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Introduction
Walt Disney are widely renowned for producing timeless classics, a good example of which is The Jungle Book, released in 1967, and the last film overseen by Walt Disney himself. The friendship between Mowgli and Baloo is probably one of the most famous that the studio has produced, so it was no great surprise that expectations were so high earlier this year with the theatrical release of the Jungle Book 2. Created over thirty five years later, it was interesting to see how the story was going to progress, and whether Disney could find actors to fill the voices of the main characters. This is a review of the region two disc.

Jungle Book 2, The
Movie
Jungle Book 2 once again follows the heroics of Mowgli (voice of Haley Joel Osment), who since the original movie is now living in the man village with his new family. Mowgli has settled down into his new surroundings, he has made some good friends particularly his stepbrother Ranjan, and Shanti, who he also has a crush on. However, he understandably still misses the jungle, and more importantly his good friend Baloo the bear (John Goodman). The feeling is mutual, Baloo still pines for his best buddy, so much so that he hatches a plan to try and see him again. Like all good Disney movies there has to be a bad guy involved and making a comeback here is the man eating tiger, Shere Khan (Tony Jay), who is still fuming from events that took place in the original movie.

Disney have done a resounding job in making this sequel look like it was made around the same time as the original. This is obviously a huge compliment as the films were made in different decades and the technology has improved no end since the original was first released. Disney have also clearly done their homework to ensure that the actors who have been brought in to do the voices sound nearly identical to those who played the characters originally.  One of the downsides to this movie is the plot, which is so wafer thin that you may have problems even deciding if there is one, another criticism I have is that the relationship between Mowgli and Baloo is never really developed from the original. In fact their relationship in this movie is one of the main weaknesses, because not much screen time is dedicated to them fooling around together, which was one of the strong points in the original film. Putting aside all of my criticisms, Jungle Book 2 is an entertaining way to spend an hour and I’m sure it will appeal to children and adults alike. Whether it will be considered a classic in years to come is something I will leave up to you to decide.  

Video
The Jungle Book 2 is presented in 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, which is a mighty fine transfer. I often prefer animated DVD transfers because they look so much clearer and more colourful. For these reasons I am already looking forward to the Finding Nemo DVD, which should prove to be one of the best DVD transfers so far. Anyway, back to this transfer, which is crystal clear and has a colour palette to match. This transfer is full of life and is a joy to watch. There is no sign of grain, and edge enhancements are visible but not too distracting. As for compression artifacts, well there was no sign of them; there really is very little for me to grumble about with this transfer. Disney has produced another transfer of the highest quality, and this is probably worth the purchase price alone.  This is certainly a contender for the best animated transfer.

Jungle Book 2, The
Audio
Disney has supplied four soundtracks with this release, the main ones being English Dolby Digital 5.1, Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 and an English DTS track. This sounds quite promising on paper, but unfortunately that promise is not really fulfilled. The rear speakers are used very sparingly with both tracks, and for the most part only have a slight drone coming from them, even in the most active scenes. Occasionally the rears jump into action, but it is too rare for my liking. As for the fronts, they are used very effectively, voices are moved around the front stage quite a lot, but it is a pity they very rarely make it to the rears! The dialogue, as expected, is clear throughout and never gets muffled during the musical moments. The DTS soundtrack has the slight edge, but to be honest the difference was minimal. The fourth soundtrack with this release is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track, and is referred to as an audio descriptive track. This track includes someone narrating and during most of the movie the person tells you what different characters are doing, and what they are thinking. This is a good idea and will be beneficial to younger children who don't fully understand the movie.

Subtitles are provided in English, English For the Hearing Impaired and Russian. Probably also worth a mention are the menus which are animated and are quite fun. The characters from the movie dance around the screen and should keep the kids entertained.

Extras
Disney has obviously targeted this DVD at a young audience, but for good measure they have also thrown in a few extras for the older generations. The Making Of The Jungle Book 2 falls into the later category, and starts off with several of the crew heaping praise on the original. It seems that in most peoples' opinions, the original was a classic in every way. There is also a discussion about the technology advances which were used for this sequel, and how the animation has been improved because of this.  One of the major differences between the two movies is the fact that the sequel can utilise 3D, which has opened up all sorts of opportunities. The rest of the documentary pans out in the same way, with lots of comparisons between the original movie and this sequel. For that reason, fans of either of the films will find this documentary interesting and should be engrossed for the full 10 minutes for which it lasts.

Jungle Book 2, The
Next up on the disc is an extra called Mowgli's Jungle Ruins Maze, which is a fun maze game where you have to search for Mowgli, and then escape from the maze with him in tow. While all this is happening there are several evil creatures chasing you, which adds to the excitement. Little kids will love this game, and I am sure that there will be some adults as well (including me!) who will find it entertaining. If you fancy a bit of singing, you’ll love the next extra which is entitled Disney's Song Selection As you would expect, this allows you to select certain songs from the movie. Each song  has accompanied lyrics, so if you feel like singing out loud, here is your chance. There are seven songs to choose from in total., which can be played either individually or together as one long segment.

Deleted Scenes are the next extras which you will find, of which there are two included with this disc. They are entitled "I Got You Beat" and "Braver".  The scenes are introduced by Sharon Morrill and Matt Walker, and can once again be played individually or as one combined clip. Unfortunately these are not fully animated scenes, and are really just storyboards, which will prove disappointing to many.  The musical theme is once again rekindled with a couple of music videos. The first of these is called "Jungle Rhythm" . This is the song that accompanies the menu system for this disc, and the video lasts for around two minutes. The second music video is called W.I.L.D and is another of the new songs created for the movie.  This song lasts for one minute exactly, and acts really as an easy way for kids to access songs from the film, without having to watch through the movie itself.

For anyone who hasn't seen the original movie, the next extra will probably be of interest to you. It is called Synopsis Of The Original Movie "The Jungle Book" and is basically a two and a half minute trailer/summary for the original movie. This is a good idea from Disney and I am sure it will have some benefit to people who have not seen the original. The final extra packaged with this release is called Sing With The Movie and allows you to watch the movie with the lyrics displayed for all the songs.

Jungle Book 2, The
Overall
Disney have produced a sequel which is superior to most of their straight to video sequel releases, but it is far from flawless. The magic of the original is rekindled to some extent, but the true wonder and fun from over thirty years ago is unsurprisingly missing. As for the DVD, Disney certainly realise who their target audience is, and have produced a disc which will appeal to them. The transfer is superb; it is everything you would expect from a recent animated film, while the soundtrack is competent, although it could have been a little more immersive. As for the extras, there should be enough to keep the youngsters happy, but for how long is the million dollar question! Overall I have little trouble recommending this release, just don't expect a classic.


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