Netflix has acquired director Andy Serkis' live-action/CGI The Jungle Book retelling Mowgli from Warner Bros. and plans to begin streaming the movie around the globe next year. The film was most recently set to hit theaters in October, but was scheduled to arrive in 2016 and then 2017 before that.
Written by Callie Kloves, Mowgli has been in development for around four years, in no small part to allow sufficient time to complete the effects on the film's digitally rendered animals (who were portrayed via motion-capture by the cast here). Rohan Chad plays Mowgli himself in Serkis' film, which has long been described as a darker adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's source novel than Disney's famous 1967 animated film and 2016 live-action/CGI blockbuster iterations, respectively. WB released the first Mowgli trailer less than two months ago and seemed ready at last to unveil Serkis' retelling for the masses this fall. However, it turns out that's no longer the plan.
Deadline exclusively revealed that Netflix has picked up the worldwide rights to Mowgli from WB and is planning to begin streaming the movie sometime next year. Serkis, in a statement, told Deadline he and Netflix are "circling dates" for Mowgli at the moment and spoke in depth about how the Netflix deal frees up his movie from comparisons to Disney and director Jon Favreau's live-action Jungle Book (which only came out two years ago):
“I’m really excited about Netflix for Mowgli. Now, we avoid comparisons to the other movie and it’s a relief not to have the pressure. I’ve seen the 3D version, and it’s exceptional, a different view from the 2D version, really lush and with great depth, and there will be some kind of theatrical component for that. What excites me most is the forward thinking at Netflix in how to present this, and the message of the movie. They understand this is a darker telling that doesn’t fit it into a four quadrant slot. It’s really not meant for young kids, though I think it’s possible that 10 or above can watch it. It was always meant to be PG-13, and this allows us to go deeper, with darker themes, to be scary and frightening in moments. The violence between animals is not gratuitous, but it’s definitely there. This way of going allows us to get the film out without compromise."
As Serkis noted to Deadline, Mowgli is a significant "get" for Netflix, based solely on the film's scale - which he says falls somewhere between Life of Pi and one of the Planet of the Apes movies he's starred in - and its A-list cast. That crew includes Serkis himself as Baloo the Bear, Christian Bale as Bagheera the panther, Naomie Harris as Mowgli's own wolf mom Nisha, Benedict Cumberbatch as the tiger Shere Khan, and Cate Blanchett as Kaa the snake. Similarly, this is the biggest acquisition by Netflix this year alone, after the streaming service bought The Cloverfield Paradox from Paramount and debuted it Super Bowl Sunday Night this past February.
All things considered, this move should benefit Mowgli. In addition to the comparisons to Favreau's Kipling adaptation, Serkis' film was facing some stiff competition at the October box office (including, Blumhouse's Halloween), and may have ended up getting lost in the scuffle, regardless of how it was received critically. Mowgli now has a much better shot at getting more people to check it out, given that it shall be available to watch through Netflix from the get-go. Meanwhile, the streaming service itself seems to be getting a pretty nice deal here, what with the film having already been shot and possibly even being done with post-production, at this stage.
Mowgli begins streaming through Netflix around the world in 2019.