'Jungle Book' director Jon Favreau: 'It's time to update the story for our generation'

By Karen Butler  |  April 13, 2016 at 3:24 PM
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LOS ANGELES, April 13 (UPI) -- Filmmaker Jon Favreau says marvelous advances in film technology made this the perfect time to re-imagine The Jungle Book for a new generation.

Based on the classic adventure stories of Rudyard Kipling, Favreau's visually stunning, emotionally authentic version of the tale mixes live-action with photorealistic, computer animation. At the center of the story is Mowgli, a "man-cub" [played by newcomer Neel Sethi] who is raised by caring wolves -- voiced by Lupita Nyong'o and Giancarlo Esposito -- until the vengeful tiger Shere Khan [voiced by Idris Elba] threatens to kill the boy. Bagheera the panther [Ben Kingsley] offers to escort Mowgli back to the man village where he will be safe, but they get separated and Mowgli must journey on alone, meeting along the way the villainous snake Kaa [Scarlett Johansson,] the greedy, giant ape King Louie [Christopher Walken] and the kindly, but lazy Baloo [Bill Murray.]

Favreau was asked at a recent California press conference why now is the perfect time to re-visit The Jungle Book.

"A lot of it was the enthusiasm of Disney and, specifically, [Walt Disney Studios chairman] Alan Horn who's really connected with this film, with the story, from the Kipling stories when he was growing up and I connected very much with the animated film when I was growing up," Favreau explained. "And, so, we had common ground of both having great affection for this property and the question became, 'If we love it so much in those other forms, why do it now?'"

He then recalled how Horn pointed out that the successful, magic-realism film Life of Pi suggested technology was advanced enough that The Jungle Book story could be told a different way.

"I was very compelled with the idea of taking what could be done in visual effects now," Favreau said. "I was also very impressed with films like Planet of the Apes, Avatar, Life of Pi, as well, and, specifically, what was done in Gravity, the way that they filmed the principal photography, almost as though it were an element shoot for an effects piece. And it became a big puzzle and after sleeping on that, thinking about it, I came up with a take on it and when I came back and we all discussed it, it sounded really, really cool and so 100 years ago was the book, 50 years ago was the animated film and now, 50 years later, it's time to update the story for our generation."

The Jungle Book opens in U.S. theaters Friday.

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