It’s a bit surprising that it took this long for different studios to do a “Jungle Book” live-action remake, despite one virtually forgotten from Disney in 1994. But for many, remaking “The Jungle Book” is equivalent to rehashing “The Wizard of Oz” when the 1967 Disney musical and 1942 live-action Korda-produced masterpiece seem to coalesce as definitive. That still doesn’t stop Hollywood from constantly creating “tribute” reboots of classic films in recent years, especially in the realm of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Oz the Great and Powerful.” Now when we remake something so definitive, it frequently includes knowing nods to versions we grew up with, and we wouldn’t expect anything less in a Disney live-action remake.
This doesn’t mean Disney won’t have competition because Warner Brothers is also making a live-action “Jungle Book,” perhaps with more of an indie nod to the 1940 film or a completely different direction. The good news on the Disney side is they’ve already announced their cast and the actors giving voices to the creatures we all know so well from Bagheera to Shere Khan. And this voice cast is the usual all-star roster that you’d expect from Disney, going from Ben Kingsley to Lupita Nyong’o.
Likewise, the Warner Brothers edition is going to be directed by Andy Serkis of all people, along with Steve Kloves as producer to give a “Harry Potter” connection to it all. If you hate the idea of competing movies using the same material, it may be even more challenging trying to guess which one will ultimately succeed. At least they’ll reportedly release a year apart so they don’t cancel one another out had they released at the same time.
It’s still a challenge to guess success, though, especially when there’s still a divide between those who love the original Rudyard Kipling book and those who think the Disney musical tops the straight-ahead telling.
The Voice Actors Mean Everything
Disney knows how important voice actors are to making an animated movie successful. Yet, it’s a whole different process when you have voice actors in a live-action movie. Bagheera and the other creatures in Disney’s live-action “Jungle Book” will no doubt be CGI (or a combination), which almost makes this a partially animated film anyway. Most voice actors know how to handle CGI characters since the days of “Toy Story.” Names like Scarlett Johansson and Lupita Nyong’o, however, have little experience voicing animated characters outside of their charming personalities.
With Ben Kingsley at the helm, you already have a voice that’s going to translate well in any animated character. How they create chemistry with the live-action Mowgli is another thing, even if Disney always manages to coordinate everything so it usually works seamlessly. Regardless, even they have to know what a challenge it is to try to top the voice talents in the original 1967 musical. There’s also the question of whether they’ll be employing the famous Sherman Brothers swing songs from the original animated classic and how they fit into a live-action world. It might seem surreal having the Kipling world realized in vivid live-action, then hearing the characters break into “I Wanna Be Like You” as if residing in the 1940s.
Andy Serkis Will Likely Use Motion-Capture
When you see the name Andy Serkis, you already see the words “motion capture.” He was pretty much the progenitor of the success behind the concept, and he may provide some of that work himself outside of directing the WB “Jungle Book.” Disney may do the same, though they haven’t utilized motion-capture technology heavily in their live-action ventures. The more real the jungle characters look, the more compelling Kipling’s tale is going to be.
It’s also a sure bet there won’t be any music here and possibly a nod to the 1942 movie while attempting to bury the 1994 live-action Disney movie. Most importantly, it’s the role of Mowgli that needs to be strongly considered in making a new star. Disney and Warner Brothers have yet to announce casting of that role. Jason Scott Lee took the role in Disney’s 1994 live-action remake, and it led to a fairly successful acting career that’s still going. Also, if you’re familiar with the popular Indian actor Sabu from the 1940s, his Mowgli in the 1942 movie is the one that any actor should attain to.
Both of these studio versions are probably going to have allusions to previous editions, if even crossing over to give nods from Disney and the Korda production. We also have to wonder about Baloo and how he’ll be depicted in the Disney version. In that case, director Jon Favreau will have to find a way to work around one of the most iconic cartoon characters of all time and give him a refreshing earthly view from being a hip swinger.