Jon Favreau breathes new life to Kipling classic ‘The Jungle Book’

Los Angeles, Feb 24 (IANS) Building on the structure of Rudyard Kipling’s timeless classic and the power of the 1967 animation film, director Jon Favreau has given a new vision to “The Jungle Book” backed by cutting-edge technology.

The director says he has blended technology with the old story to honour the original and at the same time appeal to new audiences with his animation offering.

The director also asserted that with the film, which will come out in Indian theatres on April 8, a week before it releases in the US, he has tried to push the envelope by embracing new technology to create a virtual world.

Favreau, who began his career in the industry as an actor in “Rudy”, sat down to explain his vision at Hollywood’s The El Capitan Theatre here with selected mediapersons from all across the world.

Why remake a classic? Why give it a technological twist? These are the questions that Favreau set out to answer around Disney’s film, which brings a story straight from the enchanting forests of India and presents a modern take on Kipling’s classic, originally published in 1894.

Favreau said that he was motivated by Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn to take the technological route for the film.

“The idea of going out to the jungle and shooting this, it just felt like it wouldn’t have the magic that the 1967 film had had. There was a dreamlike quality to it. There was a surreal quality to it. It was a high-water mark for character animation and to me, that’s what I remember about it. And so I wanted to make sure we preserved that.

“But what Horn said was: look at the technology. Look at ‘Life of Pi’, ‘Avatar’. Why not use the technology to create a whole world that transports you? Let’s really embrace this new technology and see what we can do if we push its limit.”

The live-action epic adventure showcases Mowgli’s journey of self-discovery when he’s forced to abandon his home in the forest. And Neel Sethi, who traces his roots to India and plays Mowgli, is only just being in an otherwise animation film.

The film is supported by a stellar voice-over cast including Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson and Christopher Walken.

Favreau also presented a glimpse of his vision by screening portions of the film.

The director explained that by re-imagining the film “you are serving many masters…you are trying to honour the memory, preconceived memory of people who grew up with it, but you are also trying to make a movie that appeals to the full audience — that is ethically what we set out to do”.

“We are trying to pay tribute, and we can also see that with the visual effects, we are pushing the technology. We are mixing the old story with cutting edge technology,” he added.

So, how was the film made?

“We went back to the structure of it and saw what Kipling did because he offered a lot. We kind of picked between the two. The story structure of the 1967 film was good and offered a lot; so I stuck to it as much as I could. What I have tried to do is to focus on the images that I remember from it before going back to look at it again,” he said.

He is brimming with joy after using “level of artistry and technology” to narrate a story with “humour and emotion, and showing nature, animals, and getting into that real deep mythic imagery that I think always marries well with technology, and always has.”

(The writer’s trip is at the invitation of Disney. Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at

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