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The Jungle Book 40th Anniversary Edition: Are the Extras Worth It?

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Disney's animated classic, The Jungle Book is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The story of Mowgli, a young boy raised by wolves and his adventures from the jungle to the man-village is one of the most popular in Disney's animation library. Some of Disney's most memorable characters came from The Jungle Book: King Louis the lion (voiced by Louis Prima himself), Kaa the ssssssnake, and of course, Baloo, the singing, dancing bear. The Jungle Book was also the last animated film Walt Disney was alive to work on. So of course, let's make more money off the event and release a new version! In this case, the DVD happens to be chock-full of great extras, so it makes it worthwhile. But are all these different versions really necessary?

The re-release of The Jungle Book contains some great documentaries that, because of their high production values, appear to have been shot fairly recently. The main "making of" documentary is nearly an hour long, and like all the documentaries, is jammed with insightful interviews with multitudes of animators who worked on the movie. Other animators are interviewed as well, describing the brilliance of the film and how it inspired them to go into animation.

Other documentaries focus on the transition from book to film, and a look at where Bruce Reitherman, the voice of Mowgli, is now (he now shoots nature documentaries, in part due to his exposure to The Jungle Book). You also get a look at the "lost" character Rocky the Rhino, deleted songs, and production art. For the kids, there are games and an educational look at the animals of the film.

But are all these versions really necessary? There was, of course, a video release. Then a standard DVD release. Now the 40th anniversary edition. With high-def formats on the rise, one can only guess at how many incarnations of the film we can expect in the near future.

In the case of The Jungle Book, the disc of extras does make it worthwhile. The documentaries are not just thrown together for the sake of another DVD. They have good production values, are interesting, and show real thought. But with the new high-def wars, you know that The Jungle Book and other Disney films will have another release coming soon. Disney is backing Blu-Ray, and yet none of their classics have been released in a high-def format. None have even been announced. Is Disney just trying to suck the last few dollars out of the DVD market before they turn to high-def? What additional features could they possibly offer on Blu-Ray that would make it worth a third purchase (or more if you own it on VHS)? I suppose that remains to be seen.

For the time being, the 40th anniversary edition of The Jungle Book is worth the (re)purchase. But I suppose that this issue will have to be revisited when the Blu-Ray is released.

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