Two studios producing either very similar or identical films isn't anything new. Over the next year we'll witness another of these all too familiar showdowns when Disney's live-action The Jungle Book releases in late 2015, followed by Warner Bros.' Jungle Book: Origins a year later. Disney has director Jon Favreau helming their adaption of Rudyard Kipling's short stories about the young jungle boy Mowgli and his animal companions, while Andy Serkis is directing Origins for WB.
Already the two films are trying their best to distinguish themselves, as their very different choices in directors indicate. The casting, too, indicates the films are setting on different paths since Disney's The Jungle Book has chosen Idris Elba for Shere Khan, while WB just announced Benedict Cumberbatch will play the villainous tiger in Serkis' film. And seeing as Disney's movie releases first, the rest of their animal voice cast has for the most part been announced - Bill Murray is Baloo, Ben Kinglsey is Bagheera, Scarlet Johansson is Kaa, Lupita Nyong’o is Raksha (Mowgli's wolf mother), and 10-year-old Neel Sethi will play Mowgli.
Today, Warner Bros. plays catch up with the announcement (via The Hollywood Reporter) that Christian Bale will portray their Bagheera, the panther who saves the baby Mowgli, and Cate Blanchet will be Mowgli's dubious friend, the python Kaa. Also joining the cast are Tom Hollander as a jackal underling of Shere Khan, Peter Mullan as the wolf pack leader, Naomie Harris as a female wolf (presumably Mowgli's adoptive mother), and Eddie Marsan as her mate.
Obviously, both films aren't pulling their punches when it comes to casting some of Hollywood's most distinct and recognizable voices for their jungle inhabitants. Disney goes for Oscar-winner Kingsley, WB plays their Batman card with Bale. The Jungle Book nabs the sultry tones of Johannson for the devious Kaa, and Jungle Book: Origins counters with Blanchett. It'll surely be tough to pick one over other based off the films' casting alone.
Yet, where The Jungle Book already has a leg up is in their choice of the more experienced Favreau, as well as Disney's history at adapting the Kipling stories before - with both the 1967 animated classic and a 1994 live-action rendition. Warner Bros. is potentially taking a bit of a risk with Serkis, whose most extensive directing experience comes from his time as second-unit director on The Hobbit trilogy.
However, Jungle Book: Origins is expected to utilize performance capture technology in order to seamlessly transition the actors' performances on to CGI-rendered tigers, snakes, and panthers. And there's no doubting that when it comes to performance capture there's no one more familiar with the process than Serkis, who will also play an as-of-yet unknown role in the film.
Where do you fall on The Jungle Book versus Jungle Book: Origins? Does the cast of one impress you more than the other? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
The Jungle Book will premiere October 9th, 2015; The Jungle Book: Origins arrives a year later on October 21st, 2016.