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Toon Talk: Jungle Book 40th Anniversary Platinum Edition Disney DVD
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by Kirby C. Holt
The Jungle Book
40th Anniversary Platinum Edition Disney DVD
MPAA Rating: G
Historically, The Jungle Book marks the last animated feature to have Walt Disney’s personal touch. When it was released a year after his death, it also became the Studios’ last major blockbuster until nearly two decades later. And it is, of course, one of the most beloved animated films of all time.
Featuring a host of memorable characters and a delightfully catchy batch of songs, Jungle Book also remains a touchstone in personality animation. As mentioned repeatedly by the contemporary animators interviewed on this recent Platinum Edition DVD release (in stores now), the film was highly influential to scores of artists in the industry today. This 40th anniversary two-discer is a fitting testament to that legacy, boasting a restored print and enhanced sound.
Loosely based on the “Mowgli books” by Rudyard Kipling, Disney’s The Jungle Book has become the definitive version of those stories. Due in large part to the audience pleasing humor and pathos injected into what was originally a rather grim story, Disney’s take has stood the test of time, and its success led to further forays into exotic adventure tales, such as Aladdin, The Lion King and Tarzan.
The new DVD release includes a jungle-full of in depth bonus features, including a look at the “lost character”, Rocky the Rhino. A “half blind and extremely dumb” Mr. Magoo type, Rocky was originally part of the vulture scene at the end of the picture, and even sang along with them to a very Beatles-esque “That’s What Friends Are For” (as opposed to the very Americanized barber shop quartet version heard in the final film). The rhino was eventually dropped from the movie when Walt felt it didn’t need another manic presence.
Elsewhere in the first disc’s bonuses are a new music video for “I Wanna Be Like You” performed by Disney’s “next big thing”, the boy band the Jonas Brothers (while I’ll stick to the Los Lobos cover, Zac Efron better watch his back), as well as a “Disney Song Selection” with optional onscreen lyrics. And for a hint of what the original, more straightforward take on the tale would have sounded like, six unused songs by Terry Gilkyson are included (audio only), plus an alternate recording of Gilkyson’s one number that survived. That would be “The Bare Necessities”, which was nominated for an Oscar and became the movie’s most well known song.
Rounding out disc one is an optional audio commentary provided by co-songwriter Richard Sherman, self-proclaimed “biggest Jungle Book fan” Andreas Deja and Bruce Reitherman, son of director Wolfgang Reitherman and the voice of Mowgli. I was actually quite impressed with Reitherman’s contributions to the discussion; he sure knows what he’s talking about for someone whose involvement in animated films was limited to his childhood. The commentary also features archival audio clips from the elder Reitherman and animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson, who together animated 50% of the movie.