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Blu-ray Review: ‘The Jungle Book’ (2016)
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The Jungle Book Mowgli and Baloo

The Jungle Book
Blu-ray | DVD | Digital HD
Director: Jon Favreau
Screenwriter: Justin Marks
Cast: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios
Rated PG | 106 Minutes
Release Date: August 30, 2016

Disney had ushered in a new phase of storytelling by reimagining their animated classics and turning them into joyous live-action iterations that pay respect to the source material and their animated predecessor. It’s not as though director Jon Favreau‘s The Jungle Book is just some generic retelling of the 1967 animated film; it’s something that utilizes nostalgia and then enhances the story with crisp photoreal CGI technology that draws in the audiences into that world. As soon as The Jungle Book starts, you sense all of that as it opens with an animated version of the traditional Disney castle opening sequence then transitions into the vibrant CGI world you can almost feel. From there it’s an immersive adventure about a boy finding his place in his pack, as well as in the dangerous settings of the jungle, where an enemy doesn’t feel he belongs.

I reviewed the film in length back in April when it was released in theaters, so you can read that here, where you’ll see I found it very enjoyable. Below you can check out a review of the bonus features that are available on both the Blu-ray and Digital HD release. These extras include “The Jungle Book Reimagined,” “I Am Mowgli,” “King Louie’s Temple: Layer By Layer,” and feature-length Audio Commentary.

“The Jungle Book” Reimagined feature is a tell-all of what it took for this reimagining to come to life. It features director Jon Favreau, producer Brigham Taylor, and Visual Effects Supervisor Rob Legato. Together they talk about what they brought to the project in terms of use of new technologies, casting the roles, the tweaks they put in to separate this project from its animated counterpart and to make the film more realistic, and the nods to the original which included the animated opening, music, and themes. The film apparently goes full circle for some of those who worked on it, particularly composer John Debney, whose father worked at Disney at the time that the original animated movie was made.

We also get to hear some of the personal stories of how the cast connects to the original and the original stories that were written by Rudyard Kipling. Not only that, but the cast talks about what they brought to make the roles they voice their own. This feature also dives into the history of the original animated film, and the pioneering technologies Walt Disney and his animation team used for it. Definitely, a must-watch if you are interested in more than just audio commentary.

There are also little tidbits about the animals, vegetation, and different types of loincloth that Seeti had to use during different scenes. For instance, did you know that to make the film as accurate as possible, a Gigantopithecus (now extinct) was used in the film instead of an orangutan, which aren’t actually native to the film’s Indian jungle setting? Another example is that Favreau actually traveled to New Orleans to record the Dixie Land Jazz music that the original animated film is known for.

For the “I Am Mowgli” feature, we see a young Neel Sethi audition for the lead role of Mowgli and watch him grow during the production of the film. Just like any kid, he is wide-eyed to the entire experience seeing how the technology is utilized to create the world that surrounds him. The cast and crew sing his praises as they share their own experiences working with the young actor or as meet him for the very first time since they did not record their lines with him.

The film practically revolves around Sethi, so it was key that his performance be strong. We also get a glimpse of what life was like for him before he was cast and the audition process that got him the role.

“King Louie’s Temple: Layer By Layer” is a short little feature that details the process of creating Louie and how the film wanted to stay are realistic as possible even if that meant not using orangutans. The feature also shows us what it takes to turn one of The Jungle Book‘s most iconic songs, “Bare Necessities,” and make it sound more contemporary with the new technology that is being utilized and the idea that they wanted to make the film as realistic as possible. So who better to work with than Richard Sherman, who, together with his brother Robert, wrote the songs for several Disney films, including the original Jungle Book?

Directed by Jon Favreau (“Iron Man,” “Iron Man 2,” “Chef”) and produced by Favreau and Brigham Taylor (executive producer of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” “Tomorrowland”), “The Jungle Book” is a live-action epic adventure based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories, inspired by Disney’s classic 1967 animated film and centered on Mowgli (Neel Sethi), a man-cub who’s been raised by a family of wolves. But Mowgli finds he is no longer welcome in the jungle when fearsome tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba), who bears the scars of Man, promises to eliminate what he sees as a threat.

The film’s musical score, composed by Emmy® winner and Oscar-, BAFTA- and Annie Award-nominee John Debney (“Elf,” “Iron Man 2”), features a classic orchestral sound accented by ethnic instruments and pays homage to the original film by highlighting snippets of the classic songs we all know and love.

The Jungle Book 2016 Blu-ray cover

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