EW rates ''The Jungle Book'' movies
It's too bad that Disney held off releasing 1967's The Jungle Book on video until now; the company could have avoided the competition from two other animated Jungle Books, both featuring packaging suspiciously similar to the better-known film. Caveat parentis: Neither of the alternative Mowglis lives up to Disney's high standards.
Unfortunately, neither does the Disney version. The final animated feature to be overseen by Papa Walt himself, The Jungle Book was the last gasp before the studio plunged into nearly two decades of mediocrity. The exhaustion shows: The script junks all of Rudyard Kipling's original story line in favor of a meandering melange of silly dialogue and good songs. The all-star voices add class George Sanders' caddish tiger Shere Khan and Louis Prima's jazz-bo orangutan are great. But even the animation seems tired, and there are a few too many dull spots.
The 11 half-hour Jungle Book episodes from Strand VCI keep closer to Kipling and even toss in a nice little ecological message. Made in Japan, they have a good visual sense, clunky movement, and lots of ''Ahhs!'' on the soundtrack. They'd be passable babysitters if they weren't duped in the Super Long Play mode, a strategy by which Strand VCI saves tape and money and the home viewer ends up with a washed-out, blurry-looking mess.
Much worse, though, is the half-hour, Korean-made Jungle Book from SMV. The story makes no sense, the voices are shrill, and the animation would get laughed off the Saturday-morning lineup. Mowgli is a charmless, pot-bellied little thug. Kids may sit still for the Disney and Strand tapes, but they'll know a bungled Jungle when they see it. Disney: B- Strand VCI: C+ SMV: F