Two new Jungle Book films in Production
Ron Seifried | On 09, Apr 2014
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling has been in the public domain for many years, leaving it wide open to many big screen adaptations. The best known version is the animated feature length film from Walt Disney in 1967, but it is far from the only one. Several live action films have been produced, the first dating back to 1937.
Not to over saturate the public’s demand from this tired old story, two productions are racing to the finish line based on Kipling’s 1894 short story collection about the orphan boy Mowgli abandoned in the Indian jungle and raised by wolves.
Walt Disney is collaborating with director Jon Favreau with Idris Elba as the voice of tiger Shere Khan. Favreau is best known as the director of the first two “Iron Man” films and “Elf”.
Across town, Warner Bros. has been starting and restarting a project for years, with “Babel”s Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Ron Howard at one time attached to direct.
My precious, now Andy Serkis is in the director’s chair for the Warner Bros. version. Serkis is no stranger to getting under an animal’s skin. He previously starred via motion capture technology, as the computer-generated King Kong and Gollum in the Peter Jackson features and as Caesar in the Planet of the Apes reboots. Serkis has been on the leading edge of the performance-actor hybrid that has progressed cutting edge films such as “Avatar” into the mainstream, leading to rumblings for Hollywood to recognize computer-aided performers on a higher level.
For those concerned about a lack of experience behind the camera, Serkis is no stranger to directing. He has been actively shooting second unit material for Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, most impressively the barrel chase sequence in “Desolation of Smaug.”
Reportedly darker than the Disney version with more life and death issues explored, the script is being written by Callie Kloves, daughter of “Harry Potter” screenwriter Steve Kloves. No word if Serkis is co-starring in the film, but you can bet that he will give an interesting perspective to the cast.
This will be the first full length feature for Serkis, but this is the perfect project for someone of his physical abilities. For several years, Serkis has lived on big budget sets, and has impressed Peter Jackson to the point where he was entrusted to direct second unit footage. This is a major accomplishment on Serkis ability to articulate ideas to cast and crew of very complicated special effects pieces.
Getting Peter Jackson as a reference certainly does not hurt.
The Favreau version looks to be a safe re-imagining of Disney’s family-friendly adaptation, and it may succeed. But Serkis will delve more deeply in Kipling’s darker tone and will appeal to a wider audience used to the grittier atmosphere of comic book features.