How to get live-action child in a virtual set up and illustrated environment, and how to get virtual animals to talk? These were the two big challenges Jon Favreau faced as he embarked on a quest to reopen “The Jungle Book” on the silver screen. The director says the way out was a marriage between high level of artistry and technology, for effective storytelling.
Favreau is happy that he got a “unique” opportunity to use technology for humour, emotion, and showing nature, animals, and getting into “real deep mythic imagery”.
“The Jungle Book”, which will release in India on April 8, a week before it releases in the US, promises to be an advanced version of the eponymous 1967 animated film, and brings the story of Rudyard Kipling’s 1864 timeless classic back on the big screen.
Favreau’s film goes beyond the novel as well as the animated film in many aspects.
“The 1967 movie draws you in… How do we get kid in, and how do we get the animal to talk — those were the two big challenges,” he said.
“It was done on a shot by shot basis. There are certain animals that talk well. Other ones, it’s harder. A snake is harder, because you don’t want to make it move in the way required to make the sound. So, we always erred on the side of subtly.”
“Plus, we’re really smart about the camera angle, lighting, and where the camera is. Look at Bambi again. You’ll notice a lot of the time the camera is not on who’s talking. If the animals don’t look like they’re talking, the movie doesn’t work,” he explained.
The “Iron Man” fame director opened up on the behind-the-scenes action for the movie through some clips that he shared with select media persons from across the world. Favreau transported the journalists, from the theatre in a lane off Hollywood Boulevard to the mystical and maze-like jungles of India, powered by advanced 3D technology.
So, the USP of the film is that the performance of Indian-American actor Neel Sethi is merged to photo-real animated world and motion capture techniques. The film has been shot in a studio, with most of the surrounding created with animation.
For Favreau, the inspiration was James Cameron’s “Avatar”. He said: “If there was a giant we were standing on the shoulders of, it was ‘Avatar’. ‘Avatar’ was the first time I got what this whole big screen 3D format was about. I got why you had to go to the movies to see that.”
“The Jungle Book” showcases Mowgli’s journey of self-discovery when he is forced to abandon his home in the forest. It is supported by a stellar cast including Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson and Christopher Walken.
He shared that he was always resistant to computer-generated imagery, but then he saw “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and “Life of Pi”.
In his quest to make his fantasy of “The Jungle Book”, Favreau was supported by a team of experts including visual effects supervisor Rob Legato, known for “Avatar”, “Hugo”, “Titanic” and “Apollo 13”.
Legato said that sharing the “same sensibility” with Favreau made the journey “really fun”.