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JUNGLE BOOK ORIGINS

Mowgli Will Premiere on Netflix Next Year

There was already steadily growing buzz surrounding Andy Serkis’ Mowgli, but the roar just grew a few decibels louder.

Netflix had already purchased distribution of the cerebral sci-fi hit Annihilation and the hugely secretive Cloverfield Paradox, but the streaming service upped its game again when it acquired the rights to the Jungle Book­-inspired Mowgli, per Deadline. Netflix plans to withdraw the film from its initial wide release on October 19, instead opting to stream it globally. Serkis and his team worked hard to create a 3D version of the movie that would enhance the viewing experience, and Netflix may honor that effort with a theatrical component to the chiefly online release.

Serkis is taking a darker, more mature approach to adapting author Rudyard Kipling’s original work with an all-star motion-capture cast. That technology is something that Serkis knows a little bit about. He is possibly the most famous face behind motion-capture in the industry right now.

Jon Favreau’s recent Disney version of The Jungle Book was highly successful, but a different vision than Mowgli. As for the risky decision to take a character usually sold to younger audiences and go darker, Serkis, as he told Deadline, has a comprehensive vision.

When I came on the project, the script commissioned by Warner Bros was very close to the tone of the Kipling book. It was very focused on Mowgli, this outsider, this outcast. The metaphor for the whole movie is other-ness, a search for self-identity. In the book, he is this feral child raised in the strong traditions of the wolf pack, and when he gets to the point in life where he realizes they are not his family it’s a cataclysmic moment for him. He tries to assimilate in the world of men, for his own safety. He finds there are customs that are good and bad, just like in the other kingdom, and he sets out on a journey of self-discovery to create his own morality. There is real jeopardy and consequence here, with an emotional resonance meant to be for a slightly older audience than most of the Jungle Book films we’ve seen. That was reflected in the script and how it was cast, and the whole way we approached the design of the animals. The human being and the animals are emotionally truthful, and not in any way were we tipping the wink to the audience that this is a fairy tale.”

If Serkis wants emotionally resonant animals voiced by humans, he will certainly get them. The vocal and motion-capture cast includes Benedict Cumberbatch as the adversarial tiger Shere Khan, Christian Bale as the panther Bagheera, Cate Blanchett as Kaa the snake, Naomie Harris as Nisha the wolf, and Serkis himself as Baloo the bear.

Mowgli will stream on Netflix in early 2019.

Featured Image: Rohan Chand is Mowgli. Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

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