One of the biggest surprises of Disney’s D23 convention was the trailer for Jon Favreau’s live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book. Finally, we get to see the official trailer for this film, which is essentially what everyone at D23 already saw (though the trailer shown there was slightly different, based on descriptions from people who saw it at D23). Pay close attention to the tone of this trailer, and especially the multiple fades to black, as it makes the film look far darker than the familiar animated feature from the late ‘60s:
Trussssssssssst in me . . .
We open with the familiar Disney castle in 3D, a hallmark of their live action adaptations, and the soundtrack is quickly filled with jungle noises. After our first and second fades to black, the voice of Scarlett Johansson asks, “Are you alone out here? What are you doing so deep in the jungle?” We see a stunning jungle environment, lush and wholly untamed, and a lone small figure standing amid the overgrowth. Another fade to black, and then we begin to see a different environment – an expansive savannah. A tiger roars as we are reminded of the accolades of Disney and Jon Favreau, although I doubt I would have gone with Pirates of the Caribbean as the flagship for Disney live action.
Scarlett’s voice continues to dominate as she speaks directly to Mowgli, “I know what you are, I know where you came from”. Mowgli is seen riding a bear (clearly Baloo, to be voiced by Bill Murray) and interacting with monkeys, including King Louie (Christopher Walken, of course). But who is Johansson voicing? We get a brief hint as she assures Mowgli, “I’ll keep you clossssssse.” As a violent scene of Shere Khan (Idris Elba) and Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) fighting interrupts her while imploring Mowgli to, “Let go of your fear now . . .” and she is finally revealed to be Kaa as she finishes her lyrical and hypnotic, “. . . and trusssssssssssst in me.”
Predictably, from that point on the trailer devolves into inter-cut actions scenes, and also provides us with the names of the voice actors which will feature in the film (all of which I have provided above, save for Lupita Nyong’o, who will voice Mowgli’s wolf-mother Raksha). While these action sequences look quite impressive, it is a fairly formulaic departure from the repetitive fade-to-black punctuation of the first half before Johansson is revealed to be the snake Kaa. Regardless, this trailer does a great job keeping the mystery of the story front-and-center by having no other characters speak and showing only brief glimpses of the action, which we are quite capable of putting in context since we’ve seen Disney’s version of this story before. For those unaware that a live-action Jungle Book from Disney was in the works, this will be a great introduction to the aesthetic and tone of the production, and those who knew this was coming have to be impressed with the visuals and the great voice work from Johansson (which should surprise exactly zero people who saw Her). Finally, by ending on a whistling of The Bear Necessities tune, we get a small hint that this film wont be too heavy – there will be plenty of time to play around, as well.
Interestingly, this is not the only live-action Jungle Book film in the game – Warner Bros. Pictures will release Jungle Book: Origins about a year-and-a-half after Disney will release this film. While I would usually be very cynical about such parallel productions, a single look at the talent assembled for that film definitely keeps my interest piqued. It is to be the directorial debut of Andy Serkis and largely be created through motion capture a la Dawn of Planet of the Apes, which will offer a different aesthetic than Disney’s pure computer generated imagery. Serkis will also star in the film as Baloo, and has been joined by Benedict Cumberbatch (Shere Khan), Christian Bale (Bagheera), Cate Blanchett (Kaa), Naomie Harris (Raksha) and others. There is to be no King Louie, of course, as that character is a unique creation for Disney’s story.
Is it possible that we will get two amazing live-action Jungle Book films in the span of 18 months? Were you aware that either of these films were in production, and are you excited to see them now? Do you think you’re more excited for one over the other? Will The Jungle Book and Jungle Book: Origins be forever linked in a Dante’s Peak / VoLcAno, Armageddon / Deep Impact-style battle? The comments section begs for your opinion!