There are usually multiple versions of films based on classic literary works in the public domain in development at once (see: Pinocchio), but in the case of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, it seems that a pair of re-telling are coming together that may reach theaters around the same time (setting us up for another "Battle of the Copycats").
One is a live-action adaptation from Walt Disney Pictures, with Jon Favreau (Iron Man 1 & 2) set to direct from a screenplay written by Justin Marks (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li); the Mouse House has gone ahead and scheduled Favreau's film to debut in theaters in Fall 2015. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. has been taking measures to get its own live-action Jungle Book movie off and running, with a script from Callie Kloves (daughter of Harry Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves) already in the can.
THR has learned that Oscar-winner Ron Howard is in talks to direct WB's Jungle Book, filling the hole that was left after filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu left the project a month ago. Howard is currently in post-production on Heart of the Sea - a drama about the real-life doomed sea voyage that inspired Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick - but it sounds as though WB would like Howard to make the Kipling adaptation his next directorial effort, while serving as producer alongside Steve Kloves (who was originally in line to take the helm).
Howard is loosely attached to direct a number of projects, including the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Jungle Book-inspired children's novel, The Graveyard Book. However, if Howard doesn't prioritize WB's Jungle Book then there's a risk that the project won't happen at all, similar to how Sony's Neverland - a movie about the origins of Peter Pan - is looking increasingly like a lost cause, now that WB's Pan (an alternate origin story for J.M. Barrie's character) is pulling ahead in the race to the finish line, with a director, cast and release date all picked out.
We previously speculated that Iñárritu might be inclined to deliver a grittier Jungle Book re-imagining, in opposite to Favreau's more family-friendly brand (with "mythic elements"). Howard's take on characters like Mowgli the man-cub might still be the "edgier" of the pair, but Favreau's could take the win by having a more expressive voice - assuming the latter gets a second wind of creativity, having refreshed himself by making his indie dramedy Chef (after showing signs of burnout on his last two blockbusters).
We'll keep you posted on the status of WB's The Jungle Book. Meanwhile, Disney's version is slated to open in 2D and 3D theaters on October 9th, 2015.