The Jungle Book: Diamond Edition [Blu-Ray]
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Original Release Date: October 18, 1967
Cast: Bruce Reitherman, Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, Louis Prima, George Sanders, Sterling Holloway
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
Studio: Walt Disney Productions
Distributor: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Genre(s): Kids, Family, Animated
I grew up on classic Disney movies. This was back before the Pixar days and before technology changed the look and feel of animated movies as a whole. Most of the movies I watched growing up came out long before I was born because so many of the others we know and love today were still being released. I was born the year Oliver and Company came out and the Lion King is the first movie I remember seeing in theatres. I existed before Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, the Lion King, Pocahantos, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, and Mulan. Thankfully my parents were great about making sure we had all that they could get on VHS. (Even back then the Disney vault was toying with our hearts and the only reason I ever saw Lady and the Tramp was because a friend’s family had it bootlegged on VHS.)
The Jungle Book was one of those movies I grew up with and I remember really liking it. Though, after re-watching it over the weekend for the first time in what has to be well over a decade, I was surprised at how much I had forgotten about what happened in the movie. It was almost like discovering a classic all over again. The parts I remembered best were the songs and even then only the ones that wound up in the Disney sing-along videos my two much younger sisters watched growing up.
If you haven’t seen then Jungle Book all ready then you really need to watch it. Seriously. I mean, it’s a classic, a must-watch, and pretty much a perfect example of Disney movies.
Whether you’re a new fan or an old fan, the Diamond edition blu-ray release is pretty much the perfect version of this classic to pick up.
I was fortunate enough to get a copy early and I have had a lot of fun exploring the special features this past weekend. Now I’m a sucker for blu-ray releases because I love all the little added bits.
Here’s what I enjoyed most of the Jungle Book‘s special features.
Though the Jungle Book runs a good 108 minutes the movie could have been much longer and much darker if the alternate ending included in the blu-ray special features had been added. Granted, the original version of the movie as a whole was meant to be a bit darker and closer to the original Rudyard Kipling story. After discovering the original ending scripts tucked away in the Disney archives the company decided to call on one of their animators to produce a storyboard showing how things could have ended. Instead of ending with Mowgli meeting the girl and following her into the village, Mowgli encountered a hunter outside the village walls who nearly shot Bagheera and then him. In this extended ending we see quite a bit of Mowgli after returning to the village where he’s reunited with his parents, struggling to fit in, and constantly at odds with the surly hunter that nearly shot him. He even returns to the jungle – taking fire with him – and the whole scene hints a bit more at the conflict between man and nature seen in the book. Though, of course, it ends on a high note with all of Mowgli’s issues resolved.
This was probably the coolest added feature on the Diamond Edition blu-ray. I love missing and deleted scenes in bonus features and this was really cool to see. They really are the best way to see how a movie changes and evolves over time and the Jungle Book would have been a much different – and longer – film had this ending been used instead.
Included in this release is ‘Bare-E-Oke’ – essentially a kareoke version of five of the songs from the movie. They are narrated by Baloo who introduces each of the songs in turn. You can sing along with the characters to “Trust in Me,” “I Wan’na Be Like You,” “The Bare Necessities,” “Colonel Hathi’s March,” and “That’s What Friends Are For.” Except they aren’t just the scenes from the movie themselves. They are specially animated sequences blending the original animation with new backgrounds, scenes, words, and more.
Check out “That’s What Friends Are For” below.
The only downside? These videos play automatically in place of the movie simply pausing. I didn’t know that was a feature until recently when I watched Wreck-It Ralph. When I first paused the movie it played through “Colonel Hathi’s March” which was fine because I had already seen it in the movie. But the next song was “Trust In Me” which I hadn’t seen and didn’t remember. So that sort of ruined the “surprise.” Luckily you can turn them off through the main menu so it’s not that big of a deal. You just need to remember to do it!
Music, Movies, and Mowgli
Okay, so, I thought that this was a cute little feature. Included in the blu-ray release is a short sort of conversation/reminiscence of the Jungle Book by some of the people closest to the project. One of them is Diane Disney Miller, one of Walt Disney’s daughters, who recently passed away. Another is Richard M. Sherman who developed the music for the film along side his brother. The last is Floyd Newman – a Disney legend – who worked on the project and has the distinction of being the first African American animator hired by the company. The Jungle Book was not only Walt Disney’s last major feature that he himself over saw but it was also has the reputation of being a very troubled production. It was nice to see them talking about the whole production and sort of giving an inside scoop not just to the Jungle Book but just Disney’s personal life in general. It was fun to watch and even my roommate – who is a total history buff and actually hasn’t ever seen the Jungle Book – thought it was really interesting.
@DisneyAnimation: Sparking Creativity
Not necessarily the Jungle Book centered, ‘Sparking Creativity’ is a feature that takes you behind the scenes with Disney animators. ‘Spark’ is a program founded in 2010. The artists all get together to start pitching random ideas to one another. These might be characters, stories, animation techniques and more. The person who comes up with the idea lets the studio know what they need to make their ideas a reality. And then they have a period of time to make it happen with as many resources as Disney can provide.
It was really cool to look behind the scenes. And they showed a lot of awesome stuff. One of the coolest things they showed was a short, fake teaser trailer for an imaginary film called ‘Pet’ that brought to life some really awesome concept art through CGI. It later came to help inspire the look for Paperman. They even showed how they made the magic and snow work in Frozen by using a motion capture technique that came out of some ideas from the Spark program.
The program itself just seems awesome. It’s great to know that there are companies out there doing such awesome things to bring people and ideas together and to the forefront. If ‘Spark’ hadn’t ever existed and grown into the Spark Showcase you have to imagine some of the awesome things we’re seeing from Disney now and that we’ll see in the near future that may never have been tried. I mean, just look at Frozen. It’s crazy to think what that film may have been without the effects they were able to develop and use for it. And it was all because of this program.
Rocky the Rhino
Okay, so, I never had the DVD version of the movie and while I reviewed the blu-ray specific extra features here I did want to give this DVD feature (all of which are included on the blu-ray) a shout out because I thought it was really interesting. Officially cut in 1966, Rocky the Rhino was a character who spent the better part of a year in development with a nearly completed scene, cast voice actor, and more. He was meant to be a half-witted antagonist placed right before the vultures’ song towards the end. Except Rocky was cut and the original vultures’ song – which was apparently meant to be a rock song in the style of the Beatles and other British Invasion bands – was drastically altered. The cool thing, though, is that they recreate both scenes through storyboards and they even produce audio recordings of the original song. So it’s definitely work checking out. Also, if you watched the alternate ending before the Rocky the Rhino scene the inclusion of the rhinoceros will make a whole lot more sense after this!
So, while the other stuff was cool, Backstage Disney – one of the ‘classic DVD’ features – was essentially a treasure trove of awesome. I feel like pretty sure anything you would want to know about the film you can find in here. There are a handful of short features explaining just how the film came to be but my favorite is probably the first one: Walt’s Lasting Impressions. I just really enjoyed seeing the people who had worked with Disney speaking so well of him and getting so animated in their description of his whole storytelling process. I don’t know why but I feel like it makes the movie even impactful knowing just how much the people who worked on it put into the whole production
The features I listed are just the ones I enjoyed the most. There are other really cool features on the Jungle Book blu-ray. One is I Wan’na Be Like You which is a neat little look at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Disneypedia: Jungemania! is a fifteen minute short giving real facts about the animals appearing in the film. There’s also an audio commentary included as well as an option to listen to the individal songs. (I mean, there’s also a Jonas Brothers music video, too, but we’re long past the JoBro days.)
I just made a post about joining the Disney Movie Club so it’s probably obvious what my opinion on this film and buying the blu-ray version is going to be. Do it. Buy all the Disney blu-rays. Do it before they go back in the vault! Seriously, though, before we got our review copy in the mail I had actually already pre-ordered this release. That’s how much I wanted it. I had no idea about the added features – I just knew it was going to be amazing and I knew I needed to have it. And I’ve watched it three times since I did get it. So if you’re looking for something to bring home to the family for a family movie night or just looking to revel in some childhood nostalgia you really can’t pick a better release. (Until Frozen comes out next month, of course.)