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“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.
Based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories, “The Jungle Book” is inspired by Disney’s classic animated film, with an approach all its own. “We embrace the mythic qualities of Kipling in the more intense tonal aspects of the film,” says director Jon Favreau, “but we left room for what we remember from the ’67 film, and sought to maintain those charming Disneyesque aspects.”
Filmmakers employed up-to-the-minute technology to tell the story in a contemporary and immersive way, blending live-action performances with stunning CG environments and extraordinary photo-real animal characters that artists stylized to elevate the storytelling.
During an exclusive first look presentation of “The Jungle Book,” Director Jon Favreau and Visual Effects Supervisor Rob Legato discussed how they brought this movie to life by using technology to actually bring these characters to life, make them photo-real and put a real kid into the environment in a seamless, believable way.
“When I think about Disney’s legacy, I relate to Walt’s original dream,” says director Jon Favreau. “Walt Disney’s work has influenced my work. He was considered high-tech for the time. He was the first person who locked soundtrack with picture, so the characters were perfectly choreographed to the musical score—something that absolutely blew people’s minds. Disney was on the cutting edge of technology.”
Filmmakers assembled a team of experts with movies like “Life of Pi,” “Gravity” and “Avatar” under their belts. Visual effects supervisor Rob Legato boarded the project very early on to design a workflow, a system and VFX pipeline, employing the very latest iteration of movie magic, which would allow his director the freedom to push the limits of what’s possible in filmmaking. “It’s a photo-real film grounded in the real world,” says Legato. “There’s something very interesting about that.”
Filmmakers employed cutting-edge CGI to capture the animal’s performances. “Each animal has a unique emotional language,” says Favreau. “A tiger expresses anger much differently than a wolf or a bear would.”
In lieu of matching CG environments to an actual jungle, filmmakers decided to build an almost entirely digital jungle. “We found we were able to exaggerate and enhance certain elements like scale,” says Favreau. “We can take foliage from India’s jungles and heighten certain colors. But it’s all rooted in reality.”
“The audience will feel the grandeur of the Indian jungle,” adds Legato. “They’ll experience this exotic land. That’s part of the fun of going to the movies—seeing a place you’ve never seen before. Living it. Walking through it.”
“It’s a coming-of-age story about a kid who is figuring out his place in the world,” adds producer Brigham Taylor. “The adventure is real, the stakes are high, but at the same time, the film is warm and humane. It’s hard to find that combination, but Jon brings it all to the table.”
According to Favreau, it’s that balance that appeals to viewers of all ages. “As a parent, I’m so grateful when there’s a film that’s appropriate for my kids see but doesn’t talk down to them. Kids can keep up with sophisticated storytelling. Walt’s dream was always to pull families together but not necessarily in the most obvious or predictable way.
“In our version, if you’re a Disney fan, you’ll notice attention to detail that honors the film’s legacy,” continues the director. “If you’re a kid seeing ‘The Jungle Book’ for the first time, you might forget to eat your popcorn it’s going to be a really fun ride.”
The wild adventure swings into theaters in 3D on April 15, 2016.