Following Walt Disney’s trend of turning their most beloved animated classics into epic live-action features, including Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent, and this year’s Cinderella, the first trailer for The Jungle Book has arrived. Remember that one Disney animated movie you watched on repeat for the first three years of your life, driving your parents insane? For some it was The Little Mermaid, Cinderella or maybe The Lion King. For me, it was The Jungle Book. And this teaser has me as excited as a little girl on Christmas day.
The visual landscapes seen in The Jungle Book teaser are absolutely lush and incredibly striking, complemented well by an eerie voice over by Scarlett Johansson, who’s cast as the gender-swapped boa constrictor, Kaa. Although we don’t hear him speak, we are introduced to Mowgli, played by Neel Sethi, whose young shoulders won’t just be carrying pots of water, but also the majority of the film. The gentle panther Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley), the villainous tiger Shere Kahn (voiced by Idris Elba), and the boisterous King Louie (voiced by Christopher Walken) are also teased. While the only real dialogue we get is from Kaa’s voice over, I am eagerly awaiting more tidbits from the characters played by this power house cast, which is rounded out by Bill Murray‘s Baloo.
Absent from the teaser is the noteworthy singing and jazzy dancing from the animated film. Instead we are given action-packed shots that give a large sense of danger that one could expect from being the lone man-cub lost in the jungle. While I love rich visuals and the promise of an epic adventure, I hope the soul of the animated film isn’t lost in translation. The sweet relationship between Baloo and Mowgli, along with the songs – that to this day I still can’t get out of my head – are just as, if not more important, to the story and should not be put on the back burners in favor of the action.
While the previous live-action films have seen varying success, the studio continues to plunge into their vault to deliver different styles for each. Alice in Wonderland, a CGI-heavy, cartoonish romp; Maleficent, a fantastical twist from a villain’s perspective; and Cinderella, a family-oriented love story about kindness toward others. The Jungle Book feels very action-oriented, which should be great coming from Iron Man director Jon Favreau, but what other changes can we expect to see from the animated version? Is there more material from the original novel that this feature will expand upon?
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Here’s the official plot synopsis for The Jungle Book courtesy of Walt Disney Studios:
Based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories and inspired by Disney’s classic animated film, “The Jungle Book” is an all-new live-action epic adventure about Mowgli, a man-cub who’s been raised by a family of wolves. But Mowgli finds he is no longer welcome in the jungle when fearsome tiger Shere Khan, who bears the scars of Man, promises to eliminate what he sees as a threat. Urged to abandon the only home he’s ever known, Mowgli embarks on a captivating journey of self-discovery, guided by panther-turned-stern mentor Bagheera, and the free-spirited bear Baloo. Along the way, Mowgli encounters jungle creatures who don’t exactly have his best interests at heart, including Kaa, a python whose seductive voice and gaze hypnotizes the man-cub, and the smooth-talking King Louie, who tries to coerce Mowgli into giving up the secret to the elusive and deadly red flower: fire.
Directed by Jon Favreau, The Jungle Book stars Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Esposito, Idris Elba, Jon Favreau, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Ineson, Emjay Anthony, and Neel Sethi as Mogli. This film is set to release theaters on April 15, 2016.