD uphold that tight framing, nonetheless, though I only found it suspect at a few moments utilizing the top or bottom of the frame.

Aside from those minor framing concerns, the Blu-ray's presentation is nearly flawless. There's amazing detail in the painted backgrounds and in the at times pencilly foreground animation. The colors are so rich and vibrant that it's easy to forget this is a nearly 50-year-old film. While one suspects that years of outdoor living might have dirtied or faded Mowgli's loincloth, we don't get the sense that the Blu-ray restoration has gone too far or betrayed how the movie originally looked in theaters. Unlike some of last year's disappointing transfers (of lesser animated titles), very few frames lack sharp focus here.

The Blu-ray's sound is also commendable. The default 7.1 DTS-HD master audio remix is tasteful and full-bodied without overreaching or tinkering with the elements. Those elements, from George Bruns' Adventurelandy score to the recordings of the distinguished cast to those joyous songs, all remain true to form while sounding crisper and clearer than ever before. Nonetheless, purists can also make use of a Dolby Digital 1.0 track more faithfully recreating the monaural theatrical experience.

Longtime Disney artist Floyd Norman and Diane Disney Miller join Richard Sherman for a new chat in "Music, Memories & Mowgli." Newly storyboarded alternate ending "Mowgli and the Hunter" introduces additional human characters.


The Blu-ray's new HD extras begin outside the Bonus Features menu with your choice of two introductions to precede playback of the film. From The Walt Disney Family Museum, Walt's daughter Diane Disney Miller (1:04) acknowledges the makers.
From the streets of Disney studio, Richard M. Sherman (0:30) gives a more cursory welcome. Oddly, you've got to pick one intro or the other, so you may choice to watch one then return to the menu and then watch the other.

"Music, Memories & Mowgli: A Conversation with Richard M. Sherman, Diane Disney Miller and Floyd Norman" (9:49) gathers the three of them at The Walt Disney Family Museum to share their memories of the last animated production Walt was deeply involved in, then move to the Animation Research Library to look at some concept art. Sadly, this may be the last we see of Disney Miller, who passed away in December.

Next comes "Mowgli and the Hunter" (8:46), an alternate ending newly storyboarded from unearthed material by Disney story artist Raymond Persi. He takes us through this different way of concluding the film. It's not great and doesn't hold a light to the film's actual ending, but there's naturally some interest in what could have been.

Watch a clip from "Music, Memories & Mowgli":

Teenagers act super excited behind the scenes of Disney's Animal Kingdom. King Louie's "I Wan'na Be Like You" is one of five songs given the "Bear-e-oke" lyrics treatment.

"I Wan'na Be Like You: Hangin' Out at Disney's Animal Kingdom" (18:25) only slightly differs from the shameless promotion it sounds like. Teenagers Blake and G get their run of Walt Disney World's youngest park, but not the parts open to the public. Instead, they're treated to behind-the-scenes stops like the Animal Nutrition Center, putting out food for the animals, making a papier-mβchι ball for tigers' play, and an up close view of a singing parrot. It's not often interesting and doesn't really make you want to visit the park, but some clips and talk aim to tie this in to The Jungle Book.

"Bear-e-Oke Sing Along" (12:47) brings Disney's favorite 2013 Blu-ray feature into 2014 (and reveals how easy it is to retitle it to suit the film). It treats five of the film's songs -- "Trust in Me", "I Wan'na Be Like You", "The Bare Necessities", "Colonel Hathi's March", and "That's What Friends Are For" -- to videos presenting their lyrics in creative, stylish fashion. They're not as easy to sing along with, but they're much more exciting to watch, than simply the scenes from the film with plain lyric subtitles over them (which remains an option).

These same clips are also incorporated into a Disney Intermission feature. When movie playback is paused for five seconds, this on by default feature plays one of the lyric videos at random, introducing them first with a not so good Baloo vocalization (I guess John Goodman has been busy...). Chances are the Intermission will drive you crazy but not crazy enough to deactivate it from the menu. Seems like the disc should require you to press a button to enter that mode instead of just assuming you'd prefer it to a paused film image.

Stephanie Morse is among those living the dream @DisneyAnimation. Songwriter Richard Sherman is the one constant presence in Jungle Book bonus features, appearing in this 2007 documentary and newer extras too.

"@DisneyAnimation: Sparking Creativity" (9:14) reveals that a featurette on The Little Mermaid's Blu-ray last fall was actually the start of a series. Disney employees, especially the young, photogenic and personable ones, discuss how the studio's Spark program encourages ideas and tries to make them happen, with a few successful results demonstrated.
It's not as enjoyable as the first installment and doesn't even pretend to relate to The Jungle Book in any way. Still, it's nice to get a taste of working at the place that many dream of.

We then come to Classic DVD Bonus Features, which despite being released in 2007, well after Disney started loving Blu-ray, all remain in standard definition and in 1.33:1 (some of it's letterboxed within, meaning it's now windowboxed on 16:9 screens).

The bulk of the recycled extras fall under the heading Backstage Disney, starting with the comprehensive 5-part retrospective documentary "The Bare Necessities: The Making of The Jungle Book" (46:27). Benefiting from widespread input of modern authorities and valuable video from the vault, this exhaustive moves through the film systematically, starting with story and proceeding to celebrate the animation, the voice cast, the music, the timing of the post-Walt release and the legacy.

"Disney's Kipling: Walt's Magic Touch on a Literary Classic" (15:01) looks at how the film evolved from Kipling's stories to Bill Peet's story treatment to the finished film, comparing conflicting aspects from each.

Eric Goldberg is among the Disney animators acknowledging "The Lure of 'The Jungle Book'" and its influence on their work. Mowgli's voice Bruce Reitherman discusses his career as a nature documentarian. Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston talk about character animation and show us how it's done.

"The Lure of The Jungle Book" (9:28) collects admiring remarks from accomplished animators who number among the film's fans. Andreas Deja, Will Finn, Eric Goldberg, Glen Keane, Brad Bird and others cite the influence of the film on their Disney work.

"Mowgli's Return to the Wild" (5:09) catches up with Bruce Reitherman, the protagonist's young voice who has gone on to document wildlife.

"Frank & Ollie: Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston Discuss Character Animation" (3:46) has the legendary animators discuss their craft as it pertains to The Jungle Book. Though no source is given, it seems to be from the late '70s or early '80s.

Cut from the film, vulture friend Rocky the Rhino lives on in a recycled bonus feature. The majestic tiger is one of several wild animals discussed in "Disneypedia: Junglemania!" The Jonas Brothers rock out with fellow young people and Jungle Book character standees in their "I Wan'na Be Like You" cover's music video.

"Deleted Scene: The Lost Character - Rocky the Rhino" (6:36) describes a friend of the vultures cut from the film,
who then participates in the demo of a discarded song.

"Disneypedia: Junglemania!" (14:21) gives us kid-oriented facts about the animals who feature in the film, including bears, elephants, snakes and tigers.

A Music & More section consists of Disney Song Selection, playing four songs with lyric subtitles over them and the chance to view the entire film that way, and the 2007 music video for the Jonas Brothers' (remember them?) "I Wan'na Be Like You" cover (2:51), which sees young people having fun with cardboard cut-outs of Jungle Book characters around Los Angeles and at the undisclosed location where the siblings are rocking out.

Finally, the DVD's audio commentary by Richard Sherman, contemporary animator Andreas Deja, director's son/voice of Mowgli Bruce Reitherman, and guest archival appearances is preserved. Here's what I wrote about it six and a half years ago: It's a spirited discussion which sounds as if it might be two separate sessions combined. All three speakers are in awe of the film and each brings a unique, relevant perspective, with anecdotes and researched information nicely complementing each other. Deja has facts and keen observations, Reitherman is clearly a well-versed animation buff, and Sherman has vivid stories to tell and a bit of piano to play. In guest archival appearances, the trio is occasionally joined by director Woolie Reitherman, animator Ollie Johnston, and writer Larry Clemmons, and others. While busy and a little over-produced, the commentary packs a lot into the relatively light runtime, rewarding all those who choose to give it a listen.

As has become the norm, Disney doesn't treat the DVD to nearly as many bonus features. Though well under dual-layered capacity, all it gets are the old "Rocky the Rhino" and "Junglemania!" features. Take that, DVD viewers! (Or don't and just hang on to the superior two-disc DVD you either already have or can purchase second-hand for a reasonable price.)

The discs open with trailers for Sleeping Beauty: Diamond Edition Blu-ray, Muppets Most Wanted, and Frozen. The menus' Sneak Peeks listing plays ads for Disney Movie Rewards, Disney Parks, Disney Store, and The Pirate Fairy, before repeating those first three. Sadly, Disney continues to withhold The Jungle Book's own marketing.


As is often the case with Disney's Blu-rays, not all of their DVD extras make the cut here. Dropped from The Jungle Book's extensive 2007 Platinum Edition DVD are an extensive art gallery, 21 minutes of demos of deleted songs, a number of set-top games, and additional "Fun with Language" games and DVD-ROM activities.

King Louie and his subjects take their turn on the DVD's main menu. Bagheera seems too accepting of the DVD's pitiful bonus features menu.


The appealing menu patches together elements for a colorful survey of the cast set to instrumental score. Unsurprisingly, this is not the disc to get Disney to finally begin authoring their Blu-rays to support bookmarks and resuming of everything.

Topped by an embossed slipcover, the standard side-snapped blue keepcase adds a Disney Movie Rewards/digital copy booklet and inserts for Disney Movie Club and Disney Parks/Worldwide Conservation Fund. Finally, there is a booklet not of the usual coupons and ads but Jungle Book-themed puzzles and activities, like Jungle Fun Facts, Mowgli's Maze, and Kaa's Word Sssssearch. It's an uncharacteristic but nice touch, though perhaps no substitute for the Platinum Edition booklets of yore.

Raised in the wild by wolves, Mowgli has a knack for imitating other jungle animals, like elephant Junior Hathi.


The Jungle Book remains one of the most enjoyable animated films of all time. Its strong characters, storytelling, music and art give it ample appeal no matter what draws you to Disney animation.

A film of this caliber is sure to get noticed on any format. The real attraction of this Blu-ray combo pack isn't the hour of new bonus features, which is quite frankly a mixed bag and too often tangential, but the dazzling new HD presentation, which improves upon the already quite stunning transfer of the film's previous DVD. Only a few of the many extras from that set fail to resurface here, an art gallery and deleted song demos more regrettable than games and language exercises. As has become the Disney Blu-ray standard, the best course of action would appear to be to get this without unloading the satisfactory DVD (that's clearly superior to the new one in extras).

Buy The Jungle Book from Amazon.com:
Diamond Edition Combo / New DVD / Platinum Edition DVD / Limited Issue DVD / Instant Video

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Disney Diamond Editions: The Little Mermaid • Peter Pan • Cinderella • Lady and the Tramp • The Lion King • Bambi
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Reviewed February 10, 2014.