It truly is a jungle out there in the landscape of Hollywood. After multiple delays for Mowgli, Warner Bros. has sold Andy Serkis‘ darker take on The Jungle Book to Netflix and gave the streaming platform perhaps its largest movie get yet.
Announced Friday, Netflix purchased the worldwide rights to Mowgli, which stars the young Rohan Chand as the titular wild child in a story that’s part motion-capture performance, part live-action. The film was once set for a release in theaters this Oct. 19, but now Netflix will premiere it sometime in 2019.
Serkis, who became famous for using motion-capture to portray Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and Caesar in the Planet of the Apes prequels, directs Mowgli in addition to portraying the bear Baloo through the same method. The film had been announced around the same time as Disney’s live-action The Jungle Book, and Serkis told Deadline in announcing the news that he felt the two projects had been in a “neck and neck” race to finish first.
“Both studios wanted to be first. But we realized that the performance capture techniques required time in how I wanted to work in post, and we decided to let the other film have its moment,” he said. Ultimately, he explained he’s relieved to have Mowgli with Netflix to avoid the “pressure” and “comparisons to the other movie.”
“What excites me most is the forward thinking at Netflix in how to present this, and the message of the movie,” Serkis added. “They understand this is a darker telling that doesn’t fit it into a four quadrant slot. It’s really not meant for young kids, though I think it’s possible that 10 or above can watch it. It was always meant to be PG-13, and this allows us to go deeper, with darker themes, to be scary and frightening in moments. The violence between animals is not gratuitous, but it’s definitely there. This way of going allows us to get the film out without compromise.”
A rep for Warner Bros. was not immediately able to offer comment.
Mowgli features Christian Bale as panther Bagheera, Cate Blanchett as snake Kaa, Benedict Cumberbatch as tiger Shere Khan, Freida Pinto as village woman Messua, Tom Hollander as hyena Tabaqui, Peter Mullan as alpha wolf Akela, Naomie Harris as wolf mother Raksha, and Matthew Rhys as hunter John Lockwood.
Speaking with EW prior to the Netflix move, Serkis described the film as “Dickens in the jungle.”
“This film is entirely about being Other,” he said. “Mowgli is almost like a refugee when he goes from living with animals to the world of man. He’s not fully accepted at first, he’s an outsider, and he’s potentially this pariah character.”