I was excited by Disney’s plans to revisit The Jungle Book as a live action film (again), but the final product far exceeded my expectations. I was drawn to the theater a second time and eagerly anticipated the chance to own this incredible film. The wait is now over, with The Jungle Book available digitally on August 23rd and on Blu-Ray and DVD August 30th. This review covers the all-encompassing Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack and will highlight the aspects of all three mediums.
Rudyard Kipling’s timeless Mowgli stories are retold, borrowing elements that originated in his books as well as characters unique to Disney’s animated classic. What emerges is a film with more depth than the original, one that is capable of touching your heart and soul while also imbuing the childlike charm and humor you expect from this story. I’ve been at war with myself, trying to determine which of the two films I prefer, and on my third viewing I have decided this is the one.
This is one of those rare films where one viewing is never enough. There are so many great details and so many wonderful moments that it deserves a spot on your shelf. And with a sequel set for 2018, you’ll be given a justifiable excuse to watch it again before that release.
That being said, this is not the definitive release. Bonus features are rich in quality, but light in quantity, a rarity for one of the year’s top grossing films. And with Disney promising a 3D release this winter, I wonder if The Jungle Book won’t shadow the upcoming re-release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which adds bonus features withheld from the first release to encourage a double dip.
On Blu-Ray, The Jungle Book offers a breathtaking 1080p high definition experience. This film has so many amazing details and in this medium, you can see every strand of hair on the many animal stars. The film’s color palette features a lot of earth tones and black colors are expertly handled on this disc. The film also features some bright colors to contrast the darker parts of the jungle and pay homage to the animated influence and those also dazzle in this presentation.
The Digital HD presentation was tested from iTunes on an Apple TV streaming over high-speed wireless.
On DVD, a considerable amount of detail is softened and blurred in comparison to the Blu-Ray. The color spectrum also feels less vast, with blacks looking lightened and bright colors feeling washed out.
The primary audio track on the Blu-Ray is a 7.1 DTS-HDMA mix. It’s an impressive mix, utilizing the real channels almost constantly with ambient jungle sounds. The Fantasound score appears to be recreated here as well, with instruments sounding as if they bounce around the room (particularly during the Kaa scene). And with plenty of action sequences, your subwoofer will be put to the test. Other audio options on this disc are French and Spanish 5.1 and a 2.0 descriptive audio track for the visually impaired.
The digital HD copy on iTunes contains the same audio options, but downgrades the 7.1 HD mix to 5.1 and the French and Spanish options become stereo. Losing two speakers causes this English mix to sound a little less full, but has a similar effect.
The DVD offers 5.1 mixes in English, French and Spanish, as well as the stereo descriptive track.
Four bonus features are available on Blu-Ray and Digital HD:
- The Jungle Book Reimagined (35:02) – Director Jon Favreau, producer Brigham Taylor and cinematographer Christopher Glass discuss how this version of The Jungle Book came to life in a very revealing behind-the-scenes feature. Featuring footage from production including voice recording sessions, the program also highlights the music, including Richard Sherman and John Debney.
- I Am Mowgli (8:18) – Jon Favreau explains why Neel Sethi was the best boy to play Mowgli in this short featurette about how difficult the performance was.
- King Louie’s Temple: Layer By Layer (3:14) – Footage of the orchestral recording session for “I Wanna Be With You” is juxtaposed with Christopher Walken’s recording sessions, storyboards, pre-vis, and final animation from the film.
- Audio Commentary (1:45:54) – Jon Favreau leads this solo commentary track, revealing many of the technical challenges of this huge achievement in blending live action with CG and motion capture. Disney fans will appreciate the many nods to classic Disney animated moments, which are also revealed in this track in case you missed them.
The only bonus feature on the DVD is “King Louie’s Temple: Layer By Layer.”
Packaging & Design
The Jungle Book is housed in a standard Blu-Ray case with disc holders on the interior of both sides. Inserts include a new, shrink wrapped digital copy card with a code to redeem your film through Disney Movies Anywhere (it also provides 150 points through your linked Disney Movie Rewards account) as well as a flier for Disney Movie Club. The case comes inside a holo-embossed slipcover in the first pressing.
Both discs open with ads for Disney Movies Anywhere, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Zootopia. Clicking “Sneak Peeks” from the main menu plays a bonus ad for Disney Movie Rewards before repeating the other two trailers.
The Jungle Book is worth owning, expanding upon the animated classic and creating a more captivating and thrilling story in the process. And while this may not be the ultimate home video release, those uninterested in the eventual 3D re-release are encouraged to pick this up now. The few bonus features provided are worthwhile and this film was made for repeated viewings.