Posted on Friday, April 15th, 2016 by Jack Giroux
The Jungle Book is arguably director Jon Favreau‘s most ambitious film to date. The filmmaker behind Iron Man and Chef reimagines the 1967 Disney animated classic on a grand scale. 98% of The Jungle Book is CGI, and bringing those environments to life, over a two-year process, was quite an undertaking for Favreau and all involved.
With the film, which was actually influenced by the likes of Goodfellas and classic westerns, Favreau tells a surprisingly intimate comig-of-age tale on a massive canvas. To learn how the director and his team came together to retell author Rudyard Kipling‘s story, read our Jon Favreau interview below.
Both The Jungle Book and Cinderella capture the spirit of the original animated films, but it seems like you had to make more deviations.
Because of the nature of the original Jungle Book, the ’67 animated feature, we had to depart from it more than [Cinderella director Kenneth] Branagh had to, inherently, because if you just made that movie live-action, I think it would have been odd. We went for a PG movie, as opposed to a G-rated kids’ musical. We had to draw inspiration, not just from Jungle Book, but also films like Lion King and the big five animated ones.
Certainly, what Branagh did, and what was done with Maleficent, gave the studio and myself confidence that there is a curiosity, an underlying curiosity, for re-tellings of these stories using new technology. Disney was comfortable enough to say, “Hey, let’s really go for it,” in the style of Life of Pi and Avatar, and go photo-real and see what technology has to offer. To have those tools available for something other than a superhero movie was a big treat for me.
With that PG rating, there are some dark moments in the film, at least by kids movies’ standards. How far can you push that sense of danger?
There are a few things. One, was the PG rating. I knew that if we were PG, we were sticking… Actually, the MPAA was helpful as a determinant, and there was nothing that we had to even trim from any version that we had, because we never showed anything on camera. Also, knowing that Walt [Disney] would spend a lot of time, even in the scariest moments, building the tension. If you think of Snow White, but never really showing much on camera, on screen, you never really see anything happen. Most things are reaction shots or build up or music. I think the fact that it’s photo-real and, especially if you’re seeing it in a large format, it inherently makes it more exciting.
Then, we looked at movies like Lion King, where they had music and they had funny moments, really broadly funny moments, but also death and a sense of stakes and fear. I think that the thing that probably, as a parent, makes me most comfortable is that, ultimately, what the message of the film is and ultimately what the mood is and the balance of humor.
The jury is out, we’ll see. We’ll see how people feel. I say as a parent, you know your kid. If the kid sees the trailer and doesn’t like the trailer, then the movie is pretty… it’s indicative of what’s going to be in the film. If they like the trailer, and you think they can handle that, it’s the right thing for them. The problem is, when you go too young, you lose the older audience. Lucas always said he was going for eight-year-olds for the Star Wars movies. You start going too young, you lose the adults, you lose the teenagers, and I wanted to make a movie for everybody, as I think Walt did. We’ll see, we’ll see what happens here.