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    The Jungle Book (1967): Diamond Edition Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Disney

    Jan 31 2014 03:02 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    The Jungle Book is widely known as the last animated feature that Walt Disney oversaw before his death. It has delighted generations of children and their parents, contains one of the most bracing and joyous songs in the entire Disney canon, and is loaded with beautiful, intricate animation in the classic style. Truth be told, however, though it’s based on stories by Rudyard Kipling, the story fashioned for the animated version is lightened considerably from Kipling‘s tales, so if it’s Kipling you want, look elsewhere.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Disney
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.75:1
    • Audio: English 1.0 DD (Mono), English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD, Other
    • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
    • Rating: G
    • Run Time: 1 Hr. 18 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy
    • Case Type: keep case in a slipcover
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: ABC
    • Release Date: 02/11/2014
    • MSRP: $39.99

    The Production Rating: 4/5

    There really isn’t much plot here to speak of. An infant human child named Mowgli (Bruce Reitherman, son of the director) is abandoned in the jungle and raised by wolves. After he reaches the age of ten, his jungle friends decide he needs to join those of his own kind in the “man village,” a much safer place for him now that the sworn enemy of man, the fierce tiger Shere Khan (George Sanders), has arrived on the scene. So, Mowgli and his protector Bagheera the panther (Sebastian Cabot) make a long trek through the jungle in an effort for him to reach sanctuary. Along we way he meets Colonel Hati the elephant (J. Pat O’Malley) and his band, Baloo the bear (Phil Harris), King Louis the Orangutan King (Louis Prima), and the slithering serpent Raa (Sterling Holloway), among others.

    The two-time Oscar winning Sherman Brothers provide most of the song score for the film (five that made it into the finished film, all pleasant but none particularly inspired though “I Wanna Be Like You” is given some heft by Prima’s scat-infused delivery and a Beatles-inspired bunch of vultures surprisingly sing in the vein of a barbershop quartet on “That’s What Friends Are For”), but the movie’s best known number “The Bare Necessities” wasn’t written by them. Rather, songwriter Terry Gilkyson who was the original songwriter for the movie received the film’s sole Oscar nomination for his jaunty, toe-tapping tune.

    The Jungle Book was also the first time that many of the primary vocal artists in an animated Disney movie were stars in their own right. Disney animated features had always been well cast but only rarely with easily recognizable star voices. Here, apart from the voice of Mowgli, the voice talent on display was stellar, and the roles couldn’t be better or more ingratiatingly cast. Phil Harris walks away with the picture as the easy-going Baloo, Sterling Holloway hisses coyly (and coilingly) as Raa, and Sebastian Cabot grounds the film rather regally as Bagheera. And no one can do haughty and intimidating like George Sanders.

    The animation work by many of Disney’s long-time staff of animators during the Golden Age continues at a very high level in this picture. The characters are beautifully drawn, and the use of the multiplane camera to give depth and dimension to the jungle is particularly striking. Where the movie tends to drag is in the storytelling itself with the pace occasionally slowing down to a crawl (the film actually begins quite slowly, and it’s almost a quarter hour before the first tune is offered, unusual in a Disney animated musical), and there is that overriding lack of great plotting. Individual sequences and some funny sight gags in The Jungle Book are as good as in any classic Disney film, but as a whole, it isn’t in the same league as Pinocchio, Bambi, or even later achievements like Lady and the Tramp and Sleeping Beauty.

    Video Rating: 3/5 3D Rating: NA

    The film is presented at a 1.75:1 aspect ratio and is delivered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. For those who found the scrubbed look of previous releases like The Sword in the Stone problematic, there won’t be any relief from worry with this release. Grain is once again a mere memory, and the DNR applied has a deleterious effect on fine-line animation like whiskers on the animals (which seem to fade in and out if one looks closely). Motion sometimes gets affected by the processing, too, blurring certain shots strangely. Sharpness ebbs and flows as well with all the processing especially in certain shots that aren’t close-ups. Color is balanced and strong without any bleeding, and there is no banding to be seen. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix doesn’t make full use of that wide soundstage, but it certainly is the best the film as ever sounded on home video. The musical numbers find themselves spread through the available channels and occasionally some of George Bruns’ background score is also expanded beyond the front soudndstage, and there is one neat effect where a voice’s echoes bounce around the rears. But most of the dialogue has been placed in the center channel. The disc also offers the original mono mix in Dolby Digital 1.0, and despite a low bitrate sounds surprisingly good.

    Special Features: 4.5/5

    The disc features new bonus items and selected features from the previous DVD release. The new features are all in HD:

    Introductions to the Film (1:04, 0:30): the late Diane Disney Miller and songwriter Richard Sherman are each afforded an introductory comment or two. These are selected from the original menu upon pushing “play.”

    Alternate Ending (8:46): the original ending conceived for the film with its accompanying storyboards is presented – “Mowgli and the Hunter.”

    @DisneyAnimation: Sparking Creativity (9:44): a program at Disney Animation called “Spark” is described by various staff members. It’s an in-house program where staff is encouraged to come up with new ideas and innovations.

    Music, Memories, & Mowgli (9:49): songwriter Richard Sherman, staff member Floyd Norman, and Diane Disney Miller recall the making of the movie.

    Disney Intermission: comes up when the pause key is pressed during the movie. It presents five sing along renditions of songs from the film. This may be turned off in the set-up menu.

    Bear-E-Oke (12:47): the same intermission sing along program can also be selected from the menu, either individual songs or in montage.

    I Wanna Be Like You (18:25): two excited youngsters Blake and G are given a day-long behind-the-scenes look at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

    DVD Bonus Features: these are presented in SD unless otherwise noted:
    • Audio Commentary: composer Richard Sherman, artist Andreas Deja, and star Bruce Reitherman along with archived voices of the director and other important contributors to the movie contribute a lively commentary track.
    • The Bare Necessities: The Making of The Jungle Book (46:27) is a marvelous encapsulation of how the film came to be. This documentary is one of the most interesting and revealing on any of the Disney classics, not shying away from some of the turmoil that occurred behind-the-scenes before The Jungle Book made it to the screen.
    • Disney’s Kipling: Walt’s Magical Touch on a Literary Classic (15:01): a comparison between the original Kipling tale, the original Bill Peet adaptation, and Walt Disney’s own modifications to bring a lighter, more playful tone to the movie.
    • The Lure of The Jungle Book (9:28): a discussion among present-day Disney animators about how the classic animation in this film influenced their animation techniques in The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Aladdin, Tarzan, and Beauty and the Beast with clips comparing animals from the various films.
    • Mowgli’s Return to the Wild (5:09): details the present career of star Bruce Reitherman who is now a nature documentarian. His present love of and fascination with filming nature and its animals was born from his work on this movie and through the influences of his father who was the film’s director.
    • Frank & Ollie (3:46): looks to have been lifted from The Wonderful World of Color in which legendary cartoonists Ollie Johnson and Frank Thomas (who drew more than half of the movie on their own) discuss their work on bringing Mowgli and Baloo to life.
    • The Lost Character: Rocky the Rhino (6:36): a series of storyboards and audio tracks detailing this big but shy creature voiced by Frank Fontaine.
    • Disneypedia (14:21): a quick survey of the animals which appear in the film.
    • Song Selection (12:16, HD): takes the viewer directly to four song sequences in the film with optional subtitled sing along lyrics. They may also be selected separately.
    • “I Wanna Be Like You” Music Video (2:51): the Jonas Brothers deliver a raucous version of the catchy tune.

    Game Booklet: enclosed in the case for the younger members of the family.

    Promo Trailers (HD): Sleeping Beauty: Diamond Edition, Muppets Most Wanted, Frozen.

    DVD/Digital Copy: disc and code sheet enclosed in the case.

    Overall Rating: 4/5

    For many a favorite Disney feature, The Jungle Book arrives on this new Blu-ray release looking much like the most recent processed Disney animated titles. Purists won’t like it, but the average family likely won’t notice much beyond the strong colors and general clarity of the image, and the sound quality is very good.

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
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    • Mark Walker likes this


    24 Comments

    Now...bring on "101 Dalmations", the animated masterpiece that has been neglected as such by Disney ever since home video became a fact of life.

    They didn't exactly neglect Dalmatians. In fact, the region-free UK BD is stellar with plenty of extras and none of the globbiness of some of the other Xerography-era films. I was hoping this film, a huge critical and commercial hit released six years later, would be treated at least as well. If this is what the US gets eventually, you won't be disappointed.

     

    Now bring on Bedknobs and Broomsticks. If they screw that up, Disney is dead to me.

      • Mark Walker likes this

    I'm a bit confused, you acknowledge the scrubbed look of The Sword In The Stone but gave it 5/5 for it's image quality, this one isn't as bad but gets 3/5, where is the consistency with the scoring. ?

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    Mark Walker
    Jan 31 2014 05:56 PM

    Thanks for the review, Matt.  It is *very much* appreciated!

    I'm a bit confused, you acknowledge the scrubbed look of The Sword In The Stone but gave it 5/5 for it's image quality, this one isn't as bad but gets 3/5, where is the consistency with the scoring. ?

     

    First off, you're wrong: I originally gave The Sword in the Stone a 4.5/5. Secondly, after I rewatched the disc several times looking for (and finding) evidence of the DNR which I had mentioned in the review only as motion blur, I adjusted the rating downward to 3.5/5. (Check the review now if you don't believe me.) I found The Jungle Book slightly less in quality to The Sword in the Stone with more frequent loss of sharpness. Hence the 3/5.

    It's hard for me to believe we're already at the end of January...and Jungle Book is coming out in two short weeks.  How time flies!

      • Mark Walker likes this

    First off, you're wrong: I originally gave The Sword in the Stone a 4.5/5. Secondly, after I rewatched the disc several times looking for (and finding) evidence of the DNR which I had mentioned in the review only as motion blur, I adjusted the rating downward to 3.5/5. (Check the review now if you don't believe me.) I found The Jungle Book slightly less in quality to The Sword in the Stone with more frequent loss of sharpness. Hence the 3/5.

     

    I'm just glad you are now finally starting to see some issues with Disney releases, i hope other reviewers see the issues too and i hope more people call out Disney and in the future they re-release their classic animated titles with some film texture.

    I will not buy this disc. I canceled my pre-order just now and instead, I will spend the money on a very recent Criterion release supervised by a very prominent HTF member. Those pencil marks were a deliberate aesthetic decision, not something done out of cheapness or laziness, and no amount of extras can make this any less of a distortion. All the critics who criticized Disney for making their releases look too smeary and overly polished were right.

     

    A year ago, I wrote an open letter criticizing the studio's decision to jettison "alternate" cuts (some of which should have been the cuts released to theaters to begin with, but weren't) and dumping DVD extras. I ignored the over-processing issue because there were others already soundly condemning it. Now, I will join their chorus.

     

    I don't particularly enjoy pointing out things that are wrong. I do my best to try and find things that are right and celebrate them. But I do it because if I don't speak out about it, who will?

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    Charles Smith
    Feb 01 2014 06:17 AM

    Thank you, Matt.

     

    So, more utterly mind-boggling image altering disappointment  from Disney?

     

    NO SALE.

      • Lromero1396 likes this

    This is deflating beyond words. JUNGLE BOOK is one of my most treasured Disney films. The Platinum/Diamond editions have frequently used DNR, but for those releases in the past, it has always been used judiciously and with quite pleasing results. Now, I haven't seen this Blu-ray yet, but when one person who has seen it says that SWORD IN THE STONE looks better, I want to weep. I will buy this, because I buy all Disney animation Blu-rays, but if it turns out that it is as bad as indicated, I guess I will simply have to believe that this corporation (as opposed to a group of individuals who actually give a shit) has decided that 6-year-olds -- who don't care much about PQ -- are the only target audience for these releases.

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    Charles Smith
    Feb 01 2014 07:58 AM

    This is deflating beyond words ... I want to weep...

     

    I will buy this, because I buy all Disney animation Blu-rays ...

     

    ???

     

    Buying them used to be my default position, but there's no longer any justification for being a Disney completist in this way.  I got off that bus last year. 

     

    My existing older transfers will serve me just fine.  In fact, with whatever faults they themselves have, it will be a pleasure to continue viewing them in light of Disney's current practices.

      • ahollis, FoxyMulder and Lromero1396 like this

    I think that Disney is one of the only studios that seem to listen to people who write a letter or make a phone call to complain about their products. That's not to say that they've fixed every mistake and I don't think they'll release corrected transfers of The Jungle Book and Sword In The Stone but if they get enough "Quit the DNR!" feedback from consumers then upcoming discs might not suffer the same fate.

      • Lromero1396 likes this

    Is it still better overall than the DVD ?

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    bluraypandey
    Feb 01 2014 04:20 PM

    What bothers me the most is Disney only offering the matted 1.75:1 version in their more recent DVD/Blu-ray releases. I know that's how these films were usually displayed theatrically at the time, but matting the original 1.33:1 lops off animation and leads to a somewhat cramped look, especially in The Jungle Book. I also have a preference for 1.33:1 in general (it's my favorite aspect ratio), but having the option like what Criterion did with On the Waterfront would be nice. More costly, sure, but I'd pay for that as opposed to not paying for this at all.

      • MatthewA and Lromero1396 like this

    Oh, well. There's always 4k. But I do like the idea of having a choice of aspect ratios. Next time they release Lady and the Tramp, they should include both the CinemaScope and Academy Ratio versions.

      • Timothy E and Lromero1396 like this

    Oh, well. There's always 4k. But I do like the idea of having a choice of aspect ratios. Next time they release Lady and the Tramp, they should include both the CinemaScope and Academy Ratio versions.

    As they did with their laser disc releases.

     

    Disney used to pour such incredible effort into the laser and DVD special editions that it was like you had a doorway into their studio when you bought the latest release. Some of the earlier Blu-rays were that way. Slowly, features began to disappear and were not being ported over; instead we had to either keep all our DVD's, or access this stuff in some online freakin' cloud. Then came the DNR. I don't mean the DNR such as SNOW WHITE and PINOCCIO had, where at least the lines were all still there and detail remained intact. No, I mean what we've been getting only relatively recently. This is a Diamond Edition, for God's sake. Not until this release have they screwed around with DNR so badly that is smears the lines and wipes away detail. Whoops --- I haven't yet seen this myself, so I am now guilty of doing what so many do on other forums...criticizing a release based solely upon hearsay. In truth, I so-o-o hope this release hasn't been botched as early reviews suggest, as this has been one of my favorite two or three Disney animated features forever.

    As they did with their laser disc releases.

     

    Disney used to pour such incredible effort into the laser and DVD special editions that it was like you had a doorway into their studio when you bought the latest release. Some of the earlier Blu-rays were that way. Slowly, features began to disappear and were not being ported over; instead we had to either keep all our DVD's, or access this stuff in some online freakin' cloud. Then came the DNR. I don't mean the DNR such as SNOW WHITE and PINOCCIO had, where at least the lines were all still there and detail remained intact. No, I mean what we've been getting only relatively recently. This is a Diamond Edition, for God's sake. Not until this release have they screwed around with DNR so badly that is smears the lines and wipes away detail. Whoops --- I haven't yet seen this myself, so I am now guilty of doing what so many do on other forums...criticizing a release based solely upon hearsay. In truth, I so-o-o hope this release hasn't been botched as early reviews suggest, as this has been one of my favorite two or three Disney animated features forever.

     

    AV Forums seemed to like it.

     

    http://www.avforums....ray-review.5127

     

    It is almost impossible to criticise animation transfers that are this good and it will look great on even the most poorly set up TV.

     

    Not that i put a lot of faith in that review.

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    Ronald Epstein
    Feb 04 2014 09:43 AM

    I have a copy I will look at today.  I will let you know what I think.

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    Ronald Epstein
    Feb 04 2014 11:32 AM

    I have to concur with Matt's review.

     

    This film has been obviously scrubbed.  It's squeaky clean, totally void of grain.

     

    It also looks rather soft.  

     

    There are many moments in the film where there is this odd blurred effect.  One 

    that comes to immediate mind is a distance shot where Mowgli first glimpses the

    girl by the water's edge.  Also felt the fight sequence between Shere Khan and the

    Vultures has varying degrees of sharpness loss.

     

    I don't think, overall, the transfer looks bad.  However, it does appear that there has been

    some tinkering to make the picture look flawless, and as a result, there are some shots here

    and there that look blurry.

     

    • “I Wanna Be Like You” Music Video (2:51): the Jonas Brothers deliver a raucous version of the catchy tune

    I love that Disney ported this over from the DVD but left off the 7 deleted songs and the lengthy art gallery. Nothing against the Jonas Brothers (it could be The Beatles or the Ramones doing the song and I'd feel the same way) but it's pretty ridiculous to leave off content actually associated with the making of the movie while still bringing over a cover of a song recorded 40 years after the fact.

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    Mark Walker
    Feb 11 2014 09:02 PM

    I did buy this Blu-ray.

     

    I am keeping both previous DVD iterations to keep both the first DVD with the 1.33:1 AR and the second 1.75: 1 AR DVD version that had the picture enhanced but not overly scrubbed (at least to my eyes).

     

    My visual acumen is not up Matt's or most of yours. Having said that, the scenes I am spot checking look scrubbed to the level of Disney's Robin Hood more than The Sword in the Stone, (which I found completely unwatchable).  The Xerox lines are there in The Jungle Book, even though they do, as Matt stated, go MIA, much the way spears and other fast moving objects in Ridley Scott's first BD of Gladiator would vanish if they moved fast. 

     

    I cannot say I am pleased, but I am glad I bought this BD.  I am, still, however, going to complain to Disney about this release and ask that they consider re-releasing this with less scrubbing.

     

    I would also add, like Matthew A, I have the UK region/zone free 101 Dalmatians, and (to me) it looks great and has none of these issues.

     

    Thanks again, to Matthew Hough, for the great (if depressing) review.

    Whose idea was it that the 1960s/1970s films needed to have the pencil lines scrubbed away? I'd like to think the restoration department is doing this under orders from someone over their heads, and that they're being told to make it look this way against their will.

     

    If they want to be such revisionists with these films, there are plenty of films with whole scenes cut out by decree, bad optical work (they were cutting corners here even before Walt died; have you seen Those Calloways lately?) and continuity errors (Duchess' collar changing color in one shot of The Aristocats), and other stuff they either didn't catch or refused to pay money to fix back in the day (I don't have time to list them all), even though it could be done. Those are mistakes that should be fixed. This is not. Pencil lines are good. Pencil lines distinguish 2D from 3D.

    Can someone post screencaps comparing a blurred image from the blu ray to the same scene on the previous dvd ?  Thanks.

    Just watched...and, as has always been the case, I'm not impressed by The Jungle Book.  Sure, some really good songs, some frantic/kinetic scenes, but Matt said it in his first line: there really isn't much of a plot to speak of.  I know that may have been the intent during production-focus on character and personality, per the old DVD extras-but that just kills the movie for me.  I don't need some elaborate plot; just something other than what is here.

     

    Oh well...I don't have to like them all, right?