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One of the last Disney animated films developed under Walt’s supervision before his passing, The Jungle Book epitomizes everything that he stood for in life. He always strived to entertain through pushing the imagination, and there is no doubt that there was no limit to the imagination on display on this film. As man-cub Mogwli makes his way through the jungle, encountering a series of talking animals and adventures along the way, the creativity of the Disney brand was in full swing. A swinging jazz based soundtrack, and lively animation and character work have helped this film stand the test of time. While it may not be set in the traditional Disney fairytale kingdom, this jungle-based tale of a young boy’s adventures with a the talking animals he encounters still retains that fantastical aura that have made these films family favorites for several decades.
Like Alice In Wonderland, the story is slightly episodic. Mowgli essentially works his way through the jungle, encountering one group of animals after another, with the occasional story overlap. Guiding him through these adventures are Bagheera, a panther, and free-spirited bear Baloo. Encountering wolves, elephants, the infamously ferocious tiger Shere Khan, Kaa the hypnotic snake, and more, this is a film with a scope beyond the confines of a typical animated film. The jungle itself is practically a supporting performer, providing an unusual backdrop for a Disney film; one in which you never know what’s just around the corner. The jungle is a wondrous and terrifying place, and this is perfectly captured in the film.
Bonus Clip: Personality and Characters
New to Blu-Ray, the Jungle Book has never looked better. Presented in Digital High-Definition, the picture is flawless and will allow old fans and children just discovering the film to lose themselves in this world that Disney created. In addition, there are several extremely entertaining bonus features. Walt’s daughter, Diane Disney, makes one of her final Blu-Ray appearances in a conversation between herself, Richard Sherman and more, where they talk about the history of the film. There is also “Bear-E-Oke” for those who want to sing along with the infectiously catchy music. One of my favorite features is a storyboard presentation of a Deleted Ending. I can absolutely see why it was cut as it takes the film beyond a perfect finale and extends the story into very dark territory. However, as part of the process, it’s fascinating to watch. They have also carried over the original extras that came from the prior DVD release, including a look at a new character and much, much more.
Overall, this is one of my favorite Disney films, based on the sheer joy inherent in every frame of the film. Combined with the jungle atmosphere, and some of the most endearing characters in the Disney catalog, this is a film that more than holds up with the best of the Disney name. While Walt never got to see the finished product, his fingerprints are all over it. This is a film he would have been very proud of, and is a worthy addition to any collection.