The Jungle Book Diamond Edition Blu-Ray/DVD: review

The Jungle Book

It’s the most basic of economic theories (and one of only a handful I remember from my economics courses), and the one Disney is basing its home-video release strategy: supply and demand.

Every few years, Disney releases (more like re-releases) its tentpoles and classics on home video only to put them back in its “vault” after a few months for about a decade – then re-release them in whatever format is in vogue at the time. They seem to get more expensive with every release, but I digress. The latest movie to get this treatment is 1967’s The Jungle Book, the last movie on which Walt Disney overlooked production before his death. It’s directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, the same man entrusted with other Disney classics 101 DalmatiansRobin HoodThe Aristocats and The Sword in the Stone, and it’s available for a limited time in a “Diamond Edition” starting today (Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014).

If you missed the “Platinum Edition” Jungle Book release of 2007, this Diamond edition (what Disney calls these Blu-Ray/DVD combo-pack releases) should be available for at least a year. As far as the set’s artwork goes, it leaves a bit to be desired. The Jungle Book‘s isn’t as nice as previous Diamond editions, particularly The Little Mermaid and Peter Pan. It should also be noted that the special features advertised on the box are all on the Blu-Ray disc and only a few show up on the DVD (you can watch a deleted scene with a character called Rocky the Rhino in storyboard form and there’s a short documentary about the animals featured in the movie).

Other special features include a karaoke/sing-along version of the movie and an alternate ending (like the Rocky the Rhino deleted scene, in storyboard form). The Blu-Ray version is about as crisp as The Jungle Book will ever look, itself a gorgeously hand-drawn animated film that may look outdated to viewers used to computer animation.

The Jungle Book is about a boy, Mowgli, raised by wolves in an Indian jungle on his adventure to join human civilization after his friends, a black panther named Bagheera and Baloo, a bear, tell him it’s time for him to be with his own kind. The film took liberties in its adaptation from the Rudyard Kipling stories as Walt Disney instructed the team behind The Jungle Book to ditch the stories’ darkness for a more fun and less dramatic narrative. It’s a shame, because the best scenes in The Jungle Book are ones in which the villains – Shere Khan, a tiger who wants to kill him because that’ll make one fewer evil human, and a snake named Kaa who wants to eat him – threaten Mowgli. Many people will cite “The Bare Necessities,” the cheery, happy tune that is a precursor to “Hakuna Matata” and an Academy Award nominee for Best Original Song, as the best of the movie, but that honour should go to “Trust In Me,” the song Kaa sings to Mowgli to hypnotize him that is the best. It’s Kaa at his scariest and most predatory. (Full disclosure: I always liked the villains in Disney movies more than the heroes; they had so much more depth and were more fun to watch. This Huffington Post article ranking Disney villains says Kaa is Shere Khan’s sidekick and it almost *almost* led me to post my first-ever Internet comment or write to Ariana about this lapse in journalism and research.)

The Jungle Book

As a movie, The Jungle Book is a little disjointed. It feels like a series of vignettes designed to deliver laughs and songs and though it does accomplish that, the overall narrative suffers for it.

The Jungle Book Diamond Edition Blu-Ray/DVD is in stores and online Tuesday, Feb. 11. A DVD-only version will also be available, but there will not be a Blu-Ray-only version. The next Disney movie getting the Diamond treatment will be Sleeping Beauty in October 2014, which will probably coincide with the Maleficent home-video release.

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