“Mowgli” teaser trailer versus “The Jungle Book”

Long-time in the making, today the first teaser trailer for the Warner Bros. adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book dropped, famously adapted in 1967 as an animated feature by Walt Disney.

More interesting is the fact that Disney released a hugely successful  (to the tune of over a billion dollars at the box office) “live-action” adaptation of their own adaptation two years ago in 2016, directed by Iron Man‘s Jon Favreau, which is sure to raise comparisons.  Better known for playing CG characters such as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Caesar in the modern Planet of the Apes movies, director Andy Serkis says his take on The Jungle Book will be more faithful to the source material than Disney’s.  Another difference is they built massive sets on location, such as an entire village in South Africa, while Favreau’s movie was shot entirely on sound stages in Los Angeles. Some of these scenes can be glimpsed in the teaser trailer above.

This is not the case of one studio ripping off another, as both studios announced plans to develop Jungle Book adaptations around the same time; in fact, WB beat Disney to the punch in that regard in 2012. Originally planned for release in 2016 (with the title Jungle Book: Origins), WB’s film was beset by delays, first due to multiple changes in the director’s chair (Steve Kloves, Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Ron Howard were all involved at some point), and secondly due to the apparent difficulty in using the motion capture technology for multiple animals, as Andy Serkis tells it:

“The idea of creating believable talking animals is something that I’ve been using motion capture technology to do, and the movie business has, for 15 to 20 years. One of the biggest challenges was to do it for different animals. When you think about apes to create a human performance and then translate it to an ape is actually quite difficult but when you’re thinking about tigers, bears and panthers, you have to design the animals very, very cleverly. If you imagine of a picture of Christian Bale and a picture of a panther and then morphing his face gradually into a panther slowly at some point you find a sweet spot in the design when you see both the actor and the creature, that and then the perfecting of that with the animators in post-production creates a brilliant thing. They’ve done an extraordinary job and taken this type of animation to another level.”

We’ve mentioned the differences, but one of the similarities between the films is they both make ample use of CGI for the starring animals of the movie. We’ve prepared a little comparison between both sets of characters. 2016’s The Jungle Book is on the left side and 2018’s Mowgli on the right.

Akela, played by Giancarlo Esposito in the Jungle Book, and by Peter Mullan in Mowgli
Bagheera, played by Ben Kingsley in The Jungle Book and by Christian Bale in Mowgli
Baloo, played by Bill Murray in The Jungle Book and by Andy Serkis in Mowgli
Kaa, played by Scarlett Johansson in The Jungle Book and by Cate Blanchett in Mowgli
Shere Khan, played by Idris Elba in The Jungle Book and by Benedict Cumberbatch in Mowgli
Mowgli, played by Neel Sethi in The Jungle Book and by Rohan Chand in Mowgli

If nothing else, Mowgli (just like The Jungle Book before it) features a stellar cast. It seems that while the Disney adaptation went for a somewhat realistic look for their animal characters, Andy Serkis’s film tried to convey a few of their human counterparts in their designs. It almost looks like you can see a bit of Peter Mullan in Akela, a touch of Christian Bale in Bagheera, or a dash of Benedict Cumberbatch in Shere Khan. What do you think?

Peter Mullan and Mowgli (2018)
Christian Bale in Mowgli (2018)
Benedict Cumberbatch in Mowgli (2018)