I rarely expect much from a Disney sequel. Generally they’re made for the video/DVD market and don’t usually have the attention to detail they reserve for the feature releases. However, here bridging the long gap between the original film released in 1966 and just last year (2003), the animators have given a sort of justice to the original.
The original Jungle Book film was Walt Disney’s last. Dying just short of its completion, it was finished without him at the helm for the first time in the Disney studio’s history. The film became an instant classic, however, with its attention to detail in voice talent, its unique animated style and its incredible jazz music. Being Walt’s last film certainly didn’t hurt it either, and on the strength of this film, The Aristocats went into production soon after completion for release in 1970.
Naturally the animators wished to maintain The Jungle Book’s highly regarded approach and thankfully this doesn’t resemble the majority of Disney throwaway sequels. The voice talent has been carefully selected to recreate the original ensemble cast of popular musicians and actors and the wonderful whimsical style of the first has been recreated (with some very nice modern additions).
After The Jungle Book finished, we saw Mowgli leaving the jungle for village life. Here, set just days after the original, Mowgli is having trouble fitting in to the regimen of the village and, before long, his feisty relationship with Shanti (the little girl who lured him to civilisation to begin with) sends him back to the jungle.
However, Sher Khan the Bengal tiger Mowgli shamed has come back seeking revenge and after some mix-ups the two finally come to do battle one last time.
|"I so despise these song and dance routines…"|
All the characters from the first film have been faithfully reproduced here, while the jungle itself comes alive with the new digital age, creating massive sweeping jungle shots and long angled pans. There are also some new travelling camera tricks that look sensational. This film is visually a long way from the first, but the music has been faithfully married to the style of the time. Disney reintroduces the singalong into this film, something they’ve effectively removed since Tarzan in 1999. It works to good effect here, recreating the fun of the original film and while it’s tempting to fast forward through, any parent within earshot won’t suffer too greatly.
This absolutely spotless print delivered in the Disney favourite animated ratio of 1.66:1 with anamorphic enhancement is nothing short of perfect. The transfer has been accomplished in the impeccable Buena Vista format and is yet another notch on their belt of excellent transfers. The image is razor sharp, colours bright and almost hypnotic in their clarity and there are no detectable artefacts; film or compression.
Like I said; perfect.
Again, the Disney sequel has been treated respectfully here. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix is awesome, with some nice jungle sounds creeping around the surrounds, but the music is where this soundtrack truly shines. Also included is a DTS mix for those so equipped and there will be no complaints regarding the sound quality when you get this baby home. Dialogue is crisp and clean with plenty of big names lending their vox to the roles and there are no real issues regarding understanding what was just said.
Music has been scored by local boy Paul Grabowski, who is making a name for himself in this sort of jazzy soundtrack (see Shiner). Well, he co-wrote anyway, but I suspect Lorraine Feather, his partner in crime here, wrote the lyrics. At any rate, regardless of who wrote the music it’s just as much fun as the original and sounds pristine in this crystal clear transfer.
This is a snappy sequel that exceeds the rather average sequel offerings usually churned out by the Disney Corporation. It’s good fun, there’re plenty of reprises of the classic songs from the first (including two or three of The Bare Necessities) plus a rap/hip-hop song for the closing titles. The package looks great, with criminally beautiful animation and colour, while the sound is exceptional. The kids who loved that beaten video copy of The Jungle Book will love this one and the extras ensure there’s plenty to do after the film has ended.
I can’t recall a better treated sequel than this one and even as a separate film it works well.