“Look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities!!!” It’s easy to remember scrawny, brown-skinned, wolf-boy, Mowgli, singing and dancing to this song in the middle of the jungle along with Baloo the bear. It’s one of my favorite scenes from this classic childhood story.
However, back then we enjoyed the cartoon version. Now, Disney’s The Jungle Book, which premiered Friday, April 15th, 2016, debuts as a fresh and reimagined film. So, it’s no surprise that The Jungle Book, which was directed by Jon Favreau, experienced tremendous box office success, raking in more than $103.5 millions on opening weekend. This remake is a must-watch film and the adaptation of the 1967 children’s novel by Rudyard Kipling.
The plot begins when Mowgli flees the jungle after the threat of fierce tiger Shere Kahn who was responsible for the death Mowgli’s father when he was still a baby. Guided by the panther Bagheera and the bear Baloo, Mowgli embarks on a journey of self-discovery and back to the man’s village, but for this discovery he comes across creatures that do not have the best intentions.
In the role of Mowgli is the new actor Neel Sethi and the voice cast are Bill Murray, Sir Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, among others. The film was directed by Jon Favreau. The screenplay is by Justin Marks based on the book by Rudyard Klipling. It is noteworthy that The Jungle Book debuted abroad a week before here in the US with great success and raised so far $291 million globally. So, Disney has given the green light to Jon Favreau to create and direct a second part of this classic story.
We attended a Los Angeles press conference with the director and cast and learned the top 3 reasons why The Jungle Book is a must-watch:
1. It’s a New Version for a New Generation
When asked why he wanted to do the film, Director Jon Favreau said he wanted to recreate The Jungle Book story for modern audiences. However, he made retaining the charm of previous versions, including the Disney classic, a priority. “I had a fixed idea of what we can do with the visual effects that we have available now and specifically what was done on Gravity [the 2013, Academy Award-winning, film directed by Alfonso Cuarón], where the main photograph was treated as an element of effects piece,” he explained. “So, after much thought, and when we all came together to discuss it, everyone thought it sounded really cool. 100 years ago was the book, 50 years ago was the animated film, and now it’s time to update it for this new generation.”
2. “The Jungle Book” features a Stellar A-List Celebrity Cast
The updated version of the beloved classic features a long list of household names. From Christopher Walken as King Louie to Scarlett Johannson as Kaa to Sir Ben Kingsley as Bagheera and Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha, the A-List celebrity cast is overflowing with talent.
Seasoned actor Giancarlo Esposito, who plays Akela, told us he was motivated to join the stellar cast for very personal reasons.
“My parents got a divorce and I had a brother, so my mother used to read “The Law of the Jungle” to us because it was only the three of us,” said Esposito referring to the original story by Kipling. “It really meant a lot to me. So, I say to my daughters now, ‘Never leave anyone behind.’”
Sir Ben Kingsley said he couldn’t resist joining the cast of The Jungle Book after Favreau simply asked him with a “benign smile” if he would like to play Bagheera. The two met on the “Iron Man 3” set and immediately hit it off. Favreau openly says he now feels great affection for Kingsley.
“Sir Ben is incredibly generous, loving, and a wonderful story teller,” said the director. Kingsley added: “I think the captain in charge of the project really brings its taste for the project, and I knew Jon enough and his talent and his perception of humanity, childhood and storytelling, were a gold mine, so, it was a joy to work on this film with this fascinating mind.”
Actress Lupita Nyong’o says she met with Favreau and listened to his idea for the remake of The Jungle Book. “What impressed me was the compassion with which he spoke about these characters,” said Nyong’o. “There was always the artistic part of the things he would do, but the heart was the love of history and real vision for each character he was bringing to life, that’s why I accepted.”
Actors Idris Elba plays Shere Khan and newcomer Neel Sethi plays Mowgli.
3. Two words: Surround Sound. The Surround Sound technique, developed for Fantasia, will blow you away.
The fact that Favreau, in 2016, used the Surround Sound technique that Walt Disney developed to release Fantasia in 1940, which was then called Fantasound, is one of the most interesting elements of the film. “The Fantasound was something I really wanted to use,” Favreau admitted. “There’s something in Fantasia that really speaks to me, especially Night at Bald Mountain.”
It turns out there’s a number of parallels between what Favreau was trying to do technologically in The Jungle Book and the kind of innovations that Walt often produced. “Walt was always wanting to use the latest technology through multi-plane and Fantasound. Walt had a vision of putting the audience in the middle of the song. I think they just did it in two theaters back then;.. But they put speakers throughout the theater, which was a huge amount of money. And I remember when I was talking with my audio team and composer Jon Debney. I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to explore Fantasound in this movie?‘
It was something that was quickly abandoned because one of the audio designers said Dolby Atmos does the same thing.
“Debney is a guy from Disney, he knows the culture, so he grabbed the opportunity.” Favreau then described how it was done and what you will feel if you watch the movie with Atmos. “Then we put the microphones on the members of the orchestra. When you watch in Dolby Atmos, you will feel that there are instruments that move around the theater. You will be able to experience the vision that Walt had.”
The Jungle Book is now in theaters nationwide.