Monday, June 13, 2011

Jungle Cat - 1960

From 1948 to 1960, Walt Disney's True-Life Adventure series offered movie goers a glimpse at exotic locales and the animals that inhabit them. The award winning series is heralded as the creation of the nature documentary format. The seventh and final feature length True-Life Adventure film tells the story of jaguars in Brazil. A team of three photographers spent over two years in Brazil to amass all of the footage used in the film. Because of the humidity and heat in South America, some of the film was ruined by the time it was sent to the studio.

Like most of the True-Life Adventures films before it, Jungle Cat opens with a paintbrush, but instead of painting a globe it paints a statue of an ancient Egyptian cat. The narrative segues from domesticated cats to their wild cousins that hunt to survive. After introducing its audience to the unique jungles of Brazil, Jungle Cat sets its focus on a family of jaguars and their struggles to serivive. Many other animals are featured throughout the film including monkeys, birds, crocodiles, otters, sloths and snakes.

Jungle Cat was released on August 10th, 1960. Like the other True-Life Adventure films, critics praised it and audiences worldwide made it a financial success. With these facts, it is hard to understand why it was the end of this prestigious series. According to Roy E. Disney, Walt ended the series because he felt that television was a better medium for this type of subject matter. The Wonderful World of Color (later The Wonderful World of Disney) carried on the medium of nature documentaries and today there is a cable channel that is solely devoted to this genre.

As a film, Jungle Cat proves humorous and enjoyable fifty years after its release. While the film offers some intense moments, such as a jaguar almost getting killed by a boa constrictor, there is enough lighthearted fare to appease any viewer. My favorite scenes involve the adorable Brazilian monkeys. It's hard not to laugh when they team up on a sloth that invades their favorite tree, causing them to shake it out.

Jungle Cat was released on DVD in 2006 as part of the Walt Disney Legacy Collection. It can be found on the third volume of the True-Life Adventures series where it has been fully restored. The DVD is now out of print and copies are hard to find. It is now available on iTunes, where it is available in HD.


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