Movies, Books & Disney+

Blu-Ray Review: “The Jungle Book” Offers Solid Bonus Features in Addition to Captivating Film

Hi everyone!

The live-action version of The Jungle Book comes out on Blu-ray on August 30th, 2016. We had the opportunity to receive a review copy. The home version is a little light on extras, but what it loses in volume it makes up for in quality. More is not always better, and watching Bill Murray and Christopher Walken singing songs for their movie roles is worth the price of the Blu-ray alone.

The extras include a preview of Rogue One and a Zootopia trailer.

The Jungle Book Reimagined is the main bonus feature and clocks in at just over a half hour. Director John Favreau sits down with producer Brigham Taylor and visual effects supervisor Robert Legato in a coffee shop for a casual conversation about the film. Favreau wasn’t sure at first he wanted to tackle the film until he was told he could build an entire world in the way he wanted. Favreau references Walt Disney many times in this feature, including comparing how The Jungle Book broke new technical ground to how Walt Disney broke technical ground. Favreau understood how Disney fans would feel protective of the original movie, as he did. He wanted to tell the story to include both the original film and the stories by Rudyard Kipling.

The original treatment that Favreau saw (which is shown in some concept art) put The Jungle Book at a PG-13 style movie, with no singing and more violence. Favreau wanted to bring it back to a PG film, closer to the original. Taylor said the film was “A journey about identity”.

The opening sequence that shows Sleeping Beauty Castle and the Disney title was possibly the most difficult sequence in the film (it is also noted at the beginning of the commentary). Painted cels were used, and it has the look of using a multiplane camera. It shows Disneyland  – you can see what looks like the Mark Twain, carousel and some other aspects of the park. There is also a homage to Bambi at the beginning of the movie.

Real animals were not used in The Jungle Book in part because it’s more humane, and also because animals cannot be easily controlled. But they wanted the animals to look real, and to be able to have Mowgli interact with them in a setting that was a warehouse (but eventually looked like a jungle). The technical side of making the movie includes showing motion capture. And actor Neel Sethi (Mowgli) always had someone to play off of. Often it was a pupeteer with a puppet that represented one of the film characters. Sometimes it was Jon Favreau, who would get in the water or mud to make sure that Sethi was coached properly.

This was Garry Shandling’s last film, and he’s shown voicing his role and Favreau talks about his other input. Favreau says that “Casting Bill Murray (Baloo) was a dream”. The voice cast is perfectly suited, from Idris Elba (Shere Khan) to Lupita Nyong’o (Raksha) and Christopher Walken (King Louie) and more. Composer Richard Sherman makes an appearance, and compares recording the music in the original film with just a few musicians to the orchestra that took part in recording the current version.

The Jungle Book Reimagined has no fluff in it, it is chock full of information and performances.

I am Mowgli is a much shorter bonus feature, at a quick 8 minutes. It is definitely worth a watch to see the work that Neel Sethi put into his character, and it was funny to keep hearing Sethi call his loincloth a diaper. This was Sethi’s first major acting job, and he really nailed it.

King Louie’s Temple: Layer by Layer is a few minutes long, and it shows how the “I Wan’na Be Like You” sequence was created – from concept art to the original version and in between. Worth a quick look.

Commentary with Jon Favreau – I watched about 20 minutes of this, I would have preferred one or two of the actors to be in on the commentary sitting.

I recommend picking up a copy of The Jungle Book, our links do go to Amazon as an affiliate link. Here is my original review of the film.

“The Jungle Book is a Captivating Journey”.

To preface: I was skeptical of the newest incarnation of the new live-action The Jungle Book. This wasn’t a film like Zootopia where the trailer grabbed my interest from the beginning. We learned about the technical side of the film a few months ago at a Hollywood event with director Jon Favreau sharing his passion for making the movie. But…what about the story? It turns out, the story and the photorealistic CGI world that it is set in are both solid and stunning. The Jungle Book also is a fairly dark film, it can alternate between funny moments and scary ones very quickly.

Photo Copyright Disney

The opening scenes of The Jungle Book showcase the beauty of the film. Mowgli (talented newcomer Neel Sethi) walks on twisted branches through a gorgeous, dense jungle. It is incredible to watch and realize that none of the jungle is real, but it looks and feels like a tangible place. And the animals look extremely real as well, from the majestic elephants to Mowgli’s wolf family to the smallest frog jumping on a rock. Sethi is the face of the film, with everything else being add in CGI around him – and he carries the film very well.

Photo Copyright Disney

Mowgli is an orphan, adopted by wolves Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) and Akela (Giancarlo Esposito). Mowgli is part of their pack, but being human he is called a “man cub”. They aren’t his only protectors: Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) is a panther who originally found Mowgli, and has taken him under his wing. His caretakers encourage Mowgli not to use his human “tricks”, which include using a rope and container to scoop water to drink. He is also warned of the red flower, which man can bring to the jungle. That flower is fire, something that can spread and destroy everything in its path.

Photo Copyright Disney

Unfortunately, not everyone is out to protect Mowgli. Shere Khan (Idris Elba) is the villain of the film, and a very scary one at that. Peace Rock is where animals of all types are able to drink side by side, but Shere Kahn even uses that location to make threats toward Mowgli. And we see the tiger kill in the film (not graphically). I recommend caution in taking very young children to see the film in part due to these darker scenes.

Because of the threat from Shere Khan, Mowgli’s protectors decide the best thing for him is to leave the jungle and go to the village. On the way, Mowgli meets the hypnotizing snake Kaa, who nearly makes him her next meal. That scene sets up the buddy section of the film, which also brings a more lighthearted tone for a while. Baloo  (Bill Murray) – very different looking than in the film – has the funniest lines in the movie, and persuades Mowgli to help him store honey for the winter, even though we eventually learn that Baloo actually won’t be hibernating. Baloo also encourages Mowgli to use his human tricks. And as in the trailers, you will see one of two songs here – “Bare Necessities”.

Photo Copyright Disney

Mowgli is soon snatched away and taken to King Louie (Christopher Walken), who says he is the only one who can protect him. King Louie is also very different than in the animated movie, a Gigantopithecus (the largest primate to ever have lived). That name is also worked into the song “I Wanna Be Like You”. King Louie is absolutely huge, and has as large of a roar.  My favorite part of this segment is the homage to Christopher Walken before King Louie appears, as Mowgli holds and looks at a cowbell in his hand.

Copyright Disney

The ending is a satisfying one, as Mowgli learns the power of the red flower as well as in loyalty and protection.

The Jungle Book was an unexpected surprise for me, a delight to watch in both visuals and story. I began the review saying I was skeptical, and it isn’t that often that my views change so completely from previews to film. I recommend The Jungle Book, but use caution for young and sensitive children. There were scenes that did startle me (I saw it in 3D, and I think that is probably the best way to see this movie). I also thought talking animals might be distracting, but I got used to it very quickly.

The Jungle Book offers elements from both the animated film and Rudyard Kipling’s stories. And stay for the credits, I thought the James Bond-ish “Trust in Me” was very interesting (as other songs in various styles were).

The Jungle Book is rated PG.

Mousesteps Grade: A-

Read our article from the press conference of The Jungle Book.