Just about everyone of a certain age is familiar with the famous animated musical based on author Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book – the last feature produced by Walt Disney himself – with its swinging 1960s tunes, now old-school xerography animation techniques, and talking animal characters (which includes that pack of vultures modeled after The Beatles). Some three decades later in 1994, the Mouse House released a live-action take on the story from director Stephen Sommers (The Mummy (1999)), as a more serious action-adventure starring Jason Scott Lee, Cary Elwes, Sam Neill and a 21-year old Lena Headey.
Disney has decided it’s time for another live-action movie based on Kipling’s novel about the adventures of man-cub Mowgli, in part because the book is now in the public domain. Last year, WB was reported to have recruited Steve Kloves (the screenwriter on all but the fifth Harry Potter movie) to write, direct and produce a live-action Jungle Book movie, but we haven’t heard anything about that project since the original announcement.
Heat Vision is reporting that Disney has hired Justin Marks to write the script for the new live-action Jungle Book adaptation. The project has only entered the earliest stages of development, but studio heads have already begun the search for a director (even without any major producers involved at this point).
Marks previously wrote Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li – which is not exactly a beloved video game movie – but he also has a professional history with the Mouse House, having written an early script draft for the studio’s currently-stalled 3D live-action 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea movie. He also penned the script for the feature-length version of the internet hit “The Raven” (watch it here), which is being produced by Mark Wahlberg and directed by Ricardo de Montreuil (who made the original short). Having said that, it’s probably a fair bet that Marks won’t be the only screenwriter who ends up taking a stab at this latest re-telling of Kipling’s stories.
The Lone Ranger look to become a John Carter-size bomb for Disney, which is going to have an effect on what the studio does in the future. That could mean the Mouse House will stop financing big-budget projects that reflect a filmmaker’s vision, similar to director Gore Verbinsk’s Lone Ranger and David Fincher’s planned 20,000 Leagues adaptation (case in point, the latter was delayed indefinitely from a 2013 production start date). Hence, Disney’s new Jungle Book movie may be closer in tone and style to Sommers’ 1994 adaptation: a PG-Rated film which, in its time, was considered surprisingly violent for Disney, but is nothing compared to the brutal content found in Lone Ranger (not to mention, has very little of that film’s artistic ambition).
Similarly, the box office under-performance of Lone Ranger and John Carter will only encourage Disney to stick to revisiting bankable properties and making more sequels. That includes the Sleeping Beauty revisionist film Maleficent, the live-action Cinderella retelling from director Kenneth Branagh, and followups to both Disney’s live-action Alice in Wonderland movie and Oz the Great and Powerful. Maybe we will get some more original content down the line, but for the time being Disney looks to keep on heading back to its old wells until they all run dry…
We’ll keep you posted on progress (or lack thereof) for The Jungle Book as more information comes our way.