It was a no-brainer, really. Disney had already created several live-action versions of its animated portfolio. Why not green light a new version of the hit 1967 animated motion picture, Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book. Actor, director, Jon Favreau would direct the new feature film and the cast would include a young actor and an assembly of animated critters. Add a top notch cast of voice actors and the film would almost make itself.
While other studios struggle to create compelling new content, the Walt Disney Studios has a rich legacy of animated films to fuel their production pipe line. Proven properties can be repurposed to feed an eager market ready for another entertainment fix. I hate to say it, but it’s almost like printing money. Let’s face it. Could anything be sweeter for a production executive? Don’t get me wrong, because I’m not here to bash the Disney sequels. A number of them have been pretty darn good including Kennth Branaugh’s recent retelling of the Cinderella legend. Blending traditional Disney storytelling with the magical tools of todays technology proves to be a winning formula. For those who question the viability of the recent Disney remakes, I can only add the current box office receipts more than answers the question.
There were those who had doubts about a remake of Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book. Hadn’t this been tried before, they wondered? And wasn’t the resulting movie less than spectacular? All true. But that was then and this is now. I knew that director, Jon Favreau would bring something new to this retelling of the Rudyard Kipling novel. Even though the movie we made back in 1966 still delights audiences both young and old, this new motion picture would require a different sensibility. After all, today’s world has changed since the spring of 1966 when we first sat down with Walt Disney to discuss a rewrite of the movie. Director, Jon Favreau’s movie version is admittedly darker and more intense. Back in 1966, The Old Maestro insisted we keep things light in our storytelling and if there were to be violence it would be implied not shown. The tone of the movie would remain fanciful and light throughout. I didn’t know about the others on our team, but it was clear to me that Walt wanted a movie filled with laughter and fun. The dark, mysterious film Bill Peet had envisioned was scrapped and we began our journey through the jungle ready to provide our audience with laughs.
Having said this, I’ve no problem with the current Disney version of The Jungle Book and I love what director, Jon Favreau has done with the movie. Even though it’s a very different film in tone, the movie pretty much follows our story beats throughout with the notable exception of the return to the Man Village at the films end. However, you don’t have to be a genius to know what’s that’s all about. Why didn’t little Mowgli go home, you ask? Why didn’t he meet that cute little girl at the river? The answer should be obvious. You can bet there’s a sequel already in the works.