Jack London’s novel White Fang isn’t the easiest work to adapt into a movie, since its focus is not on the human race but on a much furrier protagonist. The story follows wolf dog White Fang’s adventures from the events leading up to his conception, through his puppyhood and then his servitude under various human owners.
That story might work as an animated movie with talking animals, but that wasn’t the approach that Disney took in 1991 with a live-action film adaptation of London’s book that starred Ethan Hawke as its protagonist, Jack, a young man living in Alaska who attempts to tame and befriend the wild wolfdog. This was followed by White Fang 2: Myth of the White Wolf in 1994, but since then Disney has let the property lie dormant.
That’s about to change, however, as THR reports that Disney has hired screenwriter Jose Rivera (On the Road) to write the script for a new movie adaptation of White Fang that’s in development. Cinematographer Lance Acord (Where the Wild Things Are) is also attached and set to make his feature directorial debut with this adaptation.
THR describes the project as “a modern adaptation with the London novel as its source,” rather than a remake of the 1991 movie. Rise of the Planet of the Apes demonstrated that it’s possible to make a movie that features lengthy sections following non-speaking animals with non-verbal narrative in a successful way, so perhaps that has been something of an inspiration for Disney.
Rivera was nominated for an Oscar in 2005 after writing the screenplay for The Motorcycle Diaries, and more recently adapted Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road for the screen. Acord is known for working on Spike Jonze’s feature films, including Being John Malkovich and Adaptation (in addition to Where the Wild Things Are); he also served as the director of photography on Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette.
The move from director of photography to director isn’t always successful – just look at Christopher Nolan’s longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister’s directorial debut with Transcendence, from earlier this year. However, Where the Wild Things Are demonstrated that Acord has an eye for stories about human characters befriending not-so-human characters, so that’s a good sign for White Fang.
We’ll keep you updated on White Fang as development continues.