Once a novel enters the public domain, there's no stopping multiple studios from starting to develop new movie adaptations at the same time. Hence, we usually get progress updates on contemporary re-visitations of classic literature in clusters (see Snow White, Frankenstein and Pinocchio for recent examples).
Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book - a collection of short stories first published in magazine form in 1893-94 - is the latest case of this happening. Back in 2012, Warner Bros. tapped Steve Kloves - famous for writing seven of the eight Harry Potter movies - to both write and direct a live-action Jungle Book film adaptation, once again revolving around the experiences of man-cub Mowgli in the hazardous jungles of India. There hasn't been an update on the project since then, but just three months ago (at the time of writing this) we learned that Disney also intends to give Kipling's source material a 21st-century refurbishing.
Deadline is now reporting that Jon Favreau has entered talks to direct the Mouse House's new live-action Jungle Book movie, with a plan to begin production in 2014. Here is the statement that the geek-friendly actor/filmmaker offered to the site, with respect to this project (Disney's latest based on a story that the studio previously adapted into animated form):
“I can’t say that much, but there is an interesting take [on 'Jungle Book'] that could be very cool, and the hope is to relaunch a family brand with certain mythic elements. It is my first real family film since Elf, and there are action elements and visual effects that I feel like my experience on the Iron Man films are going to be useful.”
The soon-to-be-completed script draft is from Justin Marks, who didn't exactly break out with his feature screenwriting debut, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, back in 2009. However, in more recent years, Marks was able to impress Disney heads with his script draft for a live-action 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea movie directed by David Fincher. Sadly, that remake has been scrapped until further notice, perhaps due to fears that it would've been yet another high-investment/low returns blockbuster for Mickey Mouse & Co. (blame John Carter and The Lone Ranger).
It's no secret that Favreau the director - whose enthusiasm and creativity shone through in his earlier films like Elf, Iron Man and even Zathura: A Space Adventure - found himself caught up in the grinds of the studio machine on Iron Man 2. He buried the hatchet with Marvel and costarred in (but did not direct) Iron Man 3, yet the last time he sat at the helm, on Cowboys & Aliens, the final result felt uninspired and suggested that Favreau need a break to clear his head - which he did, with the upcoming indie production, Chef.
Unfortunately, Favreau lining up to helm Jungle Book signals an even longer delay on his Magic Kingdom adaptation. Indeed, it's been a while since we had a firm update on that gestating Disney theme park-based project, which is partly the brainchild of screenwriter Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica). Last we heard, Favreau has sought additional help with development, from no less than the creative studio heads over at Pixar.
While it would be a stretch to call Magic Kingdom an "original" film, it does sound like imaginative material that would befit Favreau's sensibilities; perhaps, more so than Jungle Book. Still, Favreau molding Kipling's source novel as a family-friendly, Indiana Jones-style throwback adventure sounds promising, when taken on its own terms. (Just maybe a bit too similar to Stephen Sommers' approach on the live-action Jungle Book adaptation that Disney released in 1994?)
Let us know what you think, in the comments section.
We'll keep you posted on The Jungle Book as more information becomes available.