Does the world need a Jungle Book remake? Maybe. Does it need two? The Rudyard Kipling morality tale about the man-cub Mowgli is at the center of a Hollywood scrum as Walt Disney Pictures readies Jon Favreau’s live-action/CG adaptation of the 1967 cartoon for October 2015, while Warner Bros. races forward with its own take, to be directed by Gollum himself, Andy Serkis, for the following year.
Favreau (Iron Man) began shooting last month with Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, and Lupita Nyong’o in voice-only roles. Last year, he told EW that he wants the film to be ”a combination of Kipling and Disney” that ”feels engaging to an older audience but that I would be comfortable bringing my kid to.” (This will be Disney’s third cinematic version of the classic, including the forgettable 1994 live-action version starring Cary Elwes.)
Serkis — famous for his expressive motion-capture work in the Lord of the Rings, Hobbit, and Planet of the Apes franchises — is pursuing a more sinister tone for his directorial debut, Jungle Book: Origins, which features his Hobbit costars Benedict Cumberbatch and Cate Blanchett in key voice roles. The film, slated for October 2016, will combine live action, animation, and motion capture. Serkis seems unfazed by the competition. ”This is very much a return to the original subject matter,” he says. ”It’s a lot darker [than Disney’s].”
Studio showdowns are nothing new, and this isn’t the first time Warner and Disney have played a game of chicken with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. Their superhero divisions, DC and Marvel, are battling over release dates for the next five summers, and that war seems to be expanding to other genres. As if Jungle Book weren’t enough, the studios are both gunning to get a live-action Beauty and the Beast to the starting line. Disney has a director (Dreamgirls‘ Bill Condon), a script, and rights to the music from the 1991 animated film. Warner has Emma Watson and a script from Guillermo del Toro, but no director: del Toro was going to do it, but then dropped out. Neither side appears willing to back down, so as long as well-known tentpoles are the top priority in Hollywood, prepare to keep seeing double.