THE JUNGLE BOOK
Review by Michael Jacobson
Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, George Sanders, Sterling Holloway, Louis
Prima Anamorphic Widescreen
October 2, 2007
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Studio: Walt Disney
Features: See Review
Length: 78 Minutes
Anamorphic Widescreen 1.75:1
October 2, 2007
"Look for the
bare necessities, that's why a bear can rest at ease,
"Look for the bare necessities, that's why a bear can rest at ease,
just the bare necessities of life!"
When The Jungle Book was
in pre-production, Walt Disney strolled into his studio one day with Phil Harris
by his side. He informed his staff
that here was the exact voice he wanted for the character of Baloo, the bear.
Harris was a popular night club singer and comic, who had
made a few television appearances, but was mostly known for his often humorous
and delightful songs. The trouble
was, the animators didn’t know what to make of him.
And Harris himself was equally unsure about performing a voice for an
When asked to record Baloo’s entrance, the results were
somewhat poor, according to all that were there. The script had called for Baloo to come on screen crooning, a
la Sinatra or Crosby. And it just
wasn’t working. The animators
didn’t want to tell Walt he was wrong, but it was clear they were losing
patience. Finally, Harris
apologized, and said that the style of the character just didn’t suit him at
all. Finally, more out of
desperation than anything else, the team asked Harris how he
would make his entrance.
After a pause, a big smile came to his face, and he broke
into the now classic, “Well it’s a do-ba-dee-do, I mean a do-ba-dee-do…”
Soon, the animators were smiling as well.
Just like that…they had a character.
And once again, Walt Disney proved that his instincts were right amidst
Sadly, The Jungle
Book was the last Disney animated feature to be completed under Walt’s
supervision before his death. But
the studio would go on, and this film would serve as a fitting memorial to one
of cinema’s most acclaimed magicians.
The Jungle Book always
reminds me of that old Muppet Show joke: “Do you like Kipling?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never kippled.”
That pretty much sums up the spirit of the Disney film.
It’s not Rudyard Kipling for purists, but it is a tale told with a
sense of humor and fun, and should be a picture to delight just about anyone.
Especially those who…well, have never “kippled”.
Mowgli is a human boy who was raised by wolves in the
jungle. This is the only life
he’s ever known, and he’s perfectly content with it.
However, the threat of the most ominous villain in their world, Shere
Khan the tiger. He has a particular
hatred for Homo sapiens, and the wolf pack cannot protect him any longer.
He must return to the man village, accompanied by Bagheera the panther.
It won’t be an easy journey—particularly considering
the kid doesn’t want to go. He
doesn’t know why he should be afraid of a tiger.
(It’s a sensibility we all had at that age.
I didn’t know why I shouldn’t touch the flat part of an iron.
I learned the hard way). To
complicate matters is the appearance of the free spirited Baloo, who takes a
leisurely and no-worries approach to life that appeals to young Mowgli.
Some lessons will naturally have to be learned along the way.
In addition to the often spirited comedy, this film boasts
a fun array of musical numbers, not the least of which is the Oscar nominated
“The Bare Necessities”. There’s
also the lively “I Wanna Be Like You” and the slitheringly silly snake song,
“Trust In Me”.
But it’s the voices really help make the picture, and
this is a terrific cast, featuring Sebastian Cabot as Bagheera, Louis Prima as
the monkey king, the wonderful Sterling Holloway as Kaa, and the inimitable
George Sanders as Shere Khan. But
make no mistake, it is the winning, laid back, humorous charm of Phil Harris as
Baloo that really stands apart.
Getting back to Harris, there is a second part to that story I mentioned. He was eventually invited to a test screening of a few early rough segments, where he could finally see how Baloo would look on screen, acting to the sound of his voice. Upon viewing them for the first time, Harris turned to the animators in awe, and said in almost a whisper, “You guys are making me immortal.” They did…and he is.
BONUS TRIVIA: Chad Stuart of the group Chad and Jeremy was one of the vultures, while the venerable Clint Howard was the voice of the baby elephant!
This is a beautiful looking transfer from Disney, and in anamorphic widescreen at last! Considering many jungle scenes were rendered with a more limited palate of colors, mostly greens and earth tones, this is a surprisingly colorful discs, with many subtle shades and textures. Darker scenes look just as pretty as brighter ones, and throughout, images are sharp and clear.
May I just say, I'm a big fan of Disney's Enhanced Home Theatre mixes? The Jungle Book sounds more lively than ever in 5.1...dynamic, crisp, clear, and ambient. The songs sound better than ever with a little extra subwoofer effect to give them kick. The original stereo soundtrack is also included for purists.
This Platinum Edition is quite loaded...two discs' worth of goodies. The first disc has a commentary track that features star Bruce Reitherman (Mowgli), composer Robert Sherman, and animator Andreas Deja, which has some classic vintage clips edited in for good measure. There's also 7 deleted musical numbers, including a demo for "The Bare Necessities", a storyboard-based deleted scene with the lost character Rocky the Rhino, a look at Disney's wildlife conservation efforts, and a Jonas Brothers music video for "I Wan'na Be Like You".
The second disc features five featurettes, including an all new making-of documentary, which has plenty of interviews including vintage ones with Phil Harris and Wolfgang Reitherman. For the kids, there's Baloo's virtual jungle cruise containing four interactive games, plus art galleries. The menu screens are all well-done to boot!
The Jungle Book is a lively, colorful, funny and musical animated feature from Disney, the last that would be made under Walt’s personal supervision. It’s a bit of a stretch from the original Rudyard Kipling stories, but that aside, it’s still a fun filled romp with terrific songs and delightful characters, and one that is sure to be enjoyed time and time again, especially with this Platinum Edition that offers fans much more than the bare necessities.