This past week, I had the pleasure of being able to attend the global press conference for Disney’s “The Jungle Book” at The Beverly Hilton. The stage was all set up themed to the movie, as myself and other fellow members of the press excitedly waited for the amazing panel that would be interviewed. As we waited, Disney had set up some neat green screen experiences for us, such as getting to run in front of a green screen to then have the footage be inserted in a jungle scene. There was also a section where you could put on goggles to see “Mowgli vision”; as if everything around us was actually taking place in the jungle.
As these experiences were coming to a close, they welcomed to the stage the press conference panel: The director of the film Jon Favreau, Lupita Nyong’o (Raksha), Neel Sethi (Mowgli), Sir Ben Kingsley (Bagheera), Giancarlo Esposito (Akela), and producer Brigham Taylor.
There were so many incredible stories about the film shared by each one of the panelists, and in part one of my press conference article I will be focusing on what was shared by director Jon Favreau and producer Brigham Taylor.
Brigham Taylor has been a long-time executive at Disney, and he shared that “The Jungle Book” was actually his first time working as a producer for a film. He shared that when brainstorming who should direct the film, he needed someone who could direct a movie that contained warmth and humanity, but could also create something incredibly cinematic. He knew right away that Jon Favreau was the director that could uniquely fulfill all of these qualities they were looking to have in “The Jungle Book.”
The first question for Jon Favreau at the conference, and one I”m sure on most of our minds, was why Favreau felt that now was the right time to make a live action version of “The Jungle Book”, when the animated film and the original stories by Rudyard Kipling are already so beloved. Favreau, a huge fan of “The Jungle Book”‘s previous formats himself, wanted to experiment with meshing the classic story with the new photo-realistic CGI technologies available to our generation. He pointed out that the book was released 100 years ago, and then 50 years later the animated film was told to audiences using new technologies of that time. Now, another 50 years later after the animated film, he felt it was time to have another re-telling using current technologies for a new generation of audiences.
Since an animated film had already been made, and made so wonderfully well by Disney Animation Studios in 1967, Favreau really strives to make this feel more like an action-adventure live-action film, despite much of the footage being done with computers. To make this distinction between animation and live action very clear, it was important to Favreau to have the actors record together as much as possible, to make it feel more conversational. He was able to better capture subtleties in performances with this method, and capture true relationships between the characters by recording scenes together rather than doing voice recordings separately. He felt, for “The Jungle Book”, that this was also particularly important since most of the character’s relationships to Mowgli in the film are paternal; being together to record and act was crucial to have this strong love and warmth come across on-screen.
In being asked how much of an influence the animated film had in the making of the live-action film, Favreau said it played a huge part, both explicitly and more implicitly. He really wanted to pay homage to the original film and to the fans of the property, so he strived to maintain the music, the humor, and the heart of the animated film. But, to deviate from the animation, he wanted it to be more thrilling, and even at times scary. Rather than a “G” musical, he wanted a PG action-adventure. Favreau shared that to have even deeper roots of Walt’s legacy embedded into this film he used scenes from Walt’s classic films such as “Dumbo” and “Pinocchio” to inspire many of the shots in “The Jungle Book.” (So when you see the film in theaters April 15th, be on the look-out for some familiar-looking shots!)
Having had the opportunity to see the film, I think that all of these goals Favreau had for the film definitely came across to audiences on-screen. Stay tuned for our review of “The Jungle Book”, in the meantime you can read part 2 of the press conference here, where I share the actor’s stories.
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